This is a great time of the year. Of course, my perspective on it is likely colored by the fact that my ski hill opened up for the weekend. It’s all man-made snow, of course, but no one blows better snow than Mount Snow. That’s why they call it that. Mount Snow. For snow, get it? hehehe
Anyway, they’d been issuing threats via Facebook for days that they would open on Friday. I know, I can hear you saying, “But you love to ski! Why would it be a threat to open a ski hill? Wouldn’t you be happy about this?”
And to this I say, “Well, kind of. But kind of not. And it frightens me.”
The translation here is that, as they say, any day with skiing in it is a better day than the one without skiing in it. So in that sense, opening the hill is kind of good. Because it means a day with skiing instead of a day with not.
But then…one must ask the crucial question about Conditions. Because not all skiing is created equal. Just ask my buddy Russell, who learned (day 1!) last year on lovely soft slow spring snow, only to be confronted on day 2 by a hill that had melted and then frozen as hard as a rock, and on day 3, it was raining. He got three of the four Ski Seasons all rolled into one long weekend.
There’s a phenomenon known among Skiers as the White Ribbon of Death. When a mountain opens absurdly early, as all of the ones in Vermont are doing this year, and there has not been snow from the sky, what “opening” means is not “opening the mountain! yay!” but “opening one run”. The One Run that gets opened before any other run on the mountain. The one where the snowmaking is focused. The one white strip of a run out of an entire mountain of runs. The only white one. The white ribbon making its way from the top of the hill all the way down to the base. The one run that every single desperate ski-starved junkie is planning to drift down, on legs that haven’t seen the like in seven or eight months. The one extremely crowded and over-skied run. The one crowded, over-skied white ribbon from the top of the hill to the base.
The White Ribbon of Death.
I’m very conflicted about the WROD. On one hand, any day with skiing… On the other hand, of Death.
I tried to hold it off. I really did. Because, you know, it’s just not a Good Idea. Of Death, and all. I even appealed to my Online Ski Support Group for assistance in helping me keep the demons from the door. A fat lot of good they were, too. I mean, Ski Support Group, you’re thinking they’re going to be providing support for managing the problem. Right? No. They just provide Support for Skiing. Trying to talk yourself out of buying new skis or boots? The Ski Divas will make sure that this purchase goes through. Thinking that it’s not such a great idea to go Heli-Skiing? The Ski Divas will fix that for you. By the time the Ski Divas finish with you, you’re going to have your own private ski waxing and grinding salon set up in the basement. Don’t have a basement? Get one by moving! As someone said earlier this week, you don’t have “too many skis” unless they won’t all fit in your garage. That’s a paraphrase, but the gist is accurate. So when I appealed to them for support on my decision not to ski the WROD this year, you can imagine what happened.
Yep. Saturday morning, nice and early, and I’m dropping three pairs of skis off at the shop to get the summer wax scraped off. I can hear you say “Three pairs?!?!” And to this I say, “Yes, because I couldn’t fit all six into the car at once. Besides, one of them belongs to Roy.”
I spent the entire trip up to the hill preparing myself for Truly Awful Conditions. Rocks. Ice. Bare spots. Crowds. Everything but Yellow Snow.
To my vast and unequaled surprise, what I got instead was an (admittedly narrow) strip of pure white packed powder, charming, friendly, soft, and accepting of turns and edges. Not quite Hero Snow. But not too far from it, either.
The other shocker was that there weren’t crowds, at least, not at 8:45AM. What there were was a generous handful of Ski Freaks, like myself, who just had to get in some turns. I had the rare, possibly unrepeatable, experience of seeing the run occupied by nothing but competent, experienced skiers. Usually, at least 10% of the people on the run have absolutely no business venturing off the bunny hill. They go there because they don’t know about the bunny hill, and this run is the obvious run to take. It’s the White Ribbon of Death for a reason. Or maybe they are there because Experience Ski Boyfriend has talked them into it, assuring them they can do it, without regard to actual skills development. Or maybe they’re just full of beans. But the fact is, they’re out there, trashing the surface of the run, getting frightened, stopping and standing still in the traffic, or sitting on their snowboards and having a picnic right under the lip of a drop where you can’t see them until you’re ten feet above them and moving fast. Just the experience of skiing on a run where everyone was competent and experienced was worth the trip alone.
I’d like to say that I skied until my legs fell off. Well, I did. But that was only four (4) runs. I don’t know what happened to my ski muscles. I’d be willing to swear it was only a week or so since I went last. But man alive, were my thighs burning after those four (4) runs. My brain was all “WOO-HOO!! LET’S DO SOME MORE!!” but my thighs were all “Hell, no.” and somewhere in between I had a small, very small, Voice of Sanity saying that it was much better to stop one run too early than one run too late, and that everything would be crappy if I skied too long and wiped out and got some kind of orthopedic injury…on the White Ribbon of Death.
And so I stopped. But everything is just groovy as hell right now, because I skied. I give this another 3, maybe 4 days before my mood turns foul because, well, because I haven’t skied since Saturday. That’s why I was afraid of the WROD: because I knew it would Unleash The Beast. The beast that I keep locked up where it can’t haunt me over the summer. It stays locked up – although all those warnings about the imminent opening were really rattling the bars on its cage – until my feet hit the boots and the boots hit the ski and the ski hits the snow. After that, it’s all over. I’ve had Ski Dreams every night this week. Now they’re OK. but if I have to go for a week or more between skiing, they will turn into torture. God forbid, sprinkle salt, spit, and make that Gypsy Sign to Avert The Evil Eye with my fingers, it won’t be like last year where the snow wasn’t decent until nigh on to Christmas. phht. phht. finger flicks.
So here we are, it’s mid-November, Thanksgiving is around the corner, my stash of winter squash is holding up, the skies are clear, I’m still riding The Wonder Horse, and I’ve already gone skiing. How could it get any better?
It could get better with this amazing dish that I made last week. Holy jamoly. I thought it would be good when I saw the recipe wherever it was that I saw it. But I didn’t have any idea until I tasted it on my plate. Even during preparation I didn’t realize. And while the first time I ate it was good, the second time, for lunch the next day, was heavenly. I bring you a Chicken Cassoulet.
6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
1 t salt
½ t pepper
3 T olive oil
1 lb garlic and herb chicken sausage, cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 19 oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
14 oz can diced tomatoes with herbs
½ C chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 T dried thyme
1½ C breadcrumbs. I used cornbread crumbs and they were brilliant. I wouldn’t recommend panko.
Preheat oven to 300. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt and pepper. In large skillet over medium high heat brown meat in 2 T olive oil, on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside. Brown sausage in skillet, remove and set aside. Add remaining oil to skillet. Add onion and garlic, and cook until translucent. Return chicken and sausage to skillet. Add beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, and thyme. Give it a good stir to blend. Bring to boil. Take from heat and sprinkle with a cup of the crumbs. Cover and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and bake 20 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Theoretically feeds 6, but only if they’re all on a diet. Otherwise, feeds 2 with leftovers for tomorrow, or 5 tonight.