The flipside of runners' high is a melancholy fatigue, a numbness of body and soul that necessarily settles in if one is to regress to one's mean, which, by definition, one must. How can there be an up without a down? And vice-versa.
This is the morning after the night before and the night before was a prolonged runners' high. It began late last November. It climaxed with the sleeplessness and intensity of the 18th World Ski and Snowboard Festival. It was underscored by Whistler's last day of operations. It simultaneously closed, for me, chapters of skiing, working and partying, skiing and working for another season, partying until, well, later today, assuming there's something in the cupboard to bolster my strength and energy. Where's that can of spinach?
There is possibly no sight on earth that will kickstart melancholia more quickly than seeing Whistler Bowl, closed and abandoned, silently silhouetted against a perfectly clear, deep blue, spring sky. Look hard, squint a little and you'll see... nothing. No lifts moving, no little specks of pepper people wending their way through the fields of moguls, no visible signs of life, no paroxysms of joy as skiers and boarders let gravity and incline work their magic. Just the sight of Whistler peak, impassively, impressively, silently, melting in the April sunshine.
I could be wrong about this. I have not conducted a scientific survey, nor randomly sampled the local populace. My margin of error may far exceed ±3 per cent 19 times out of 20. But I don't think so. In a town where functioning adults cling stubbornly to adolescence, where we still live our lives out on rhythms learned when we were short and the world was tall, where the "year" starts for many of us in autumn and ends in spring as it did for the oh, so endless years we passed time in neat rows, looking at the backs of other children's heads, the last day of the season shares the excitement and letdown of the last day of school. The rhythm of life just missed a beat. The band inexplicably slipped a slow number into a raucous set.
Except, of course, on the other side of the pass where the beat goes on, slightly slower and lower in volume. Blackcomb is the public school doppelganger to Whistler's private school schedule. They're still hard at it while their unemployed counterparts are facing mornings of infinite, albeit unstructured, possibilities. Many of them — I won't be drawn into the argument about slow learners versus highly-motivated overachievers — are already gearing up for summer session, a continuation of the experience, variations on a theme. By the time they face their own morning-after-the-season-before experience, summer will be squealing its tires in a mad dash to get out of town before the rains of the shoulder season replace its hot/cold, on a whim, sometimes all in the same day fickleness.
Given all of that, it seems like an opportune time to ask a timeless question: What kind of a season was it?
In a word, it was an underachiever. Keep your shorts on; let me explain. Being neither dismissive nor uncomplimentary, I am as the penitent standing before a judge saying, "Guilty, your Honour... with an explanation."
I used to have a strategy in university. It stemmed from the self-understanding that I was (a) smart, and (b) lazy. It drew heavily on the very unfair social reality that first impressions are difficult to alter. It was shamefully opportunistic. Distilled to its essence, the strategy was to run like hell out of the starting gate, get to know the professor personally, in an ingratiating sort of way, ace the mid-term and coast to the finish line, drawing heavily on the hope he or she would consider my downward slide a mere anomaly, not indicative of my true understanding of the subject at hand.
It worked astoundingly well, perfectly if the final grade was more dependant on a paper as opposed to a test.
And that's the kind of season this underachiever was.
Quick out of the gate, it dumped copious amounts of fluffy light powder, much to our collective joy, in the final half of November. More snow followed in December and the temperatures remained cold. Cross-country skiing was almost as good as alpine skiing and that's a sentiment I never expected to personally make. But cold and dry — for the most part — is the recipe for perfect snow, assuming it's not dry enough to forget to snow at all.
We enjoyed what, in many places, passes for a whole season of excellent sliding before the tourists of Christmas ever arrived. We woke many mornings to the sound of avy bombs rattling our windows and alarming us out of bed. We skied fluff and enjoyed face shots instead of facebook. It was the best of times and our hopes soared for the season of a lifetime.
It even stopped snowing and got sunny for the two weeks of Christmas and New Years, much to the joy of even our sourest of guests. It was the perfect storm, or at least the perfectly mannered storm.
When the hordes of holiday revelers left and it started snowing again our hopes were further buoyed. Could it get any better? Snow for us, sun for the tourists, snow again for us. Wow!
Having impressed us beyond all hope, winter started coasting. Didn't see it in the classroom as often, never seemed to have clean clothes on when it did show up, sort of lost interest in the subject, took up with the wrong friends. It never really pissed us off, it just blended into the background of diminished expectations and became another faceless entity.
The skiing was wonderful, if perhaps a bit workmanlike. It neither thrilled nor disappointed. It was. We were. He, she or it will have been. We conjugated winter and began to think about spring and the summer to follow. The instant locals among us began to drift away a bit earlier than usual, or so it seemed, anxious to move on to their next adventure, their next reason to postpone edging into the seriousness of life that awaits them when their journey ends.
Memories of 2012/13 can still be nudged up a notch or two. While winter fades in the rearview mirror of life, spring skiing still enjoys the possibility of inflicting immense pleasure. If the sun sticks around, temps creep up into the mid-high teens and the current forecast proves to be true, spring skiing conditions will be perfect and this underachiever of a season can go out reprising the bang with which it arrived.
Let us après.