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Warren Miller Column

The Curmudgeon perspective



My wife accuses me of being a curmudgeon when I tell stories about what it was like to ski in another era and on another planet, when rope tow tickets cost $2 a day and chairlifts cost $4. When you’ve been skiing as long as I have, you’re a curmudgeon whether you intend to be or not.

With the ever-increasing cost of skiing, there are certain times to ski and certain times to stay off the mountain. Some may call me a curmudgeon, but I prefer to think of myself as someone who learns from experience. And I know from experience that the lift lines are about to get long, prices are about to get even higher and the powder is about to get tracked up.

With Christmas only a week away, I hope you have carved plenty of turns to hold you until the New Year. The tourists are about to descend on all ski resorts, which marks the end of the no-customers-at-the-resorts season, which is the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The no-customers-at-the-resorts season is often one of the best times to ski if the snow co-operates like it has this year. The Thanksgiving crowds leave the Sunday after Thanksgiving to leave any new powder snow to the employees or any other local who can afford to buy a ticket.

The big storms that drop two or more feet of snow usually wait off the coast of Alaska until after the Thanksgiving weekend before they come roaring across North America and cover any blemish that the earth might have. That seems to be what has happened this year, with more snow than most of us have seen this early in more than a decade.

But Christmas is upon us and the no-customers-at-the-resorts season is about to give way to the no-room-at-the-inn season. It looks like it will be the best and most crowded Christmas ski season since Santa Claus on skis was first seen. The rates at some of the destination resorts will double or triple during the Christmas holidays, but they will still be full. Perhaps this is the only way that the resorts can subsidize the first three weeks of December, when you can ski or snowboard right up to the loading platform, sit down and ride back up.

Maybe I really am a curmudgeon because I say don’t ski during Christmas season. But, I know that if enough of that white stuff falls out of the sky, even crowds and high prices can’t deter me. Regardless of costs or crowds, I know I’m lucky to be able to ski. I may be a curmudgeon, but at least I’m an appreciative curmudgeon. While watching coverage of the war in Afghanistan, I heard that many of the people earn less per month than some of us spend on a one-day lift ticket. That’s hard for a lot of us to fathom. If only everyone could find their freedom on a pair of skis rather than from behind a rifle.

It doesn’t even matter what type of skis you prefer. I know some skiers who drive from New York City to Vermont and spend the weekend walking around on their skinny skis. They have been doing it for years and have never ridden a chairlift. They think that gliding through the woods while sweating in their spandex underwear is the ultimate thrill. They wonder why we like to ride chairlifts and feel the wind rushing through our hair (if we still have hair). We wonder why they thoroughly enjoy sweating around a flat valley all day.

I have some other friends who sleep late in their deluxe condo. When they finally wake up, they ride up on the lift to the restaurant at the top of old Skinhead, where they have a leisurely lunch before they ski down and go for cocktails.

On the other side of the spectrum is the Ajax Ski Club, which has an old ski bus with a TV in it. From the time they leave suburbia, they watch an endless library of my ski movies. By the time they reach their rented condos, they have seen four or five ski movies and are so hyper that they spend the first night staring at the ceiling with their eyes wide open. The next day, they ski 10,000 feet where they get substantially less oxygen with each breath, forcing them to stop at the closest bistro for a few beers.

As usual, I digress. Does any of this matter? I don’t think so. My point is that regardless of where, how or when you ski, all that matters is that you do ski. After every ski run, each of us is a different person than when we started at the top or at the beginning of the cross-country trail. That’s true even for an old curmudgeon like me.

Whichever type of skiing you go for, go for it with your entire being. I just hope you got up there to do it before the rates go up for the Christmas holidays. Face it, I really am a curmudgeon.

That’s my opinion and I’m stuck with it.