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Maxed out

The Great American Road Trip begins



“I’ll be home for Christmas….”

Actually, I won’t be. But assuming I make it past Homeland Security, past the very thorough check of the contents of my car after the U.S. Border Security person motions me into the Disassembly & Complimentary Strip Search line, past the questions about why a guy who lives in Whistler is going to the U.S. to ski… for a month, past the suspicions that I’m smuggling skis into the country because of the number of them they’ll find in the ski box, past the suspicions I’m smuggling something else into the country, the hiding place of which they’ve yet to find, and finally, past the suspicion inherent in traveling with Zippy the Dog and no apparent dog food — another story — assuming I successfully negotiate all of that, I’ll be somewhere I used to call home for Christmas.

So will all the rest of my nuculer family. For the first time in 15 years, I’m going somewhere other than to work over the holidays. That’s because I’m not going to work over the holidays or any other time this season. At least not the work I’ve done for almost that many years at Whistler Mountain. Figuring I’d rather take my bereavement leave while my parents are still alive and can enjoy my visit, I decided to take the year off. It was the only way to get Christmas off and it came with side benefits I couldn’t foresee.

Not the least of the unforeseen benefits was arriving at Creekside on opening day this season and seeing a lineup all the way out the maze, across the courtyard, over the bridge and growing by the minute. I was very happy to see that lineup. I was extremely happy to stand at the end of it and kibitz with the other opening day skiers. I was downright giddy to board the gondola 50 minutes later.

That’s because the alternative to standing in line was doing what I usually do, standing on the other side of the counter for 10 hours watching the line of people shuffle by to get on the gondola without me and watching another line, almost as long but not nearly as merry, file in to get their passes, sort out their problems, air their grievances, ask where the bathroom is. And while dealing with all those logistical conundrums — conundra? — is honourable work, necessary work, yea even noble work… I’m not really missing it. Not even a little. Okay, maybe some of the nice people I see year after year after year. Naw, I’m just rationalizing. Sorry guys.

One of the expected bonuses of not working fo da Man this year was having time to go other places to ski. Now, to be honest, I don’t really care all that much whether I ever ski anywhere else. I’m not tired of skiing Whistler and Blackcomb. I’m pretty sure I could happily ski them for the rest of my life. Okay, I’m pretty sure I could ski them until I get so old and infirm I have to find some other place to ski out my doddering golden years… Sun Peaks, for example. Actually, Sun Peaks says they’ve opened up a whole new section of terrain with new and different features. They call them steeps. Maybe Big White is a better choice for my pre-death skiing.

Okay, cheap shots out of the way, I’m on the road to spend a New Mexico Christmas surrounded by family who, if I’m to believe my parents, have spent most of Christmas day the past 15 years mired in melancholy and maudlin sentimentality wondering why I don’t like them enough to come spend Christmas with them. They’re way too smart to fall for that nonsense about having to work over Christmas, knowing intimately as they do my propensity to avoid honest labour. So having announced I was finally going to come spend Christmas with them, their initial reaction was, “Hah! We knew you didn’t really have a job!”

But I do. And even though I’m sittin’ down to the turkey table and dishin’ up a second helpin’ of momlove for Christmas, make no mistake — this is a business trip. Hear that, Revenue Canada? A business trip. All seven weeks of it.

I’ll be working my fingers so hard they’ll probably look more like toes by the time I get back. I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I’ll be working on this trip. Unless, of course, you’re a U.S. Border agent reading this. If you are, I’m on a pleasure trip. All just one long frolic. I’m not working in the U.S. even though I’m still a citizen and could if I wanted to, notwithstanding how difficult that’d be to explain to both Revenue Canada and the IRS… assuming Homeland Security ever got done with me in the first place.

What work could I possibly be qualified to do on a seven week trip to the U.S., I hear you ask? The short answer is: ski. I know, I know; gee, it’s tough to be me. But skiing is hard work. Okay, even I have to admit that doesn’t sound particularly convincing. But skiing at 23 resorts in 33 days? Now that’s hard. Even though I’m several thousand miles away by the time this comes out, I can hear you sniggering.

Okay, how about skiing at all those places in that short a period of time and writing stories about each of them on an almost daily basis. Now it’s starting to sound like work, isn’t it?

And that’s the plan. January 1, 2008 will see the kickoff of the Ski la Vie Great American Road Trip Ski Tour. Planned with military efficiency, executed no doubt with comic inattention to detail, fraught with the very great possibility of getting hopelessly lost notwithstanding the fact I’ve pimped myself out to, among other sponsors, a maker of GPS units, one of which will be mounted on the dashboard telling me to turn left, right or stop, the Ski la Vie tour will see me, my Perfect Partner and Zippy the Dog winding our way through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, culminating in what my Perfect Partner says will be the mother of all cross-border shopping sprees before we limp back into Whistler in early February. Whew!

You can read all about it on the Pique Ski la Vie blog — — but don’t peak until Jan. 1.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and I’ll miss each and every one of you.

Did that sound sincere?