Or, Singing The Praises of the High-Tech Ski Pole, and Other Matters
First, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over”.
Second, in the immortal words of Anonymous, “It ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings.”
Third, in the immortal words of Lori, “It’s over.”
The hill has melted. I screamed up to the mountain today in the hopes of a final bluebird day to end the season (and collected my first speeding ticket in over twenty years, courtesy of the Colrain Massachusetts Speed Trap, on the way) and found the hill melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. Every single run had at least one place where you could either ski directly over the dirt, sticks, and rocks, or pick your way fortunately to the six-foot-wide swath of ice spanning the dirt spots. Or, in the immortal words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, “Kol ha olam gulo, gesher tzar me’od.” (“The whole world is a narrow bridge…the important thing is not to be afraid”)
I dropped the ball on that, because on my way down the hill today, the thought that seized my entire awareness was “Holy crap, I don’t want to run over a rock and take a core shot, because a big grey patch of p-tex is going to totally ruin the look of my base graphics!” Does it count as being “afraid” if what I’m primarily concerned about is cosmetic damage to my accessories? Really, it’s not a lot different from wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes into a cobblestone walkway and having the leather peel up on the spike. It’s dreadful, but if this is the Worst Thing your life holds, it’s a pretty OK life, eh?
Speaking of “life” I’ve recently – like, in the last week – realized that if there’s a Heaven, I have pretty firm ideas about what it should be like. I’m kind of hoping that – as in the Discworld – what your afterlife holds has something to do with your expectations about it. So I’ll commit: my Heaven has Roy, of course, and it has lots of animals, of course, but otherwise, it’s kind of like Valhalla. Only, instead of battling and fighting all day and getting drunk every night (with Valkyries),my heaven is skiing and riding horses all day, and quaffing microbrews all night (with good company, Valkyries welcomed). In fact,my Heaven is sort of a perpetual Apres-Ski, only with lots of skiing thrown in, and horses (maybe combining the two with Ski Joring?!? I may just die in ecstasy on the spot…).
Of the many, many holes in my life that will exist for the next eight (NO. NINE. THANK. YOU. ROY.) months is Apres-Ski. I’m sure that Apres-Ski has a very different meaning to people who have not already found their Life Partner and Soul Mate (Thank. you. Roy.). I know this because my wedding ring was in the shop for a month this ski season, and Roy took a relatively constant joy in throwing a cold shower on the Expectations of various and sundry individuals in the bars in the base lodge during that period…just by showing up. I have to trust him on this, I didn’t think that people were trying to Pick Me Up, I just thought we were having fun Apres-Ski Bonding. Roy, however, maintains that the “bonding” that various and sundry individuals had in mind was not the “bonding” that I had in mind. Really. I’m totally serious, I thought that dude’s ski app on his phone was AWESOME. And, really, clocking a speed of 48mph on sticks? Who wouldn’t be impressed with that, I ask you.
I do love Apres-Ski. You ski until it’s not fun any more (either because the surface is shot, or because it’s gotten too crowded). Then you go change out of your ski boots and stuff (if you’re smart) and then hit the bar. I should point out, here, that my Ski Hill is in Vermont. And Vermont? Not just home to fat, happy, ice-cream cows. Beer isn’t just for breakfast any more, kids. Vermont has more than 2o craft breweries per million people (according to Wikipedia). Other sources indicate that Vermont ranks first in the whole U.S. for craft breweries per capital. Google it, you’ll see.
What this means for Apres-Ski is that it’s Beer Heaven for Beer-O-Philes like myself. All three of the bars in the base lodge carry some bundle of microbrews. The Station Tap (my Pub Away From Home) carries nearly 20 of the suckers. Vermont invented the Black IPA (if you haven’t tried one yet, DO it). What I’ve seen lately is RyePA (IPA where rye is substituted for the barley malt). LOVE this. Even the “mainstream” apres-ski bar – the one that lets kids in because it serves so much food – still has a “domestic” beer – Mount Snow Ale (available only on the hill).
So Apres-Ski at my ski hill means that any individual, by definition, has two things in common with any other individual: skiing (or boarding), and beer. Tell me you can’t make 90 minutes of conversation out of this. Tell me that, and I’ll tell you something about yourself: you’re a conversational dud. I love the bonding that goes on on the bar over really good beer after a hard morning spent out on the hill. It’s not a lot of bragging and bullshit. It’s just…a bunch of people, in one place, who love some common things in life. Skiing (or boarding) and beer. We have great conversations about the conditions, about the sticks (or boards), about the weather, about other ski areas, about the runs, about neat apps for the smartphone, about how bitchin’ life is in general (because, let me tell you, there is no better sense that Life Is Bitchin’ than there is at a bar stocked with high-end beers at the bottom of a ski hill). I ski alone, and I spend any amount of time meeting fascinating people on lifts. In my time, so far, I’ve met a pair of women in their sixties – one of them a snowboarder – who got high on the lift (offered to share, very polite of them) and talked about horses). I’ve met a regional sales rep for Rossignol (who told me that my Goth Girl Skis are the ultimate in Tree Skiing [heaven forbid I should get the chance]). I’ve met any number of ski instructors. I met five guys and one woman who hang out at the Italian joint around the corner of my house. I’ve met a professional Ski Waxer (not the guy who gets roasted about his “girlfriend” when I bring my Goth Girls in for some Ski Luv, although that dude gave me a big hug this morning when I asked him to put a summer wax on the girls [thus capitulating to the weather in Abject Depression]). I met a guy who is nearly 90 years old and who has been skiing for the last 70 years. I meet all manner of utterly fascinating individuals on the lifts.
And in the bars. The High Point of my Ski Year was meeting the manager of one of the bars in the base lodge, who turned out to be the best friend of a guy my step-daughter went to high school with, and whose mom (the best-friend’s mom) is an Old and Valued Friend of the Family and a co-worker. Name withheld to protect privacy and all that, but No Shit, There I Was on Christmas Day. Finished skiing, and checking out the new bar. Which turned out to carry Blue Point Toasted Lager (a beer from Long Island). I commented to the bartender (who was also the bar manager) that this was my Absolute Very Favorite Beer to drink whilst eating oysters at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. It is, too. If you have the chance to down a pint of this stuff while sampling the Gifts of the Ocean’s Oyster Beds, I strongly recommend it…
“Oh,” he said, “Are you from New York?”
hahahahahahah. Me from New York. Roy, yes. Me? In the nightmares of the City.
“Oh, no.” I said. “I’m from Texas. But I live in Western Massachusetts now.”
By the way, there is a million-mile gap between “I am from” and “I live in”. If you haven’t ever had to expatriate, or move to a distant locale, you may not really understand this. But I am no more from Western Massachusetts than I am from the Planet Jupiter. It doesn’t matter that I speak French – no amount of time living in France will make me French. And if you’re not in the right head-space, you can live in Texas all your life – or even part of it – and you will never “be” Texan. This is amply demonstrated by Certain Figures of Significant Political Interest during the early part of this century that lived in Texas but were from Connecticut.
Anyway, Figures of Interest aside, my reply to the bartender led to a five-minute conversation that concluded with the information that there was no more than 2 degrees of separation, as mentioned above. And the news that my co-worker (and friend of the family) was anticipating the onset of Grandmotherhood in approximately May.
This, by the way, gave me a delightful opportunity. When school reconvened, I stopped by [coworker’s] office.
“Hey,” I said, “I met a strange man in a bar on Christmas and he told me you were going to be a grandmother!”
She laughed a bit. “Oh, yes,” she said. “I guess you missed that announcement.” (which was made at the annual break-fast)
“Ah.” I said. “I didn’t hear this from Roy.” (who had been at the break-fast, while I satisfied another social obligation)
“You didn’t?” she said.
“No.” I said. “I met a strange man in a bar on Christmas and he told me this.”
“Why don’t I believe you?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said, “because it’s entirely true.”
“Who did you hear this from?” she said.
[insert name of bar manager here]
“WHAT?!?!” she said. “How do you know him?!?!”
“I. met. him. in. a. bar. on. Christmas. and. he. told. me.” I said.
Funny. It made so much sense to me at the time. But then again, it’s Apres Ski. Heaven on earth.
One of the Main Topics of conversation at Apres Ski (other than the Conditions, and the Beers) is Gear. And I made a ripping awesome gear purchase a week ago and I just feel compelled to sing the praises of this stuff. Why?
Because it’s superior design, of course.
I don’t do ski pole strap. Ski poles have straps at the top and spikes at the bottom. In theory, one puts the straps over one’s wrists, and sticks the spikes into the snow (a Pole Plant).
My feeling on that subject is that I am A-OK with the Pole Plant, but I am decidedly lukewarm (or worse) on the topic of the strap.
Because I’m of the school that says If You Aren’t Falling, You Aren’t Growing.
One takes chances. And one grows because of that. But one also falls down once in a while. And if one falls down (a necessary condition to growing) one does not wish to have a pair of 4-foot long metal poles involved in the process. It is bad enough that one has 170cm skis attached to one’s feet (or sometimes, not attached to one’s feet) in the process of Wiping Out. But to add a pair of 4′ long poles into this….calculus….has always seemed to me to be an….unnecessary….complication. You know, if I’m going to go ass-over-teakettle, I’m grateful as hell that the ginormous slats strapped to my feet are designed to fall off with certain kinds of….physics. The thought of incorporating a pair of 4-foot long poles into any cartwheeling, spiraling, air-borne wipeout seems to me to be an invitation to orthopedic injuries.
My response to this…concern…has been to hold my poles by the handles and refuse to use the straps.
I can’t tell you how many ski instructors have been….dissatisfied….with this situation.
For one, it virtually guarantees that if I fall down, I have a Yard Sale. At a minimum, my poles will be left uphill. Which means that either I have to hike back up to fetch them, or some Kind Skierwithout a Yard Sale brings them down. For two, it means that I’m not using the poles efficiently.
I appreciate this. But I haven’t had a good way to Manage The Risks. And, as an accounting person, I am all about Risk Management.
Enter some kind of exotic Leki pole system. I saw these the same day I bought my Kung Fujas. I have a season passholder discount, so I get all slap-happy in the Gear Shop. On this occasion, I saw a Pole Demo. This design is unbelievable. It’s a two-part deal. Part 1 is a mildly complicated strap arrangement that permanently sits atop your ski gloves, and involves velcro. It also involves a little high-tech loop located on strapwork atop the webbing between the thumb and forefinger. Part 2 is the pole, which includes a retractable toggle that fits into the loop. And, together, it means that you hook the loop onto the pole, which then is held onto your hand without any “holding” activity, but which blows free under certain kinds of torque.
So these pole are attached to my gloves, unless I’m in the middle of the kind of spill where I really do not want the participation of my poles, in which case they blow free and stay up-slope.
It’s genius, I say, pure genius.
So here we are, putting the season to bed. One final gear review, and a PM on the Apres-Ski. I’ll miss you all – or, hopefully, not – for the next eight (no, dammit NINE months).
Now, it’s on to horses, all morning, all night.