As if on cue, the sunshine ignored the forecast — flurries — and made the mountains shine in their grand, ski season 2007-08 finale. Timing is everything and this timing was perfect. Well, nearly perfect.
The village was full of happy burnout cases, refugees from 10 days of WSSF festivities, who’d enjoyed too little sleep, too much merriment and way, way too many euphoria-inducing substances and experiences. Still, they soldiered on. After all, a finale is a finale, and the last person standing wins.
The only thing missing from the scene was HEAT. Who turned the sun down? Where’s the friggin’ heat? Oh global warming, where art thou?
Spring skiing isn’t really spring skiing if the temperatures are so cold, so January, so bone-chilling frigid they skid into the Zone of Extreme Discomfort, the point at which most locals shrug off skiing for more genteel pursuits best pursued indoors. “Only tourists and ski instructors are up there today,” said one crusty old-timer on Saturday when the pre-windchill temp on the mountains was down around -16°C. “And not too many ski instructors,” piped in a ski instructor who happened to be within earshot.
It is a truism that spring skiing requires springlike conditions, which is to say snow exhibiting the thermolabilic qualities of a slowly melting frozen margarita. Spring skiing is a leisurely dance performed at a quick tempo. It requires thoughtful analysis, insightful timing, geographic precision and an understanding — memory — of what happened yesterday and overnight to be executed with any hope of success.
Spring skiing can be a nightmare or a dream, depending on how well you augur the signs. Show up too early or on the wrong aspect of the mountain and the whole experience tumbles toward horror show. Show up too late and you miss the metamorphosis that makes spring skiing unique, that downhill slide on snow morphing from ice crystal, to light cream, to corn, to schmoo, to oh-mama-get-me-outta-here glop.
It’s a combination of the fickle nature of spring skiing — the best insight and planning can be completely derailed by just a few too few degrees of heat — and Winter Fatigue that drives normally sane skiers to start swinging golf clubs when they should be concocting essential spring wax, that alchemical combination of waxes and luck that’ll keep their boards floating instead of sticking. They can be forgiven. It happens to all of us sooner or later; some years just take a bigger toll.
This was one of those years for me. For the first time in, I honestly can’t remember how long, I’m being bushwhacked by fantasies of lying on a warm beach, watching the movies roll past the inside of my eyelids, snapping my fingers for another chilled rum drink, and doing nothing so much as baking my entire body from the outside in. I won’t succumb to the fantasy. I know I’ll get bored and fidgety after 10 minutes of lying inert in a pool of my own sweat. I know 10 minutes after that I’ll be soaring through fantasies of perfect spring skiing. And I know in 10 more minutes, I’ll be checking my return ticket and counting the days until I line up, cattlelike, to get back to the cool mountain air.