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One more than 12

Lucky number 13? Or not?



As we slide into the 13 th installment of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival one wonders why enterprising party-throwers might not skip the ill-fated numeral altogether and simply follow the lead of so many buildings and airlines by expediently proclaiming this the 14 th World Ski and Snowboard Festival. After all, longevity enhances braggin’ rights and in the world of resort marketing, braggin’ is the coin of the realm.

That the Little Festival that Could has become a teenager is nothing short of a miracle, a cosmic confluence of cussed determination, good luck, tireless effort and our annual longing for a reason, any reason, to celebrate the end of another sliding season by consuming far too much alcohol, staying up way too late for too many nights in a row and generally disproving that old saw about not being able to burn the candle at both ends. Truth be told, it’s relatively easy to burn a candle at both ends. Messy but easy.

But 13? Might that not be, well, tweaking the nose of bad luck. After all, mankind has a long and glorious history of running like scared rabbits from associations with the number 13. Explanations for this range from absurd to absurder. Fueled by religion — the source of or salvation from superstition, depending on how you look at it — mythology and mathematics, you get a rich soup of fear and loathing surrounding what’s really just a way point between 12 and 14.

One of the most suspect explanations for our aversion to the number 13 has to do with humans’ almost universal fear of math. Thirteen, the reasoning goes, is the number at which humans begin to have trouble counting things. That’s because we have simple counting devices — hands — that keep track of things up to 10, assuming we haven’t lost a finger or thumb to some misadventure. Running out of highly-visible digits, we have two feet to further the count to 12. After that….

But that makes even less sense than the anti-drug industry’s explanations for why pot is bad for you. I mean, it completely discounts the fact that early man had ready access to 10 toes long before he invented shoes, providing a simple roadmap for all numbers up to 20. Why didn’t 21 become the boogie number; it already marked the passage to adulthood and therefore repressive responsibility. The 10 fingers-two feet explanation also overlooks two legs, two knees, two ears and eyes and, in the case of men, one obsessed-over additional appendage that, even stopping at hands and feet, should have given 13 a place of pride with at least half the counting population.

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