Powder-day patience tested by a Kodak moment
“The 50s rock.”
My new buddy Dave said that to me as we were climbing through the forest towards the ridgeline. I had only met Dave hours earlier, thus I had no frame of reference – was he talking about ’50s music, the Eisenhower administration or suffering from oxygen deprivation? (Dave flew in from Vermont the night before.)
Generally I like to give new friends the benefit of the doubt – but not always.
“Are you nuts?” I said, “The ’50s were a stifling era of forced conformity, stultifying boredom and bigotry and chauvinism.” And just to cover my bases I said, “And the music sucked.”
Howie, who had brought Dave into my life that morning and was skinning behind us, said “Dave, did I mention that Biff can occasionally be opinionated?”
Between gasps of thin air Dave responded: “I guess I agree with what you said about the ’50s, but I was talking about the ’50s as in our current decade of life. You know the years between 50 and 59. I was just thinking that these last few years have been the best of my life.”
Dave seemed to be waiting for me to contradict him but, like Dave, my sixth decade has been good to me.
A few days later, perhaps, because it was on my mind, or maybe just coincidence, I was reminded of both the blessings and limitations of living a half century.
There is an oft-repeated local adage that states: “There are no friends on a powder day.” The meaning being, a powder day is both fleeting and rare thus friendships and loyalties fall away and selfish indulgence rules. My own wife, who I’m sure would sell me one of her kidneys, if I needed it, has been known to jump on the lift single rather than wait a few minutes for me to catch up. And honesty dictates that I admit that, in the past, I too have been guilty of ignoring my friends and family when the skiing is good.
Last week we had the mother of all powder days – 26 inches of light snow and the skies were blue.
Ellen and I began the day together with the agreement that we might not end up that way.
We arrived at the resort 15 minutes before the lifts began running and lined up in anticipation of the dropping of the rope. There is a precise yet unstated etiquette when it comes to queuing up for a lift. This process is rigid and enforced by peer pressure; you establish your place, do not cut in line and alternate when necessary. Ellen and I were in prime pole position. There were only a dozen in front of us. While in line, we struck up a conversation with a visiting family from Iowa – two kids, Mum and Dad. They told us this was their first day in town and how lucky they felt to be here on such a great day. I felt a little sorry for them, as they had no idea that, when the rope was dropped, they would be swept up in the mad dash to the chair lift.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the lifties slowly approaching – I assumed to drop the rope. Just then the Dad said to me: “Would you mind taking our picture? We never seem to have one as a family?” He handed me the camera then the whole family stepped out of line and shuffled up hill. Ellen looked at me like I was crazy.
The rope dropped and crowded surged and I was left alone with the Iowa family discussing who should stand where and if they should all take off their helmets. Ellen, to her credit, stayed with me. After posing for a few snapshots, the Dad said, “Where did everybody go?”
I’ve had a lot of powder days over the 30-plus years I’ve lived in ski resorts. I can’t say I would have always been so accommodating. It is not that I have grown more kind in my old age, but more that the years have lent a perspective of humanity verses snow. Or perhaps when you balance five minutes of kindness with 100 former days of indulgence the sacrifice is minimal
I hope I made that family’s day, but I doubt it; they were simply enjoying the moment and were as relaxed as I should have been.
By the time Ellen and I got on the lift the early birds had flown the coop and the masses had not yet arrived; we rode a five-person chairlift alone.
“This is kind of nice.” I said, “no pressure, no rush and still plenty of snow.”
Ellen gave me a hug and said, “I’m trying to decide if you are nice guy or senile; if you can find your way home at the end of the day I guess we’ll know.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.