This ski season has been an odd one for me.
I moved from the East Coast to California right when Mother Nature decided to throw everyone a giant curveball. After slogging through four years of drought conditions, the West Coast was finally blessed with a good year of skiing.
Meanwhile, despite coming off an historically great ski season, the Northeast got hit with what was maybe the worst ski season it has ever had.
The timing of my migration was an incredible stroke of luck. All winter, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning each time I made the seven-hour drive from San Diego to Mammoth Mountain.
Apparently, I was the only one experiencing that euphoria.
It started subtly at first, but grew with each passing trip: the feeling that the locals I was sharing the slopes with weren’t nearly as excited to be there as I was.
This impression began to form during what was supposed to be friendly small talk on chairlifts and gondolas. “How is it up at the top?” I would ask a skier joining me as I made my way to the summit. That’s where the pessimism would start.
“It’s too tracked out already,” he’d lament before the clock even struck 11 a.m.
“The snow is too damn heavy,” a snowboarder might complain.
“The wind is making it miserable,” a father might say while riding the gondola with his family. “It’s just too cold today.”
I don’t know when everybody west of the Mississippi suddenly became pros accustomed to skiing only the finest of pow days, but allow me to speak for the entire East Coast of skiers when I say this: Please, treasure what you’ve got.
I grew up skiing in Vermont with my father and his ragtag group of ski-bum friends on what they would jokingly term “packed powder,” but what could more realistically be called “bulletproof ice.”
That serene silence you hear early in the morning at a mountain in California or Colorado as skiers and boarders carve into fresh snow? That doesn’t exist in the Northeast.
Instead, each turn sounds like someone scratching nails against a chalkboard as he or she struggles to maintain an edge on mountains that are often listed (optimistically) as carrying a 12-inch base.
That “bitter cold” West Coast skiers are quick to complain about normally means lows for the day are hovering around 15 degrees. Vermonters like to call that “spring skiing.”
But here’s the thing: If you ask almost any one of those East Coast skiers how his or her day is going, the worst response you would likely hear is “pretty good.” And that’s how it should be.
Your worst day spent on a mountain skiing is still better than a good day doing damn near anything else. The sheer fact that at some point in human history, some (borderline crazy) visionary looked at a frozen mountain and said, “I should strap a pair fence posts to my feet and try to slide down that thing, what’s the worst that could happen?” — and then actually succeeded — is amazing.
So as long as you aren’t skiing on actual grass, you should consider yourself blessed to simply be on the mountain. Take it from us East Coast skiers.
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