Rockin’ & Shockin’: The Mountain Sports Special

It’s a pain to dig out of, but snow is one of nature’s most beautiful designs.

Rockin’: A Friday in mid-March brings 21 inches of snow
Shockin’: This brings the winter total on Hunter Mountain up to all of 66 inches – only half the “usual” annual total.
Rockin’: Maybe this has not been the warmest winter on record after all.
Shockin’: Apparently it has been: I heard it on the BBC on Friday morning, just before the snow storm started. The warmest winter on the planet since records began.
Rockin’: No school on Friday. Campbell’s school friend invites him on to Belleayre Mountain for the “day off.”
Shockin’: I tag along.
Rockin’: I’m back on my feet, skiing and running despite some more-than-lingering tendonitis and the worry of the recent concussion.
Shockin’: I’m determined to do the Belleayre Triathlon next weekend, even though I know I shouldn’t.
Rockin’: The ‘Triathlon’ starts with one long downhill ski run and ends with a 3-mile run. My style of sports.
Shockin’: There’s a 10-mile bike ride in the middle, up and down some treacherously steep hills. Wipe-outs are not uncommon and I haven’t been able to put in the practice..
Rockin’: I practice the ski part of the triathlon several times: it’s a quarter-mile push along a ridge and then a fast 2-mile down-hill on beginner/intermediate slopes. Nothing too difficult.
Shockin’: Not knowing the mountain, I take a wrong turn into some unexpected moguls at high speed and wipe out. Badly. Don’t I ever learn?
Rockin’: The snow starts falling Friday at 10am. By the time we leave Belleayre five hours later the surface has changed from packed granular to fresh powder
Shockin’: Not leaving early enough to drive home safely. Don’t I ever learn?
Rockin’: Route 42 from Belleayre back to Hunter, a road I very rarely take, is totally driveable even under 3” of fresh snow.
Shockin’: The same can’t be said for the road that connects Hunter and Windham, which is usually permanently ploughed. I almost skid off the road half a mile from home.
Rockin’: Noel is having his stitches out Saturday. Posie only has to take him to the doctors’ office in Woodstock, not all the way to the hospital.
Shockin’: The doctors’ office calls Friday lunchtime to announce that, because of the storm, they won’t be open Saturday. She will have to drive to a hospital after all. Right after a heavy storm.
Rockin’: The snowplough shows up at 7pm.
Shockin’: How do I just know he’s ploughed snow up against the front of my car?

It’s a lot easier to get down when it’s been ploughed.

Rockin’: Saturday morning there’s almost two feet of fresh snow outside the window.
Shockin’: And no sign that the snowplough has returned.
Rockin’: After 30 minutes, I dig my car out of the snow and get it on the driveway
Shockin’: Where it spins in the fresh snow to a standstill
Rockin’: After 30 more minutes shoveling, I’ve dug it out and, by very careful use of brakes and low gear, got it to the foot of the driveway
Shockin’: The town snowploughs have ploughed a 4’ wall of snow across the foot of our driveway.
Rockin’: After 30 more minutes, I’ve dug out half of this wall.
Shockin’: Time to tackle the wall of snow in front of Posie’s car. She needs to get to the hospital today.
Rockin’: I get Posie’s car just about out of the snow and facing down the hill.
Shockin’: NOW the snowplough shows up.
Rockin’: I let him finish the job, Campbell comes running down the driveway, Powder Day here we come.
Shockin’: After all that, some ignorant bitch in an all-weather SUV cuts out towards me on the mountain approach road and almost drives me into a ditch.
Rockin’: The car park at Hunter is half-empty: looks like most people couldn’t get on to the roads this morning because of all the snow.
Shockin’: That we only get two or three days like this – fresh feet of snow, no crowds – a year in the Catskills.
Rockin’: I’m not the only one who’s had trouble digging themselves out. I meet other who talk of 90 minutes, even 3 hours spent getting out of the driveway.
Shockin’: What a waste of good mountain time.

No barbeques this weekend.

Rockin’: There’s two foot of totally ungroomed fresh powder all over the mountain.
Shockin’: Nobody who lives on the east coast is used to skiing/riding on this. It’s like trying to drive a car through rivers of mud after years of driving on paved roads.
Rockin’: Watching everyone and their instructor fall over as they try and adjust their skiing/riding for the conditions. It’s like a demolition derby out there.
Shockin’: Trying to find your own way downhill when everyone around you is wiping out..
Rockin’: Campbell is super excited about the natural bumps already being carved out of the fresh powder.
Shockin’: On his first run down East Side Drive, he follows some aggressive teens and rides not along the edge of the trail, but above it, on a rock ledge. There’s so much snow he can’t see the difference. Sure enough, he hits a rock, comes crashing down. His first bad fall of the season, on his first run on Powder day.
Rockin’: No broken bones.
Shockin’: Just a very sore butt. And a slice through the bottom of his snowboard.
Rockin’: My own friend from the city and I decide to take a lesson to acquaint ourselves with skiing in deep snow.
Shockin’: Grown men admit to needing help. (Don’t tell our wives.)
Rockin’: 90 minutes later, we’re different skiers.
Shockin’: “Thanks” to the instructor, I’m also a much-humiliated one.
Rockin’: Our sons have been out riding and skiing together for the last 90 minutes. I have so looked forward to this day, when I could let my son run free on the mountain without worrying about him.
Shockin’: When my friend’s son comes in for lunch, it’s without Campbell. They’ve lost each other.
Rockin’: The boys have had fun.
Shockin’: But twenty minutes later, still no Campbell.
Rockin’: The good father abandons his lunch, goes up the chair lift to ski down and look for his son.
Shockin’: Naturally, the moment he actually gets on the lift, Campbell walks in the lodge. Not knowing it was lunchtime, he took another run on his own.
Rockin’: Hitting Way Out (the run on which I came a cropper four weeks ago) in the early afternoon: it’s like a whole mountain full of fresh snow, completely ungroomed, and there is absolutely nobody else on the run but for me and my Brooklyn friend…
Shockin’: …And the unaccompanied 6-year old skier who weaves his way through us and around us like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Rockin’: Clair’s Way, the second most brutal run on Hunter, looks ‘doable’ from the lift that runs above it. I tell my friend his season won’t be complete unless he conquers Clair’s Way.
Shockin’: He falls six times on the way down it. Make that my ex-friend?
Rockin’: We find the kids, and opt for a family run for the end of the day.
Shockin’: I finally fall over.
Rockin’: Because the clocks went forward three weeks earlier than usual, the Mountain is staying open until 5pm, an hour later than usual.
Shockin’: I take in one last run, on my own, down The Cliff, where the moguls are three or four feet high a piece. My quads can barely take the strain. Don’t I ever learn?
Rockin’: I decide not to have an après-ski drink today because I want to go back out tomorrow and feel my best.
Shockin’: The bar is full of people dressed in green, knocking back pints of Guiness, dancing the Macarena and generally doing the Irish a dis-service. I really wish St. Patrick’s Day was about more than getting stupid drunk. I’m serious. Give me ‘Burn It Down’ any day.
Rockin’: I go home, have a bath in warm salts, stretch, put Ben Gay on all over, pop a couple of Alleve…
Shockin’: …And still feel like I went several rounds with Mike Tyson. How must my (ex?) friend be feeling?
Rockin’: Posie has made it down to Margaretville hospital and back. Noel is no longer in stitches.
Shockin’: That’s still one pretty nasty scar.

Always look on the bright side of scars: when he’s older, the girls will think he’s tough?

Rockin’: Setting the alarm for 7:45am on a Sunday to get out and do more of the same.
Shockin’: Accidentally setting it for 7: 45pm and sleeping on.
Rockin’: We get to Hunter mountain by 9:30 in time to meet Campbell’s school friend, the same one who hosted us on Friday.
Shockin’: He’s already there waiting for us.
Rockin’: The weather is pleasant, conditions are perfect and it’s not that crowded.
Shockin’: How some people just get it into their heads that the ski season must be over by now. Their loss.
Rockin’: The mountain has been groomed since yesterday’s storm. Most of it is easily skiable today.
Shockin’: The number of experienced mountaineers I hear complaining about how hard they found it to ski/ride yesterday.
Rockin’: Why I love skiing #1: Every single run on a mountain is different every single day. Often even every single hour. The topography changes as people carve out bumps, the surface changes as it softens or hardens up… You can do the same run every day of your life and it will never be the same.
Shockin’: The same is not true of running.
Rockin’: Why I love skiing #2. Worrying about work is not an option if you want to come down alive. You exist totally in the moment.
Shockin’: The same is not true of running.
Rockin’: Leaving Campbell and his friend to go do their own thing. I’ve so been looking forward to this age when I could let Campbell run free on the mountain.
Shockin’: Even though his friend is way faster than him, the two don’t lose each other. They meet me in the lodge on time. Twice. Make that rockin’.
Rockin’: Hooking up with two of the skiers from last year’s Racing group. It’s been too long.
Shockin’: Watching them leave me for dust (powder?) after I offer to ‘tag along.’ They’re both about 15 years older than me.
Rockin’: Invited to join an all-mountain course for the afternoon to see if I want to join permanently.
Shockin’: It’s the last afternoon of its last day of the season
Rockin’: The instructor is teaching everyone how to ride moguls.
Shockin’: Looks like they’ve all had more practice than me.
Rockin’: The instructor offers to close out his course by taking the group onto Annapurna, the most brutal run on the whole of Hunter. Solid mountainous moguls down a steep 2,000 foot incline.
Shockin’: Three of his group refuse to go along. They know their limits.
Rockin’: I’m not one of them. My season won’t be complete unless I conquer Annapurna.
Shockin’: Don’t I ever learn?
Rockin’: I get down without falling over.
Shockin’: It’s not pretty. My legs are like cinder blocks. Is this really good training for next week’s Triathlon?
Rockin’: It’s only 2:30pm, the sun has come out to play, and the mountain is open until 5pm.
Shockin’: I know my limits, and I reached them about 30 hours ago! Looks like I finally learned.
Rockin’: Why I love skiing #3: It’s such a healthy way to spend a day.
Shockin’: It’s brutal on the muscles.
Rockin’: Why I love skiing #4: Skiiers and riders work hard/play hard. This is one sport that doesn’t frown on a wind-down drink.
Shockin’: I’m too worn out to join in this weekend.
Rockin’: This may have just been the best three-day weekend’s skiing of my life. Except for Utah last spring of course.
Shockin’: That we had to wait this late in the season for such good conditions.

The sun sets on a perfect weekend.

Rockin’: Campbell brings his friend home to play and they immediately go sledding on our hill.
Rockin’: Now we’re home, Posie can get out for a walk without the baby.
Rockin’: I get Noel’s hat, coat and gloves on and he comes outside in the snow to play.
Rockin’: He kicks snow on the deck for the next 30 minutes. He’s so easily amused.
Rockin’: Noel is starting to talk. It’s so funny. He calls his brother Camboo.
Rockin’: Camboo and his friend play with the Lego Mindstorms. They appear to have fashioned a fully-functioning computerized vehicle that identifies an enemy and fires balls at him, machine gun style. Being nice boys, they at least don’t aim it at the cat.
Rockin’: I drive Campbell’s friend home. My son finishes his homework in the car on the way.
Rockin’: Posie makes dinner while we’re gone.
Rockin’: We light a fire.
Rockin’: I’m still standing. Well, sitting.
Rockin’: Campbell is no longer complaining about his sore butt.
Rockin’: The season is not over yet.
Shockin’: The Eskimos only have 50 words for snow!

Spring starts on Wednesday. Only 9 months until Christmas and the start of a new ski season.

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December 2021