I’d forgotten what real winter tasted like. Sure, the moisture-laden form we experience here three months of the year fools some people into believing we’re genuinely tough winter folk. And I can see how it happens. After all, I’ve become one of those myself.
But it took me only two weeks of travel Back East to be disabused of that notion. No question about it. We’re pansies. Compared to what those people suffer through — and exult in — we’re poseurs. Not even that. We’re wimps. I mean, I’d forgotten what it meant to have to don long underwear and ski goggles just to go to the grocery store.
And I merde you not. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
“Why don’t you come on the road with us for a couple of World Cup events,” suggested Jim Miller. The head coach of the Canadian Snowboard Team, Miller had a squad of talented young riders, a two-week stand in North America, and a need for a bilingual storyteller to introduce them to an unsuspecting public.
“Oh, and I can’t pay you much,” Miller continued. He smiled — just a hint of irony tweaking his features. “You see, we don’t really have a communications budget.” And that was the clincher. Like many in this community, I’m a sucker for that old “doing your bit for Canadian sports” ploy…
So that’s how I found myself in Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Games, bunking down at the U.S. Olympic Training Centre, a near gulag-like facility where all residents have to sign away their lives — and do so weeks in advance — in order to be allowed to pass through its doors. OK. So I’m exaggerating a little. It was more like a military prison.
But back to winter. Whiteface Mountain, originally called “Cloudsplitter” by the local First Residents, thrusts up from the very heart of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. It’s got an impressive vertical and an offpiste zone that offers some seriously exposed turns. But when the wind blows and the temperature drops at Whiteface, you can feel the cold invade your bones like a swarm of ice bees on the rampage.
The snowboardcross was first on the list of World Cup events here. I can’t remember whether it was the first day of training or the second — it’s an ice-blur to me. All I remember is standing by side of the course feeling so cold that I thought I might crack and shatter. I couldn’t move, could barely think. This too will pass, I kept reminding myself. They told me it was -25 Fahrenheit that morning, but the wind whistling up the hill dropped the chill factor well below the sanity level. I was wearing every piece of winter clothing I’d brought on the trip. But it was still not adequate…