the radar’s shadowy grays have turned to light blue, have turned to dark blue, have turned to bright green. it is snowing hard.
dear god please…all i need is 3 inches.
that’s what she said.
for all the weather caused by the big puddle, the big lake called gitchee gumee, today’s snows are perfect. i will be skiing soon. an early season start. no more lingering until mid-december to get my ski on. ski on old boy, never mind the pain radiating through your arm.
last night, i had dinner with greg and liz and charlie and lucille and scott and nancy and another couple, whose names i cannot remember.
i represented myself. i do that very well.
the dinner served as the pre-season kick-off for skiing on the sugarbush trail system, and has become somewhat of an annual affair… just as my ribald meeting of the onion river road social club in march heralds the end of the ski season and a hale, home brew-induced hangover.
charlie is 80 years old and is still as tough as galvanized steel. he was the guy who started the grooming and trail construction on the sugarbush system in the mid-70’s. that was before skiing went high tech, with tillers and hydraulics and gps and snow doctors and consensual grooming plans. all that did is made everone bitch about the grooming, as if they could do a better job themselves.
when he started, charlie did everything with a lumbering snowmobile and tracks and a roller he welded together himself. there was little tag-teaming of groomers. when he started, he was often gone for 12 hours; often making repeated passes on the same trail with the sole intent of enjoying what winter provided.
to hear him tell the stories of being out in lake-effect snows, of dancing with wolves, of grooming with the certainty that “tonight, i will not come home” was as satisfying as it was unsettling. in his fanny pack, he always carried a .38 caliber pistol.
“just in case”, he said.
grooming aside, he remains a technique-perfect skier. given his grooming history and unflinching irrascibility, it is no wonder he is one of my north shore heroes.
when i was hired by the sugarbush to groom trails in 2004-5, i didn’t know what i was doing. i had no mechanical aptitude and felt my owl-driven ability to dress warmly was my only redeeming, nordic quality. after frequent phone calls to charlie, i started to figure things out.
yet for all the confidence i gathered in grooming, charlie was pleased to remind everyone last night that in all the history of ski grooming, i was one of the few groomers who has managed to get the pisten bully…a mammouth, tracked, tiller-driven, german groomer…stuck.
i can laugh about it now, but when it happened, it was a fatigue-induced nightmare.
up a creek without a paddle? nope, grooming in a massive lake-effect dump without a shovel.
around the dinner table we all laughed about it, but charlie knew that when it happened, it was some serious shit.
the dinner was about hope and promise and rejuvenation that occurs during the starkness of winter. skiing. perfect tracks. perfect corduroy. kick and glide.
and the guy who started it all.