Tomorrow, Sunday, is the last day of my Ski Year. This is a tragedy. Like death, the end of the ski season is inevitable. Also like death, it is a misery when it arrives.
One thing that makes my misery less is the presence of my buddy. From this time forward, he will be referred to as “Russell”. This is because, today, he reminds me of nothing more than Russell Brand from “Get Him To The Greek.”
When the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry wall.
Yep. That’s what life with Russell looks like today.
Russell, a native Texan, has had little or no opportunity to ski. He does, however, have an opportunity to drink beer, good beer, and in copious quantities. Which makes him perfect company for my annual Ski Season Wake, which in turn coincides with the Winter Beer Fest at my ski hill. It’s not really called the “Winter Beer Fest”. It has a more glamorous name, but everyone calls it the “Winter Beer Fest”. And it comes off on approximately the last weekend of the ski season, which means you have hundreds, if not thousands, of depressed skiers pouring in off the ski hill and Encountering Local Agriculture in the form of large numbers of breweries pouring exotic brews out of taps, and all there on the snow from the ski hill and under the spring sun.
If it didn’t mark the death of the ski season it would be awesome.
As it is, it’s an awesome bonding experience.
This year, it was enhanced by the presence of Russell, who came up for the Beer Fest and said, as long as he was here, that maybe he should learn to ski.
Hell Yeah, I said. I was all over that. I set him up with a learn-to-ski lesson yesterday morning in the slush that accumulates when a ski hill gets 14 hours of bright sun and 50-degree temps. There were, of course, many who said “What idiot learns to ski on the last day of the season” but we just pointed out, better late than never. This made sense to everyone, and off he went. Did very well, too.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective with respect to Learning Experiences, the entire hill melted yesterday afternoon…and then got socked with a deep freeze last night. Which meant that yesterday was Spring Skiing – soft and mushy – whereas today was more like January 6 instead of April 6. Hill was as hard as a blasted rock, with a fine layer of pulverized ice on top. A particular variant of “frozen granular”, the primary term New England skiers have for ice. As we scraped onto the bunny hill lift, I looked at Russell and said “Welcome to Vermont”.
After a few hours of doing drills on the bunny hill, I decided that Russell was OK to go to the top. With an escort, of course. It was a…hairy… experience. Took me right back to my early ski days, when I went down that run for the first time, terrified because it was steep and narrow. Hah, I say. That’s before I understood the meaning of the words “steep” or “narrow”. But I do remember how it felt. And Russell was having a similar experience, I could see. We’ll just say that he made it down in one piece, with no more injury than a bruised butt, and was an extremely good sport about getting up after the 4,555.000 spills he took along the way. Hey, I said, falling is part of skiing. Means you’re pushing your boundaries.
We did get to the end and Russell said Hey, I want to do that again. No, I said. It’s time for beer. The Beer Fest has already started. Time for you to learn about the other vitally important part of skiing. Apres ski. And so we went. Stood about in 37 degrees swilling microbrews and shooting the breeze with other skiers and riders about, well, skiing and riding. Because what else is more interesting to talk about, when you’ve been skiing or riding all morning?
Russell was a little shy at first, but I made sure everyone we talked to knew that he had just learned to ski yesterday and was already going to the summit. And, because, there is nothing a ski junkie likes more than a new ski junkie, everyone loved him.
Unfortunately, like his namesake, Russell got complete potted at apres ski. I’ve been hanging about with Russell for 20 years, and seen him pack away his share of beer, but there was something about swilling beer on the ski hill. Next thing I knew he was absolutely in the tank. I mean, knee-walking drunk. Awesomely drunk. Inspiringly drunk. Magnificently intoxicated. Plastered. Blasted. This was a once-in-twenty-years bender I’m talking about, the likes of which I have never seen in this company.
Roy showed up somewhere along the way and I bailed out to go hang with him. Thirty minutes later, Russell shows up at the hotel room we’re all sharing. Unfortunately, he does not have his boot bag with him. Which means he doesn’t have his ski pants, Roy’s helmet, Roy’s balaclava (all on loan) or, more catastrophically, his rental ski boots. We know where the skis and poles are, but they’re not a heck of a lot of use with out the boot. Furthermore, he doesn’t even realize that he’s missing the boot bag. And there begins a 45 minute long saga involving a dinner reservation at a four-star restaurant, a comedy of errors, additionally missing shoes, and – in general – a scene that wouldn’t have been in the least bit out of line with Get Him To The Greek. Roy, bless his heart, is taking Jonah Hill’s role in all this. Unfortunately, we emerged from the surreal comedic episode still without the boot bag.
One hopes that it will turn up tomorrow morning.
In the meantime, Roy persuaded us that we needed to go for a walk on one of the freshly groomed runs. I took a perverse pleasure in trampling the fresh cord some other skier would enjoy, but which I could not because I’m going to be helping Russell attempt to locate his ski boots. And helmet, and ski pants, and goggles, and and and.
I will say this, the stars were magnificent. Roy was quite right to encourage us all out there.
He was also quite right to encourage Russell to take a dip in the resort’s hot tub and heated pool, which – in the finest tradition of ski lodges everywhere – is open to the chilly night air and lets you see both the stars and the ski runs from the water.
As soon as we walked through the doors opening into the spa area, we saw that there were perhaps a dozen people already in the pool and hot tub.
And, in the finest tradition of Russell Brand and Get Him To The Greek, as soon as we did walk through the doors, all one dozen denizens of the pool erupted in exactly the same cry:
Hey! It’s the guy from the Beer Fest!!!
Yes. Every single one of them immediately recognized Russell even without his ski gear, even in the dark. Instant Celebrity.
I would have said, if asked, that I had spent the majority of our time at the Beer Fest with Russell. Yet, I don’t remember anything happening that would cause a round dozen individuals to erupt with cries of “Hey! It’s that guy from the Beer Fest!” later and in the dark.
All I can say about that is that it must have happened when I went off for a bathroom break.
I asked him, Dude, what were you doing?
But he has no recollection…no more of that, than what happened to his boot bag.
I’ll say this, it’s certainly the most interesting period I’ve ever put to a ski season.