I heard a patroller call this “inversion” season. What he was referring to and undoubtedly, as you are a reader of this blog and enthusiast of Sugarbush, what you have been seeing on our social media pages is the phenomenon where warmer air aloft traps moisture in the form of clouds close to the Earth’s surface. Our mountain operations and snow-covered peaks keep things cold and humid on the surface -the dancing of clouds along the ridgelines make for some magical photos at the summit.
But inversion season, especially this season, is also a turning point for any ski operation. We find ourselves closing in on half-way, have made it through the first major holiday period, and successfully rang in the new year, with sights set on a few more peak weeks before we’re skiing in Hawaiian shirts and thinking about tuning our mountain bikes. Transition – not uniquely East coast, but a reality we endure with equal parts pride and disdain for the swiftness and starkness it manifests; in weather patterns, in the change of seasons, and most notably, recently, the way we recreate.
I’ve been saying it since opening day: ski season doesn’t have to suck; it has to be safe. The changes in our relationship with our mountain communities came hard and fast. No more live music and dancing in the courtyard. Being a “local” went from being cool to being necessary. Lodges – barely utilized – no longer bustling and bearing the slight scent of sweat and wool now sit oddly compartmentalized and sterile. We’ve all struggled with the 56-step process of ordering your first contactless-payment-initiated hot chocolate through the app. There is a lot of literal and proverbial “gray area.”
Which brings me to my point: inversion. You’d never know it from the parking lot, or from the comfort of your home, or from the confines of your own resistance and frustration, that atop this mountain is… light. Hope, even, as we do what does not restrict us: ski.
I’m not being over-eager about promoting the changes this season, mind-you. I DO very much miss the energy that is blatantly absent from the base area. But the base area isn’t the ridgeline. The parking lot is not the summit. The convoluted path to purchasing hot chocolate is not the satisfying bushwhacking towards the secret stash.
What I am promoting is that the challenges are worth it, the learning curve IS surmountable, and the chairlift is always going to be your safe haven from politics, disease, drama, and stress. Get above the clouds. Rise up, both on the summit chair and emotionally to the occasion, and join us for the next half of a season that will provide ample breathtaking vistas, quiet moments catching your breath in the trees, and a break from the chaos that has always been the point of skiing. You can’t catch the rays if you stay below the clouds.
Be better here. And wear your mask.
*Emily is a guest services agent serving the Mt Ellen ski area. If you have any trouble with the app, she is here to help! No boomer shall go without hot chocolate this season on her watch. Come visit her for a TOCK tutorial.*