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Hope falls eternal



When the clouds finally lift, I get a lump in my throat, a stirring in my loins, a pre-emptive rush of adrenaline and inflated expectations for the upcoming season.

Snow! On the ground! Lots of it! Thick enough to cover the dark rocks in the high alpine, low enough to hike to if I want.

I wonder if it will stick around long enough to form a base – it’s unlikely, but I know that anything can happen this time of year.

Deep down, the rational me realizes that it will probably rain all the way to the top at least a few times this month, and that it will likely be another month before any snow sticks around long enough to matter, but then ski/snowboard bums are hardly rational people. We thrive on hope and optimism, and every autumn we are equally sure that the coming season is THE season, the winter to end all winters, the one we’ll still be talking about when we’re old and grey and all we have left are our somewhat embellished memories.

If we didn’t have this hope we’d probably be somewhere else, the city probably, making real money in real careers, owning our own homes, and investing in stocks and bonds and securities instead of mountains of mountain gear.

Optimism is contagious. At the gym everyone smiles as they pile more plates onto the squat machine, preparing their lower extremities for a long winter in deep powder. At the grocery stores, people defy their bodies’ natural inclination to sock on a few extra pounds of insulation by buying ludicrously healthy foods – in a few months we’ll be entirely sustained by a diet of banana bread, beer and nachos, and need this time to stock up on vitamins and minerals to keep our bones in one piece. The Farmer’s Market is on one last time this Saturday with the last of the local harvest on display. Buy two of everything.

People try to lay low at this time of year, socking their money away for the winter things we need. We’ll spend a good share of that money at the Turkey Sale this weekend, Whistler’s annual orgy of preseason shopping, but otherwise it’s a steady diet of movie rentals and video games until our passes, our equipment, our living arrangements and all the other bare necessities of winter life are covered. Everyone who has been here for a while will also save enough money to cover at least a month’s rent and groceries, just in case they get hurt and have to take time off work.

October is a busy time for the library. This is the time of year where people tend to read a lot, and people on fixed incomes can’t do any better than free books, CDs, movies and the Internet. Reading quietly is sometimes all we can do to stop ourselves marching up the mountains to the snowline, and smashing our skis and snowboards up on whatever snow covers the alpine rocks. Every year you see a few over-enthusiastic people in wrist casts who have less willpower (and more energy) than library goers, and get caught trying to get an early start.

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