A very Creekside Christmas
by Leslie Anthony
Steve couldn't remember when the routine started, but he knew it by heart: check online weather forecast, look out the window, go to bed twitching, sleep fitfully, wake to cold blackness reminiscent of his January 1975 morning paper route in Regina, look outside again, check wind direction to see whether you would multiply the resort's chronic snowfall underestimate by a factor of two or three, call friends, inhale yogurt, fruit and coffee, assemble clothing and gear, step out into the funereal grey of dawn, ski along the roadside in the muffled silence of drifting flakes down to the Creekside gondola and into... quiet war.
That's the way it was with the Crack-of-Dawn Patrol, a frontline phalanx of powder mavens that guarded the gates to the kingdom for a full hour before the lift opened whenever there was even a whiff of snow. Some had done so for over twenty years. And with 40 cm on the board this Christmas Eve morning, Steve noted, all were in attendance. There was Chatty Charlie, talking up a storm behind the skis he leaned across the corral in such a way that no one dared challenge his spot. In front of him, of course, was Craig the snowboarder, who somehow always beat Charlie out for pole position. And then the rest of the usual suspects, straight out of Central Ski Casting: out-of-place racer boy with his teardrop helmet and absurdly side-cut boards; a handful of Craig's laggard bar buddies; anonymous tall dude with no friends and a beat-up pair of K2 AK Launchers peering conspiratorially over the steaming rim of a coffee he'd stretch until opening bell; a skein of sleepy, dreadlocked dirt-bags dragged from hippie hovels after a long night of drumming and "incense."
A diverse group for sure, and one unlikely to assemble for any other reason. Which is why the ensuing hour of chatter was so wide-ranging — politics, food, money, weed, squats, hotels. Predictably, no one talked about where they'd go on the mountain once they got up there. This was the unspoken basis of battle on a powder day — you were in it for yourself. Despite all their personal agendas, however, the regulars here had formed a certain bond. A camaraderie of shared anticipation and a need to fight the forces of evil: 600 Fresh Tracks Breakfasters loosed on the upper mountain before any of the Creeksiders had debarked from the top of Red Chair; Bonehead Lifties who didn't think to pre-scan riders then get the hell out of the way when the rope dropped; and Singles Line Luddites, gorbies and latecomers who didn't understand the ethic of first-come, first-serve — morons on first-track crack who'd step on your feet and disrespect the hour-long jump you had on them. These last were the true enemy, and the enemy was always a topic of conversation: today Charlie chuckled over the old battleaxe who'd once pushed him aside to elbow her way into our gondola while Craig shook his head over the Idaho tweaker that jumped in with him then started a fist fight. As usual, Steve grouched about Hans — his imagined name for the 70ish Austrian curmudgeon that always fronted the enemy singles line, staring straight ahead and saying nothing.