Posted by: thehungryrunner | January 8, 2008

My overdue New Year’s Eve ski report

This year, we decided to do something different to ring in the new year. 

One of our local ski facilities was having a late-night New Year’s Eve party, complete with a live band and fireworks.  Dan and I decided this would be a fun and dynamic way to celebrate the new year.  And it was!  (Though somehow we managed to miss both the band and the fireworks.)  While we ourselves don’t have children, we often get a kick out of commingling with families and other ski lovers at places like this.  This one is not swanky or glitzy; rather, it’s just cozy and low key, with about 10 chairlifts and 25 or so runs of various levels, and a large, bustling lodge containing all the essentials:  numerous eating places — a deli, bakery counter, coffee shops, sandwich/hamburger stand, pub — ticket counters, ski school, the ski shop/rental facility, and a nice fireplace area to warm up and dry off in front of.  Yes, it’s older, with lots of dark wood and what appears to be the 70’s version of “Alpine like” decor, along with lower lighting and Tiffany lamps, but that’s part of its charm.   For any child growing up in America in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, it has that “school field trip” feel to it, lots of noise and commotion and people (mostly skiers tromping around in their boots) coming and going constantly. If you’re used to the spa/pampering/state-of-the-art ski facilities of the western US, you might not care for this place very much (and I’m not even referring to the lack of vertical drop or the length of the runs here).   But it’s hard to imagine this gem of a ski area (they’ve been around since 1938, with quite an impressive history, so I learned) any other way, even though I certainly can enjoy posh, upscale places as well.  This place is comfy and has its own quaintness, and there’s no doubt the patrons are there for one primary reason: they love to ski, and they’re willing to “do” midwestern skiing even if their abilities/experience far exceed it.

Anyway, the weather conditions were not the best, though we still had a glorious time.  But with a fairly heavy snow and wind (which turned to sleet, with the sound of it making a “k k k k” sound on our jackets as we sat in the chairlift), we probably spent as much time inside the building, drying our soggy ski duds front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee as we did on the slopes.

But the positives included virtually no lift lines, and because of the rather aggressive snow (before it turned to a sleet mix), for the first time since learning how to ski I got to experience fresh powder, with the lone tracks winding their way down the piste being my own.   What a feeling!  Interestingly, we discovered a unique advantage to skiing at night:  better visibility.  It turns out that the lights cast excellent shadows on the snow, allowing you to see the texture of the terrain in a way you never would under overcast daylight.  Who would have guessed?  But what truly struck me about being out there at night and under snow conditions, was how amazingly quiet it was.  For once, the only sound I could hear was that of my skis slicing through the snow, the punctuated “shh….shhh….shhh….” sounds quieting my mind and lulling me into a trance-like state of pure happiness.  And while I didn’t tackle the most challenging runs on this outing, I did test myself on intermediate runs that felt quite scary to me last season.  And lo and behold!  Much to my delight, I found myself turning and zipping down them almost effortlessly, definitely fearlessly.  Somewhere, somehow, between last season and this one, my skiing appears to have crossed that magical, invisible line from tentative beginner to confident intermediate, from awkward and analytical to instinctive and intuitive, and I’m quickly learning there are few feelings sweeter than this one!

Overall, a delightful and pleasing way to welcome 2008, though a nice hot bowl of soup upon returning home (we actually managed to arrive home in time to officially cling classes there) and a cheerful glass of Dog House 2004 Zin put the final seal on a most relaxing and satisfying close to the old year.

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