Learning from opening day follies | VailDaily.com

Learning from opening day follies

Cassie Pence

When opening day finally arrived Friday, I was ready to ski. My legs strong. My mind free of worries. Even my walk from the car to the lift had adopted a whole new heel-to-toe confidence. Yep, I was feeling good. I was feeling light … very light … too light … Where the hell are my poles?Eagle-Vail, that’s where they were, in the garage, right next to the vacant spot the very skis currently slung on my shoulder had occupied earlier that morning. Who did I think I was grabbing only one piece of gear – some snowboarder?I wasn’t about to kill my opening-day high by driving back to Eagle-Vail. No way. This is a ski town, I thought, ski poles grow on trees. Goggles banging the side of my helmet like a seat belt caught in a car door, I rushed in a frenzy to the closest place that possibly could have some spare poles lying around. Unfortunately, that place was the somewhat open, but not totally open ski school at Golden Peak. I gave it a shot anyway.”You wouldn’t have any ski poles hanging around, would ya?” I asked.The nice woman looked in a back room, but no luck.”Where you from?” she asked.”Eagle-Vail,” I said, as I slid my goggles to the front of my helmet, stopping the gaper flap that no doubt flagged me as a tourist. I succumbed to the idea that I would have to rent poles. I walked back to my car (having forgotten a credit card) and went into the first rental shop I saw. My confident stride had turned to a more disheveled skip by now.Poles? Check. Skis? Check. Gloves, helmet, goggles? Check. Pass? Check. Finally, I was on the Vista Bahn. Riva Ridge came into view, and in the serenity of a solo lift ride, I began to reflect on the entire morning. Forgetting my poles was not my first amateur move of the day.My other gear was scattered about the house as if I had shot it through a snow gun back in April in some state of closing-day ecstasy. My goggles were smashed with 12 other pairs in a tightly bound blue plastic Wal-mart bag, which was at the bottom of a Tupperware full of extra hat and gloves. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if it was my good pair. The ear-piece to my helmet had fallen behind all the coats in the closet. My skis were fully tuned – thanks to my husband – but for 10 minutes I wrestled with removing the rubber band that held the name tag in place. I scoured my coat for a place to attach this year’s ski pass, until remembering that for years now, I have not carried it on my coat, but threaded the pass through a key ring in my ski pants.But the move that takes the gaper cake had to have been when I dropped off our Web editor on the sweeping left turn outside Terra Bistro. Not bothering to pull over while he unloaded his video gear, a huge line of cars formed behind me. I can’t tell you how many times, usually in a state of powder-induced panic, I cursed and screamed at some Texan driving an Excursion for doing the exact same thing.As the lift approached Mid-Vail, I began to realize that my morning of follies was more than just working out the opening-day kinks. It was Ullr the ski god testing me, humbling me, forcing me to remember. Six years ago, I learned to ski for the first time as an adult. I carried my skis wrong, fell when getting off the lift and dropped several gloves into the great white abyss. But the fact that I was a beginner didn’t stop me from enjoying skiing just as much as the pros.Skiing is about the simple magic of being able to travel thousands of vertical feet down a snowy mountain in minutes using only two wooden planks (and two poles.) It’s about feeling weightless when carving through powder. It’s not about whether you carry your skis with the tips up or down. (Although, down is correct.) The kind of absent mindedness I displayed opening day reminded me to have patience this year with tourists. I’m not going to wait for out-of-town friends on a powder day or anything, but I’ll think twice before slamming on my horn when a Front Ranger, stuck on the off-ramp, can’t seem to cut into the Vail roundabout. Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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