Relax, like a Caribbean ambulance driver | VailDaily.com

Relax, like a Caribbean ambulance driver

Matt Zalaznick/City Editor

After an all-night dump, you grab your pass, your poles and your skis and scream out the door only to find your windshield is caked in three inches of ice and you probably didn’t need the last three shots of tequila.

So you scrape out the minimum – two eyeholes – and, with ski boots already clamped on, you barrel blindly through the roundabouts only to pull squinting into the parking garage, where you realize you forgot to have coffee or eat breakfast, you left your wallet on the coffee table and lost your house keys in your squall to grab first chair. Plus, you’ve got to drop by a ski shop to see if they’ll lend you just one glove – cause you’re a local and you dated the manager’s sister for a few months in 1998 – and then wait on line with all the other powder-deranged denizens of ski country.

And lord only knows whose long underwear you’ve got on.

But who cares? As every champagne-blooded powderhound knows, an hour can make the difference between blazing your own trail and slip-sliding through the ruts of other ravenous riders.

No skier or snowboarder worth their cornice leaps would argue against racing out of the house to grab first chair on a powder day, right? As Oscar Wilde famously quipped – or perhaps it was Kermit the Frog who croaked, “Everybody else is a gaper on a powder day.”

No friends, right? Amen. Who needs buddies when you’re getting light-headed from dehydration and malnourishment as you swoop through the trees? That’s what those free Power Bars are for that they give out at the lift office. What good’s a pal when you’re locked out of your second or affordable home? That’s what locksmiths are for.

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The only reason for a resident of ski country not to ride first chair on a powder day is if he or she – after a rowdy night in Vail Village, after jumping on a table at the local bar and playing air guitar to “Purple Haze,” after sneaking backstage to hang out with the hip hop band – woke up in Vegas.

A few other plausible but iffy excuses: working on a novel, sitting in jail, kidnapped by elves, called up at the last minute by Bob Dylan to play drums on his tour.

The age-old debate between first chair and hitting the hill late-morning after sleeping in is a conundrum that throughout history has baffled great thinkers such as the Greeks, the Aztecs, the Manson Family and the Backstreet Boys.

But some of us came to ski country via the Caribbean, where even ambulance drivers don’t rush if there’s a good reason not to – like maybe it’s Tuesday. There’s also never too far to go on an island that’s 12 miles long.

From St. Thomas to St. Bart’s to St. Lucia, “rush,’ “hurry,’ “mad dash,’ just aren’t in the vocabulary, because it’s usually sunny, and the beach and the ocean are free and open all-year round. And you can always go sailing or scuba diving tomorrow. What’s more, you don’t want to get to the beach too early. You want to still be sober enough to watch the sunset.

So even though the mountain’s only open for five months or so, maybe some of us powderhounds take our powderhounding a little too seriously. Maybe we stress ourselves out just trying to hurry up and relax.

It’s easier to sleep in of course if you’ve got someone keeping you warm. But why not have a nice big breakfast, read the paper and make sure you not wearing a stranger’s longjohns? The Back Bowls aren’t going anywhere and Rasputin and the glades of Blue Sky Basin are never crowded.

However – remember we said earlier this first-chair/late start argument was a mind-boggling question – you may not want to give the whole day to skiing. You might want save some energy, get home and get to back work on that novel.

So maybe you should set the alarm, put a little hitch in your giddyup and try to get out early so there’s still day left when you call it a day. Or not.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.