Category Archives: Weather

That Old Kitten Spirit

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My BFF, Buster Kitty, passed away this fall.  He died suddenly, and unexpectedly, from what we believe to be a common heart problem that plagues cats.  We came home from a day trip and found his body at the base of the stairs.  It was unspeakably horrible.  If I never go through anything that awful again, ever in my life, I will count myself fortunate.

Ten years ago, when Tybalt, the Black Death, my Buddha Cat, was on his last legs, I discovered that in the 18 years I’d known him, I had somehow forgotten to live without a cat.  And that’s when Buster Kitty entered my life.  When Buster Kitty unexpectedly shuffled off his mortal coil, I remembered that I had forgotten how to live without a cat.  Roy, bless his heart, said “We’ll get another cat.” meaning “We’ll get another cat in the spring”.  He’s a little slow sometimes.  He gets there, but he takes the Local Train.  He was planning to get engaged four or five years after we met, even though it was perfectly obvious from our first date forward that we were headed directly to the altar.  I had to take things into my own hands on that one as well, but that’s a different story.  Roy said “We’ll get another cat.” and all I could think was “How long do I have to be here without a cat?”

You know, unless you are hopelessly Cat Averse like my mother, that there is power in the purr of a cat.  There is no dreadful event in my life that has not been improved by a purring cat on my lap.  Or, rather, my experience of every dreadful event has been made less horrible, less weighty, less burdensome, through having a purring cat on my lap.  The sudden loss of Buster Kitty was certainly a dreadful event, and made even worse by the fact that the loss of my usual antidote to dreadful events, the purring cat, was the dreadful event itself.  It was the ultimate in Negative Synergies.

I lasted one week.  I knew quite well that Roy had some totally absurd time horizon in mind, and with the expertise of the long-married, I utterly disregarded that.  I launched a conversation with him about this Hypothetical Event of securing another cat for the house. I ran across this magnificent article that explained my perspective perfectly.  Buster Kitty occupied a completely unfillable Cat Track…but the household had at least one Cat Slot, and it was vacant, and it very badly needed to be filled.  Really.  The post I linked to there is totally worth reading. Anyway, filling the vacant Cat Slot was First Priority, for me. I wasn’t going to be having any vacant Cat Slot for months and months.  Who could stand it?  Anyway, my Cat Slot had been continuously occupied by adult cats for 28 years at this point, but suddenly, Overhead Control alerted me to the fact that the specs for the job had been changed.  My Cat Slot had been converted, without my permission, acquiescence, or agreement, into a Kitten Slot.  I don’t know why.  The decision was handed down by Top Management.

While the Cat Slot Conversion paperwork was getting processed I sounded Roy out on the topic of Multiple Cats.  Because, why not.  Starting fresh is starting fresh, and it might be interesting to have more than one.  He was not in favor.  His idea was: 1 cat.  Not 2 cats.  I hadn’t yet been alerted to the change in status on the Slot, so I was unable to obtain his feelings on the subject of Kitten.  I was pretty sure I knew what they were going to be, anyway.

Fortunately, about that time, Roy headed off for a conference.  One of his very favorite sayings is “It’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.”  I think this position has merit, and was fully prepared to deploy it in the face of his inevitable protest. I called a good friend to come visit me for purposes of Cat Shopping.  Or, as I understood it at the moment, Kitten Shopping.  When I was informed of the conversion of the Slot from Cat Slot to Kitten Slot, I was also informed that we had been given an extra Slot in acknowledgement of the inconvenience. So we were not shopping for one cat, we were shopping for two kittens.

Plan A was to hit several of the area shelters, meet all the kittens they had on hand, and pick from that selection after several hours of Kitten Shopping.  As they say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Plan A was derailed pretty much instantly when I met my First Kitten, a tiny little tuxedo cat, who nestled himself in the angle between my neck and my shoulder when I picked him up, purred loudly, and then licked the end of my nose.

“Friend,” I said to my buddy, “I’m gone.”

Meanwhile, she had discovered a contender in the form of a fluffy blue kitten with more toes than whiskers, who pitched the World’s Tiniest Temper Tantrum when she did not immediately open up his cage and take him out.

“Lori,” she said, “I”m gone.”

And so it was that we set out to obtain Two Kittens, and took home the first two kittens we met.  Later that day, I spoke with Roy on the phone.  “I have a confession to make” I said. “You got a cat” he said. “No,” I said.  “You know how you’re always saying it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission?” “What. did. you. do.” he said. “Well,” I said, “We went to the animal shelter.” “But you said you didn’t get a cat” he said. “That’s right,” I said.  “I didn’t get a cat.  I got two kittens.“. Silence reigned.  “Two.” he said.  “Two…kittens.” “Yep. You’re going to love them.”  My friend had already pointed out that if Roy kicked up a dust, we’d just toss the fluffy one at him, and the kitten would work its Fluffy Kitten Magic, and that would be the end of the protests.  And that is, more or less, how it worked out.  These kittens were so unbelievably cute – even our vet, who specialized in cats, melted when I brought them in – that Roy didn’t have a Chance.  It took him more than five minutes, and less than two days.

Now we’re one bigger, happier family: me, Roy, Max, and Baxter.  Max is the fluffy blue one, who turns out to be a volunteer shoot on the Maine Coon family tree.  Baxter is the tuxedo cat.  Both are shaping fair to be enormous.  Baxter was 10 lbs at his six-month checkup, and Max wasn’t very far behind. I’m told that Maine Coons take a long time to grow into their full magnificence, though.

Now the kittehs are sad.

I have a hanging sculpture in my bay window. It has a big swarovski cut-crystal ball hanging from it. Around 4pm at this time of the year the sun is at exactly the right angle to shine through the crystal, which puts dozens of rainbow-colored dots on the wall. If I give the sculpture a spin, the dots chase around the room. It’s like having 50 laser pointers, all going at once, in a seemingly random pattern on the living room walls, furniture, and the hallway stairs. It’s not random, I’m sure there’s a mathematical equation that perfectly describes it, and I bet my friend my kitten-shopping buddy the physicist could tell me what that equation is. But to the kittehs, it’s like having hundreds of multicolored mice racing randomly EVERYWHERE.

Kittehs learned very quickly that Mama Makes The Sparkle Dots Dance. Now they congregate in the living room around 4pm, with expectant looks on their little furry faces. I don’t know what it is about their looks that’s expectant. I just know it is. They see me coming and they want me to make the Sparkle Dots.

It has been cloudy for the last five days in a row. We’re in the throes of mud season, and it’s sleeting, snowing, raining, and just generally depressing and gloomy without being attractively atmospheric, like it is in the fall.  It’s just grim.  Mud Season.  End of Ski Season. Something to endure.  Thank heavens for the Sugar Shacks, because they’re the only thing that makes life worth continuing to live for the six weeks it goes on.

No sun = no Sparkle Dots.  On top of swimming through puddles on the sidewalk everywhere, on top of random warnings of three inches of nasty, useless, wet snow, on top of the crushing of the spirits that comes with the end of ski season…I have to disappoint my kittens every. single. day.  They don’t understand the pivotal role of the sun in the Sparkle Dot picture.  They just know Mama has the Sparkle Dot Magic, and refuses to use it.

God, please bring me a sunny afternoon.  I can’t stand crushing the hopes of my kittens every afternoon much longer.

In a happier time:

Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, and Ice

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I must have thought a hundred times this year that I don’t seem to have been skiing on anything but ice, all season long. And, I just realized, that’s actually true.

The season got off to an early start, well before Thanksgiving, due to frigid temps that allowed for snowmaking – ordinarily packed powder – but as it turned out, that was just the calling card of the polar vortex. A few days of frigid temps allows lots of snowmaking, but invariably, we then got a couple of days of abnormally warm temps with NFP (non-frozen precipitation), getting all that fresh manmade packed down and wet, and then the bottom drops out of the mercury, and all that wet packed pow freezes the mountain into an iceberg.

I still remember visiting the demo shop before Thanksgiving and telling my ski guy that I hadn’t expected to be able to shop for my new Ice Ski until January, but hey, the mountain is hard as a rock today, so let’s go for it.

Good thing, too, because those new Ice Skis were the only thing I got to ride, all season. In Vermont, it was ice, ice, ice, ice. Sometimes there was a little layer of fresh-blown manmade on top of the ice. But we didn’t have any real fresh snow from the sky until February, so November, December, and January really were just ice. Then we got a couple of big dumps, but the polar vortex pretty much saw to it that the freshies got turned into ice in record time too. Warm, rain, arctic air. warm, rain, arctic air. over and over and over.

In March, we had midwinter conditions pretty much all month. Hard, fast, smooth surfaces, made for ripping, but still, basically…ice. I got about 2 hours of spring snow last week, but it started with ice – and, in fact, since the mountain received a 3-day ice storm last weekend, everything around me was coated with a full inch of ice, and half the runs were closed because of ice. I got another 3 hours of spring snow the day after, this time using my Rossi S3s, for the second time all season.

I said to myself, “It’s April. Time for soft stuff, mush, mashed potatoes, loose gran. No more ice. I shall get my Ice Skis summer-waxed” and did.

Now I’m staring down the maw of my last weekend of the season. Remaining items in the quiver to be summer-waxed on Sunday.

And what’s happened?

Another frickin’ ice storm. Snow report says lifties working hard to de-ice the lifts. No summit access for now. Watch for ice on the runs. It’s April 5, and I’m getting the same snow report I’m used to seeing for Superbowl Sunday. Ice. Ice, ice, and more ice. Even in Steamboat it was ice.

In New England, we’re used to skiing on ice.  That’s why New England turns out some of the best technical skiers in the world.  All that ice, you know.  But this is the first season I’ve had where I literally skied on nothing but ice from start to finish.  Literally.

I’m not exactly complaining.

We’ve had an unbelievably long season this year – five months, start to finish.  Made possible by the bloody polar vortex freezing us out before Thanksgiving.  What the vortex gives, the vortex takes away, though, so we’ve paid dearly for our long, long season.  Too much snowmaking.  Too many death cookies.  Not enough freshies.

My technical skills took a huge leap ahead this year, partly due to getting skis that are really long enough for my size, and partly to spending five months solid of skiing on ice.  I don’t mind ice now, not much.  There are still some kinds of ice I hate: corduroy-shaped ice, and white ice, for example, but I am assured that expert skiers also hate those kinds of ice.  You can’t ski on that stuff, you can only get through it.  So I’m in good company on that.  Some kinds of ice I like – the hard packed stuff I was skiing on week before last, where I could go so fast I was leaving a sonic boom in my wake.  Or, at least, so fast it felt like I ought to be leaving a sonic boom.  I liked that fine.  Mostly now, I just ignore the ice.  Back in the day I’d get rattled.  “OH NO!! IT’S ICE!!!” I’d think.  These days?  Even with boilerplate or blue ice, I’m like “Oh, look, ice.  Better not be on my edges when I hit that, and plan to turn elsewhere.” or even “I think I ran over ice a couple of times on that run.”

Now I have preferences about my ice. Like I said, some ice I actually like.  Other ice, where a thick layer of ice has gotten chewed up by the groomers and left to cover the run like gravel covers a dirt road, pisses me off.  That stuff is really hard on my skis.  I actually got a gouge that was deep enough to require p-tex from riding over that crap.  The ski tech wanted to know where I’d found rocks to ski over.  No, I said, it was the snow that did that.

But today?  Dammit.  I shouldn’t be skiing on freakin’ ICE on the last weekend of the season.  It’s APRIL, dammit.  Time for blue skies and sunshine and nice, soft snow that doesn’t scrape the wax right off the skis.  Today, I’m complaining.  Bloody freaking polar vortex, sending a bloody freaking ice storm in April.  Enough already.

Ripping

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I rose this morning to an air temperature of zero Fahrenheit, the temperature at which the hairs in your nose will freeze and break off, if you use your nose to breathe.  This is one of the strangest feelings in the world: it’s like every single tiny little hair in your nose meets that arctic air, reels backwards in fear, and curls up into a tiny, solitary little individual ball of terror.  Right there inside your nostrils.  The first time this happened to me, in Wisconsin in January, they warned me: when you get that sensation do not inhale.  I didn’t believe them when they told me that it was my nose hairs freezing.  As a Texan, I am routinely suspected of “telling tall tales” (which are nothing but the unvarnished truth) but to my ears, the Story of the Frozen Nose Hairs was pure bunk.  I was certain they were mocking me as a rube, in the same way that kids from New York City get sent on “snipe hunts” at camp.

And I maintained that belief until I inhaled and all those wretched, broken, frozen nose hairs shot straight up into my sinuses and started really wreaking havoc.  Five minutes later I was able to finish blowing my nose, and, by golly, there they were on the kleenex:  frozen nose hairs.    Now I know.  And I can always tell when the mercury is at zero, because even at one degree, my nose hairs don’t ball up and fall off.  Only at zero and below.  I’m sort of a Human Thermometer that way.

Now, thanks to the bloody Polar Vortex, I lost my nose hairs for the season weeks ago, right before the mountain started on that ghastly thaw/rain/melt/freeze cycles with the four (4) hideous unseasonable rainstorms in a row.  Fortunately, for a full week now, the snowmaking temperatures have been back, and the hill is roughly where it should be at this time of the season.  I could do with some plentiful snow from the sky but I’m not going to complain about the conditions we’re having right now.

So what does a New England Skier say when they walk outside in a valley town well south of the ski hill, and it’s only zero there, and the red stripe on the bottom of the TV channel is blaring the information that wind chills – in town – are well into the Super Ultra Frostbite Risk Zone?  And the mountain expect the mercury to max at 4-below at the summit, and around 5-above at the base?

It depends.  If that skier is a simple, rational individual, able to maintain a take-it-or-leave it attitude about skiing, they turn around, go back to bed, maybe pile on an extra blanket, and return to sleep.

If that skier is me, then they turn around, dig out the Expedition Weight base layers, start stacking clothes and opening the chemical hand-warmer packets, and make for the hill.

The good news is that the ultra-chilly temperatures ensured that virtually all of the skiers on the hill today were hard. core.  I mean, we’re talking a day where your breath condenses on the balaclava and makes the face mask wet through by the time you finish a run, and by the time you ski off the chair, the balaclava is frozen solid so that you can thump it by flicking it with a thumbnail.  These are hard. core. ski conditions, not for the faint of heart, but no deterrent at all to the hard. core. skier who possesses the requisite soft goods.  Soft goods are clothing, for you non-skiers out there.

The other good news is that the recent snowmaking blizzards have laid down a pretty solid layer of white on many of the runs – no thin spots or waterbars or holes, rocks, and other funny stuff.  And that these temps have dried that snow right on out, letting it pack down pretty solidly into one of the versions of New England Ice known as hard-pack.  And the groomers chew up the top layer into little rails of corduroy, all of which means that we have a surface over the entire mountain that consists of firm, dry, fast hard snow that you can get an edge into.  If you have the right skis, that is.  I wouldn’t want to be riding my midfat twin-tips over this stuff, that’s for sure.  But because I am a dyed-in-the-wool native New England Skier (not a Native New Englander) I own Ice Skis.  Yep.  New England skiers better have at least one pair of skis in the quiver – and if they don’t have a quiver, the only pair of skis they own – that is made for skiing on ice.

Ski The East: Born From Ice. Says it all, really. I have a hoodie with this design on it. Roy gave it to me, because he understands about skiing on ice.

 

So, the good news is that the surface was fast and smooth and pretty much even.  This is Rock Star Snow.  Not Hero Snow, it’s not the surface to get experimental with.  Not the surface for learning aerial tricks, and taking jumps.  What it is, is the surface for ripping.

The even better news is that I have just the pair of skis for all of this.  I bought them back in November.  They’re Volkls, which in my opinion, makes the best Ice Skis around.  Mine are RTM 84s, a nice wide uber-solid high-performance vehicle of a ski.  They remind me of my sports car, with its six-speed manual short-throw transmission and huge engine.  It took me a week before I wasn’t killing my engine in first gear.  This is not a car to go slow in.  It is, however, a car to monitor very carefully because it’s extremely easy to go very fast in.  And to go very fast without noticing.  Roy always has to drive my car with the cruise control on, because if he doesn’t, it’s only two or three minutes before we become bait for the Staties.  My car wails.  So do my skis.

Now, I used to be terrified of speed on skis.  I used to be the slowest person on the run, including on the green run.  I still remember the day that I actually passed someone else on a run.  I was thrilled because it meant that I was no longer the slowest person on the run.  It’s been a while since I was the slowest person on the run, but it wasn’t until this year that I Came To Terms with speed.

In retrospect, I understand that the biggest part of my Speed Problem was that I was on skis that were too short.  You wouldn’t think that having short skis would be a problem with speed, but it is.  Another part of the problem was that I wasn’t a good enough skier to take advantage of speed.  I was no slouch, mind you, but I was definitely more concerned with stopping and slowing down than I was with going fast.  I was extremely concerned about stopping and slowing down on ice.  I would have said, 18 months ago, that I hated skiing on ice.  I had great ice skis, with awesome hard snow grip, but they were short enough that if I poured on any juice, they’d get all squirrely under my feet.  Nothing to give a person an aversion for skiing fast on ice like a pair of skis that gets all woobly when you do it.

Now? I have skis that are the right length, and I’m still concerned with maintaining control at all times (and do)…but at this point, my concern with ice is limited to things like cursing the ice for stripping the wax off my bases and chewing up my edges.  I had one of those Epiphany Moments on Monday, before the mountain operations had gotten more than a start on resurrecting the conditions. I took a run that has a challenging little drop and a bunch of rollers.  It’s a little bit off the beaten track, so it doesn’t get crowded, which – combined with the fun drop and the rollers – makes it one of my favorite runs on the hill.  When conditions are agreeable I’ve been known to spend a few hours just doing laps on this run, I like it that much.  On Monday, it was my own private White Ribbon of Death…and I was totally unfazed.  I skied out onto it, and found myself thinking “ah, hardpack.”  (one type of New England Ice). Back in the day, I would have stopped, or at least braked, and fussed about skiing out onto an obviously icy run.  With a steep little drop and rollers.  Not now.  Before I finished the thought about the hardpack, I was approaching the drop, the top of which was covered with boilerplate – another, uglier type of New England Ice – and I sighed.  I sighed again when I dropped in and discovered that the backside of the drop was scattered sheets of blue ice (the ugliest type of New England Ice) but again, before I finished the thought “oh, that’s nasty” I was into the rollers, which were also pretty icy.  The important part is that I didn’t drop my rhythm, I didn’t slow down, I just skied that shit.

I’m not afraid of ice any more.  I’m born from the stuff.  I own it.

I got it again this morning, when I was taking a lift ride over a short, but pretty steep black diamond.  US ski runs are rated green (easiest), blue (intermediate), black (difficult), and double-black (experts only, and even then it might get hairy). I looked down off the lift at this run, which is usually bumped up (with moguls, which I hate, because here they are enormous and rock hard, like skiing a field of igloos).  Today it was groomed.  I regarded it for a while, considered that there was enough loose stuff to be edge-able, and thought “I can take that.”

And I did.  I skied off the lift, hiked up a little hill to the drop-in zone of the run – which you couldn’t see at all, owing to steepness – and while some primitive part of my brain was saying “NO WAY” the rest of it was going “Pshaw.”  I knew I could do it, you see.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I knew I could.  And so it was.  I made a few turns, and yeah, it was a little steep, and the surface was a little crisp, but I was entirely up to it.  In fact, I found myself thinking “Are you serious?  Is that all?  This is…not quite easy, but certainly not difficult.

And then I knew.  I’m not afraid of steeps any more.

In fact, I did that run three times.  My skis were loving it.  More! More! they seemed to say.  More!

So I gave them more.  I turned down the fall line, and I opened up the throttle, and before I knew it, I was not just not the slowest person on the runs, I was the fastest.  Thanks to the super-cold temps keeping all the rookies in, the mountain was pretty empty, and the people who were out on it were people who knew what they were doing.  Which means I could really open it up.  And every gout of speed I delivered, my skis just said More! More! More!

My skis hate going slow.  They’ll do it, but they bicker nonstop when I make ’em.  They were born for speed, and don’t I know it.

I remember on one run – it was empty, the surface was in great shape, and I blasted into the run like I’d been shot out of a rocket launcher, and tore it up all the way to the base, picking the most aggressive lines, the biggest drops, and carving it up hard.  I felt like I was going to leave a sonic boom in my wake.  I felt like I should have a Sound Effect: that noise that the Road Runner makes when he really pours on the speed, the one that sounds like a ricochet.  Pssschhooowngg!!

And now I know.  I’m not afraid of speed any more.

The only downside of days like today is having the ski hill to myself.  Next time I go, there will be other people on the runs, and I won’t be able to rip it out, and I will have to ski slowly.  I get spoiled.

Any Time, Now…

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Well, here we are in mid-January.  Santa left us all big lumps of coal in the stocking.  Not the nice kind of coal, either.  Christmas week gave us the last decent weather we’ve known all season: every since, we – like everyone else on this depressing planet – has been contending with one psychotic weather freak after another.  I feel that lately, here, it’s either 45 and pouring rain (on top of ice) or it’s -10 and blasting wind.  We’ve had, maybe, 3 or 4 decent days for skiing in the last three weeks.

I don’t say we’ve had 3 or 4 days of skiing.  We’ve had plenty of skiing, it’s just been consistently crappy skiing.  Ice, mainly.  Or slush.  Or – as on Monday – ice and slush at the same time.  The temp soars to absurd heights while the skies rain tears of misery, and the mountain melts.  Then the temp, in a sadly bipolar state, crashes and freezes the melt, thus turning the mountain into an ice cube.  I observed to someone the other day that to get New England “Powder” you let the hill melt, then freeze it, and let the grooming cats crawl all over the iceberg for three days after which you get two inches of finely pulverized ice chips, and there you have it:  powder.  Or powder-ish.  Or powdery.  Powdery ice, that is.  One is either scraping down the hill on metal edges, or skidding down the hill across ice chunks that are as sharp as gravel.  Or both.  I’ve taken five gouges to the base of my new skis from the snow.  Or snow-ish.  Snow wears the wax off your skis, but that’s supposed to happen because the wax is melting and contributing to a nice slippery sensation, not because the snow is abrading the bases like a brillo pad.

Sorry, do I sound bitter?  Must just be irritability from the constant deafening racket of my skis scraping down the hill.  Perhaps I should invest in ear protection.

The next person who recites that hairy old chestnut “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes” is going to get a ski pole where the sun don’t shine.  That ancient whisker isn’t supposed to reflect a literal truth.  And it doesn’t matter anyway – what we’ve had going on is just flat-out depressing.  The ski hills are taking a bigger beating this year than any year I’ve seen before, and that includes the occupant of the Number One Spot in the Ski Season Hall of Shame: 2011-2012.  The year when the season ended before St. Patrick’s Day, cut short by a full 25%.  Usually, when someone utters the words 2011-12 they do it in sepulchral tones, and toss salt, spit, and make a magic sign with their fingers to ward off the Evil Eye.  It was that bad.  This is shaping up to be worse.  I don’t believe my ski hill has been able to get 100% open even one day this whole season.  I’m getting savagely bored with the White Ribbon of Death.

Please.  No more insane fits of temper.  No more rain.  No more ice.  And – really – no more rain on top of ice.  That’s the worst.  Do not melt my ski hill again.  Stay cold for long enough to repair the damage.

And please, really, please: Let it SNOW.

Four-Letter Words, or Why Being A New England Skier Is Like Being A Knicks Fan

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We’ll start with the long words and move to the short ones.

Start with two words, in particular:

Crushing

and

Heartbreak

Roy is a die-hard Knicks fan.  Or, rather, he is unless you start looking at really die-hard Knicks fans like his friend Helen.  You can tell these people because they look like kicked puppy dogs.  Only, in some creepy way, they also look like the sort of people who do the kicking.

You know…masochists.

Every year Roy faces the new NBA season – well, when there’s not a lockout, anyway – with the sort of chirpy good humor and resillient optimism that one associates with True Innocence.  Every year, he knows it, deep in his heart of hearts:  This Year Will Be Different.  This year, the Knicks are going to win more than they lose.  This year, the Knicks are going to make the playoffs.  THIS YEAR, the Knicks could be Contenders.

Now, as far as I can tell – not being a Knicks fan, myself – the Jury Is Out on why, exactly, the Knicks suck so much, and suck so consistently.   Some people blame the salary caps, and say that the Knicks don’t have any problems that can’t be solved by throwing money at them.  Others disagree, and say that the Knicks are incapable of recognizing Potential if it stepped up and popped them a good one in the chops, and that giving management more money to toss around just means more money going up in little flaming piles of paper.  Plenty of people just blame Carmello Anthony, but in my opinion, this is at best a second-order effect.  Others simply believe that no north-eastern city can field a respectable basketball team, because all the best players came up in the south and won’t move north.  This does not, however, explain the Bulls or the Celtics. It does, however, explain the Nets.  Or whatever they’re called now that they moved from Jersey to Brooklyn. Yet others just believe that New York basketball is evidence that God Hates Yankees.  Whatever the cause, the fact remains: the Knicks completely suck, and they have sucked for as long as I’ve been paying any attention to them at all, which is exactly as long as I’ve been with Roy.

Thing is, any city can field a sporting team that sucks.  Including, and possibly especially, Dallas.  May their sports teams be cursed into perpetuity.

But the Knicks deliver a special kind of torture to their fans.  It’s the kind where they recognize those nascent, ever-blooming beads of optimism embedded in the human soul, and they nurture those beads until they begin to evolve into shining rays of hope, burning out into the night with a nearly religious fervor.

And then…they reach out and CRUSH it.  The bigger and prettier those shining rays of hope become, the bigger the pounding fury of death that the Knicks unleash upon them.

It would be different if people just started out with no real hope at all.  That’s the kicked puppy that just cowers in the back of its pen.  Savagely cruel, but less so than the villain who coaxes the puppy out, showers it with just enough affection that the puppy starts to fawn, and THEN kicks it as hard as can be.

That’s the Knicks for you.

So how is that like being a New England skier?

Our season started out with a dashing cold snap that let the hills make plenty of snow before Thanksgiving ever emerged on the horizon.  Then it delivered plentiful flurries, and two snowstorms in the space of four days that left the mountains with spectacularly soft snow, and plenty of it.  Ski areas were beginning to approach the magic 100% open finish line.  Skiers everywhere had sharpened their edges, waxed their boards, and were rarin’ to go.  I, myself, have been out ten times already this season, and was happily looking forward to a mountain of fluffy white for the winter holidays.

Just as the Knicks appeared to have had some signing triumphs, and came roaring out of the gate, pulled together, working hard, and winning.

It’s not like I shouldn’t have known.  Our regional UberLords at Ski The East actually created a film called “Born from Ice” because that’s how we roll around here.

I couldn’t help it, though.  The hell with sugarplums dancing, the vision that was dancing in my head was one of soft, friendly, carvable snow, with more falling from the sky every three days just to keep things fresh, and vast expanses of white streamers pouring down through a forest of green trees.

And, sadly, just as every Knicks fan on the planet does, I bought into it. My little seeds of optimism started to bloom into shining rays of hope. This year was going to be different.  This year, I wasn’t going to be skiing on ice all winter.  THIS year, I was going to be skiing on snow.

And just when those rays got ready to fly out into the universe, it happened.  Mother Nature, that bitch, crushed them under her wicked hard heel, giving them an extra grind just to be sure.

On Thursday, Life Was Good.

On Friday, even, Life Was Still Good.

And then the thaw arrived.  There’s your first four-letter word.  THAW.  I want to cringe, curl up, and hiss when I say that.

The next four-letter word for you is rain.  Hiiiiiisssssss.

And thaw + rain = the next, and most devastating four-letter word: melt.

Two days ago we were all lined up for a White Christmas worthy of Bing Himself.  Today, all is gone to mud and water.  It took just two days to destroy our local snowpack.   I can’t even bear to think what’s happened to the ski hill.  Last time I looked the Live Cam showed brown spots where two days ago was a foot and more of snow.

This isn’t your usual thaw, it’s a wicked evil stinking bad thaw.  It’s close to 60 degrees outside right now, after 9pm, in Massachusetts.  Hiiiiiiissssss.

Now, there’s a cold front supposed to move in tomorrow night, and the ski hill expects to bring the snowmaking system back on line tomorrow night.  But the next day is Christmas Eve, and Christmas begins a week of intense use of the ski hill.  And what I know from the past, in the same way that Roy knows the Knicks are circling the drain again is that when you get a thaw and rain followed by the cold front, is that the mountain melts and then freezes, turning into a veritable iceberg.  And it’s going to do this just in time for a period of hard use, and abuse.  Which means that it’s going to be impossible to ski on Tuesday (when I’d planned to), and ugly on Wednesday, and insanely awful on Thursday.  After that, my pass is blacked out until New Years.  And, depending on what happens then, it could be that conditions will suck (your next four-letter word) for weeks.  Hiiiiiiiisssssss.

I know this because – just like the Knicks folding and going down the tubes – it happens every. single. year.

I keep thinking of this song I heard on the radio, “we need a little christmas” – but what we really need is a lot of snow.  Soon.  Sprinkle some snowy crystals on my crushed and withered skier’s soul before it dies.

Please.  I don’t want to understand what it’s like to be a Knicks fan.  Let it snow.