Opening days tells us the magic endures
You know when the line to pull off I-70 stops traffic a half-mile before the interchange at 8 a.m. Seeing friends in the season pass line, at least those who have procrastinated on this annual gantlet just as you have. The rock concert crowd at the gondola, complete with roars as if Springsteen were about to hit the stage as the lucky first-trackers swoop across the bridge.
Letting the kids deal with the eternal lift line while you commiserate with other smarter folk who wisely ducked into DJ’s for breakfast – they don’t serve anything else, do they? – until the wait bleeds down to 10 minutes or so.
As I heard more than one line-waiter comment, rather philosophically, “it’s all good,” with a smiling squint at the sun and the lovely, lovely prospect of snow all over the mountain. Who counted on skipping the rituals of opening day anyway? There are plenty of days left to get cranky about all those people cluttering up OUR mountain.
Besides, the town managed not to quite catch up to charge for parking in the structures. “It’s all good,” indeed. The Frontage Road parking line stretched past the Cascade before noon. The anticipation for this opening day was particularly intense.
My memory will serve up a blue, blue sky even though in truth thin clouds grayed the runs much of the day. The feel of the snow came back quickly, though I can’t quite say I exactly shredded.
The feet remembered the soreness from the first runs before settling into those familiar boots and bindings. And run all you like, the boarding muscles will still burn fresh and leave you heavy-legged in no time at all. But it’s all good. The whisky – that wee dram specially timed to ski season evenings – warms the body, and soul, all the more.
Ah, yes, the soul. It’s still here, I think. The joy in the day is manifest. There’s a light in the eye, hail-fellow atmosphere on the mountain and even in the lines that transcends the simple fact of more people than perhaps in the “golden” years back when, class differentiation, and all that.
Much is made of ski bums and gazzilionaires drinking together in the good old days. As I’ve aged, I don’t spend nearly as much time in bars as once upon a time. But at breakfast I’ve had enough conversations with denizens and owners of this company or that alike to know this fact isn’t so removed from Vail’s history, however “world-class” the burgh has become.
The mountain town ethic hasn’t changed so much, you know. Some of us have just gotten older and perhaps a bit out of touch as the new myths and legends are spun in the golden age of the following generations. Looking back so fondly and so firmly is largely a conceit of age. At age 40, there’s plenty of life yet left in America’s finest ski resort and community.
On the hill, in the lift lines, making runs, even I know this. The magic is still there.
Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or email@example.com