Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 4
Waking up to a six foot snow drift behind your car that needs to be shoveled is not usually cause for happiness. However, when that epic pile of snow is thrown aside in a shoveling frenzy, and the next stop is a ski mountain, it becomes the sign of something great in the near future. Indeed, that snow drift behind my car this morning was a sign that Okemo received over a foot of snow last night — a foot of fluffy powder to pamper the slopes and cradle us all in its softness as we skied [and promptly fell] down. Yes, skiing in a foot of powder is not exactly the same as skiing on groomed terrain. People lost their skis today. No, I don’t mean they fell and the skis popped off — that’s ordinary, boring stuff. I mean, people’s skis popped off and were instantaneously gone, poof, buried somewhere in that wonderful white blanket of cold. That’s just strange, in my opinion. I understand dropping one’s keys in the snow and not finding them — but skis are big! They’re made to float on top of snow! And even so, it took a team of people to find a ski, on more than one occasion. Pretty crazy…just like the 60 mph wind gusts we had today. Oh, and throw that onto the zero degree temperature at the summit, and you get a nice, fantastic case of frostnip on one’s nose. Yep, my nose was nipped, and on more than one occasion I noticed white cheeks, white noses, and white snow. Okay, so maybe I was a bit too excited about the powder today…but then again it’s not everyday one gets to shovel that much snow. I hope to do it again soon…
Skiing in the dark is kind of like driving without one’s headlights on, on a pitch black night with zero street lights — really not the smartest choice. Why then did Okemo give a bunch of employees the chance to ride the lift at 7 PM, in darkness, and ski down a trail holding nothing but tiny torches to light the way? That’s a really good question, but whatever the answer, it sure was a heck of a lot of fun. Tonight was “Torchlight,” which meant something along the lines of what I just described. There were a few flashlights involved, and one bonfire, but mostly it was around 60 people skiing in the dark, one after the other, forming a mesmerizing “S” shape of fiery red light down the trail. I purposely placed myself near the back, so I was able to see the crazy people ahead of me [such as my friend who skied bare-chested] and take in the stunning sight below. As we reached the base area we extinguished our torches in unison and formed a new formation, and all eyes shifted up the slope. I simply looked up in awe, observing the endless expanse of bright stars, which suddenly became contrasted with the glow of fireworks exploding above us. I think I was talking to myself at that point, telling myself how it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Skiing in the dark, holding a candle, beside people screaming because they’re either incredibly cold, or incredibly joyous — it’s pretty hard to beat that, especially when you’re completely exhausted from the day. The coldness and darkness heightened our sense of being and for amplified the beauty of our surroundings. Even if I have a bit of a sniffly nose today, it was worth it. Now I sort of want to ski in the dark all of the time…hmm, can someone block out that pesky sun?
There was very little snow visible while skiing today. No, the snow wasn’t gone — in fact the snow was quite excellent in terms of conditions. Yet, the trails had become a swarm of color, and very little white was left. The color, of course, was the clothing of Okemo guests, gathered together on a fantastic day for skiing and riding, confined to trails of various width and length, all attempting to avoid one another carefully, and sometimes not so carefully. Skiing on a really busy day is normally not the most relaxing experience, but skiing down a patient in a toboggan, attempting to cross the trail to First Aid while a torrent of semi-out of control skiers try to pass you is…well, it’s not a day at the beach. At least, not any beach I’d want to hang out at for very long. Luckily, somehow, I made it across the trail safely, after looking into the fearful eyes of skiers who knew they had no control, and couldn’t avoid me if they’d wanted to, and all was well. But I don’t think I’ll forget the sheer number of people at the mountain today for awhile. It was as if every square inch of terrain was claimed at each instant by one person or another, all funneling down the mountain to enjoy the lift lines again. Part of me thinks that I’d probably have gone home around Noon, if I was skiing just for fun. Another part of me, though, is curious to find out what I’d really do, to find out why the heck so many people were smiling as they waited in those lines today, and willing to continuously work so tirelessly to avoid collisions. I think it must be that skiing, quite simply, is a lot of fun. Even if you’re practically skiing over other people’s skis, it’s still enjoyable. So I respect everyone at the mountain today, even if at least on one occasion, I was desperately hoping for them to stop skiing, if only for a short while so I could pass by and not feel like a frenzied herd on skis was rampaging towards me. The busy feel of the day has left me tired, but satisfied. And next week will be so quiet…I think it’s fair to even say, it’ll be like a day at the beach. A really, really cold day, that is.