An amateur hits the slopes on Opening Day
Thursday night, for the first time since college, I set my alarm for 7:30 a.m.When I woke up Friday morning, I can assure you that I was infinitely more excited than the last time an alarm woke me up at such an absurd hour.An hour and a half later, instead of being treated to a compelling lecture in micro-economics, I was greeted by 11 lifts and more than 1000 acres of fresh snow.Not a bad way to start the 2005-06 ski season, I was told by many people on the mountain.Up until Friday, I had never experienced the enjoyment that is Opening Day at Vail Mountain. I learned to ski on the ice-laden hills of Western New York where it is breaking-ground if a ski hill installs a high-speed lift.When I walked into Lionshead at 9 a.m. and saw no line for the Born Free Lift, my heart started to thump.
And as I got off the lift and my skis touched fresh snow, I started to believe. After cutting over to another lift and taking it to the top of the mountain, I was the closest the heaven I’d ever been.My only complaint at the time was that I couldn’t get cell phone service to share with my climate-challenged friends the feeling of being above several feet of snow at over 13,000 feet of elevation.But with thousands of people catching their first run of the year, I knew I wasn’t the only one smiling.Preseason folliesIn my infinite wisdom, I waited until Friday morning to prepare for a day on the slopes.With my new skis still wrapped in plastic and the bindings set a little too big for my boots, I had to resort to desperate measures – breaking out my dad’s old K2 skis. Yikes.Aside from some guy three times my age who was wearing a one-piece green ski suit with pink and blue stripes, I think I was the only person using straight skis on the mountain. And his were probably waxed sometime in this millennium.
Then there was faux pas number two: forgetting to put the baskets on my polls. Had I been skiing in East Coast ice, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but with a few feet of powder, my poles were more futile than ducking under a desk during nuclear fallout.I thought about cutting the day short, but I knew I had to stay the course, so I took to heart what Donald Rumsfeld once said: “You have to hit the slopes with the equipment you have, not the equipment you want.”Mmm, powderThe way people talk about powder out here, I could swear skiing is a religion, and powder is the deity.Powder, in all it’s greatness, was ubiquitous on the mountain Friday. I enjoyed the fluffy snow and not just for the cushion it provided when by some freak accident, I fell. As I learned after what would be the first of several misunderstandings between my skis and the mountain, it’s not easy to get up in powder. I can assure you, however, I was not the only one breaking the no yard-sale statue in the town of Vail.But on opening day, it didn’t matter how many times you fell or how much your stance resembles a slice of pizza. What mattered was that you were out there catching some great snow only six months after last year’s closing day.
Bad case of food poisoningWith so many people hitting the slopes on a Friday, I figured at least 10 percent called in sick to work. (This number was derived using the same flawless polling procedures that Florida officials used in the 2000 election.)On one chair ride up, a man who told a news reporter and me that he had called into work with a case of food poisoning offered his name as “Um…Mark” five seconds after being asked.Mark’s employer might see his illness as shirking responsibility, but I laud Mark for his dedication. And for those nine-to-fivers who are more concerned with our Gross Domestic Product, fret not, the snow will still be there today and Sunday. More importantly, anyone who will be on the slopes today or Sunday can breath a bit easier, as me and my K2s will be taking a rest until next week.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado