20 February 2007

Winter Wonderland

Skiing is one of the joys of life for me. I don't get to do it very often, but when I do, it makes me happy to be alive.

I had a perfect day on the slopes. Perfect weather...in the 20s, sunny, very little wind. Near-perfect conditions...groomed trails means that there has been snow recently, and the resort has taken some giant machines and driven them over the snow, making it uniform in depth. It is rare, in this region of the country, to be able to ski on fresh powder, the glory, be-all end-all of skiing conditions. At least, it is for me, because I don't live close enough to a ski resort to head for the hills as soon as fresh snow falls.

Every year, the first time I go skiing has the same emotions attached to it. A little bit of trepidation...what if I've forgotten the skills I've learned over the past 23 years that I've been a skier? A little bit of worry...what if I fall? (I am compelled to note here that I rarely fall. I'm too cautious of a skier, I don't take unnecessary risks, I rarely ski so fast that I can't stop myself. What can I say? I'd rather not be injured.) And a lot of elation, because as the saying goes, even a bad day skiing is better than a good day at the office.

Standing at the top of the hill, I take a deep breath of cold, clean country air. Peek'n Peak's elevation is only 1800 feet, so you can't really call it a mountain. At least not in my book. I have on a pair of goggles, a band around my ears, my iPod, a neck wrap, my ski jacket, ski pants, gloves, and three layers of clothes underneath the ski gear. On my back is a Camelback, a hydration system that I find imperative for a good day on the slopes. It holds about 64 ounces of water, the RDA of 8 eight ounce glasses of water. It has a tube that goes over my right shoulder from the bladder that holds the water. The bladder is held in a backpack, in which I also carry lip balm and tissues. I sip water at need by biting on the tube, not the classiest method going, but it sure beats carrying around bottles of water.

On my feet are new, brand-spanking new ski boots, bought last week. I've never had brand new equipment before, so that's exciting. My skis are Kastle, very old. I have a pair of Scott poles, also very old, but I see no need to replace either. They still work, and I have newer bindings on the skis, so they're fine, safe, and effective. I get occasional guff from other skiers while on the lifts, when they see my skis, asking me just how old the skis are, but with new skis and bindings setting you back about $500....yeah, my old stuff is fine, thanks. I got the Kastles when I was 13 or 14, and they were used when I got them, so a good guess at their age would be between 15 and 20 years old. I've replaced the bindings twice in that time, most recently maybe 5 years ago.

So the air is clean, cold, and crisp, and as I glide off of the chairlift, I look around for a map to remind me of the layout of Peek'n. Yes, that is the main resort that I go to, as it is within 2 hours driving distance, and yes, I go there between 2 and 5 times every winter, but they change things around during the summers, and anyway, I like maps. I stand in front of a map the size of a highway billboard, and ponder my routes for the next several hours. I don't like to start out with a run that might overtax my abilities, so I plan carefully.

The sound of the snow under the runners of the skis brings back floods of memories. Racing my sister at 11, 12 years old and again as adults, and she beats me every single time. My dad, encouraging me to enter my first NASTAR race, an amateur ski competition that I first tried around 11 years old. Getting stuck on the chairlift with a family friend at Peek'n, for over two hours in the late 80s, freezing my butt off. J-bars, T-lifts, rope tows. Skiing in Breckenridge with K and E, in the mid-90s. It isn't quite a crunching sound, more like when you rub two pieces of plastic up against one another. Not a grinding, either. Movie sound effects people use cornflakes and cornstarch encased in cotton sheets to simulate the sound of snow under skis...and that's a pretty good facsimile of the sound. Parallel skiing throws small bits of snow away from the skier, and the sssscuuuscchhh of the snow flying this way and that behind other skiers is soothing, right, exhilarating.

Having the iPod while skiing was a new thing for me. When my parents would take us skiing when we were kids, they disapproved of us listening to the Walkman while skiing...dangerous, they said. So it is. At the volume my 14-year-old self would have listened to it, very dangerous. Not that their edict of "No music on the slopes" stopped me from having it, but it was bulky, hard to hide, and cumbersome to carry. My old ski jackets always had inside pockets, but by the end of the day, I would be looking for someplace else to stash the Walkman, rather than carrying it on my person. The iPod, on the other hand, has an armband that I carry it around on, and it is no thicker than 3 credit cards stacked one on top of the other. So not bulky, not heavy, and I wear it on my arm every day at the gym, so nothing out of the ordinary.

I started the day on the hill listening to my "Supernatural" playlist, which is a bunch of classic rock tunes used on the television show. "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas. "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. "Rock of Ages" and "Pyromania" by Def Leppard. "Working Man" by Rush. "Wayward Son" is something I like to run to on the treadmill, and I can now report that it works well for flying downhill on skis too. I've got about 45 minutes of music on the SN playlist, so when I heard "Reaper" for the second time, I stopped skiing for a minute to change over to something else. Since I didn't organize a playlist specifically for the ski trip (which would have been smart), I just told the iPod to play the 25 most played songs, which is a pretty eclectic mix of Prince, U2, Def Leppard, Red Wanting Blue, The Format, and Dave Matthews Band.

Listening to Prince (old school Prince, mostly from the Purple Rain soundtrack) while traveling somewhere around 30 miles an hour on a ski slope is a pretty surreal experience. I have a remix of "Let's Go Crazy", probably my favorite Prince tune ever, that runs almost 8 minutes long, and I heard it about 3 times. That song is going to be stuck in my head for a week, I swear.

I think I've written before about how difficult it is for me to NOT sing at the top of my lungs whenever I have the iPod on. I was a singer all through school, trained with a private opera coach from 13 to about 17, entered contests, the whole bit. I tell you that not to brag, but to tell you that I'm a decent singer. I don't sing in public (meaning on stage) anymore, but I've never been able to resist the urge to sing in the car, in the shower, and yes, while skiing. When Red Wanting Blue came on, I was alone on the chairlift, and I gave in to the urge to belt out the chorus of "Audition". Fortunately, if anyone noticed, I didn't see them.

I skied all alone this time, having been unable to convince anyone to play hooky along with me. And while that's a bit of a shame, it isn't the end of the world. I crave solitude, it is an essential part of my nature. There are days that if I had a personal motto it would be "LEAVE ME ALONE!", so I didn't feel lonely while out there. There is, of course, a crucial difference between being alone and being lonely, and I was alone. I didn't lack for company...since it was President's Day in the US (Perhaps our most useless holiday? Discuss amongst yourselves...) all government offices, schools, and banks were closed, there were a bunch of other nuts out there on the hills with me. I talked to tons of people while the chairlifts took us to the top of the hills. Mostly other Ohioans, which entertained me a lot, as Peek'n is located in Clymer, New York.

I rode the chairlift early in the day with a fella named Jeff who did his darnedest to convince me to come back to his ski condo at the end of the day to party with a bunch of his friends. I haven't been hit on in a really long time, so it took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on. I'd been feeling very mischievous when I got on the chairlift, though, so when he asked my name, instead of giving my real name, I told him "Lucy." Thank goodness for that intuition, because the further up the hill that chairlift got, the more uncomfortable this guy made me. I've introduced myself as Lucy before, last year when I was writing food articles, I interviewed a couple of different people, and always identified myself initially with the pen name. I always told the interviewees that Lucy is a pen name, however, not wanting to be dishonest. This idiot on the chairlift got no more than "Lucy" and the name of the big city in my area out of me, and he'll have a right difficult time tracking me down with just those two things, fortunately. Men. We love ya, but honestly, you're all dorks.

I'll be out on the slopes again on Sunday, the 25th, with a few members of my family. I know that most of the rest of the Northern hemisphere is wishing for spring, but I'm hoping winter holds on for a few more weeks, at least, so I can get a few more runs in before the snow melts for another year.


MotherMe said...

Sooo jealous. I would'a played hooky with you if I could have found someone to play with the kids all day, though! :) ~mm

Lucy Arin said...

It was all day, too, I left home around 10 and didn't get back until after 7.

I was thinking about your DD1 when I got cut in line by the ski school people...they start kids as young as 3 on skis. My youngest sis went for the first time around 4 or 5.

A costly sport for the whole family, tho, my 4 hour lift ticket cost $41!!!