In an ideal season, our local ski mountains open the weekend after Thanksgiving. These last few winters have been less than ideal: two years ago, we didn’t get decent conditions until a Valentine’s Day dump – and given that I almost killed myself on Hunter the very next day, you can safely say that was the worst investment in a season ticket I’ve ever made.
So you can’t blame Hunter Mountain for being a little excited about the fact that, for the 08-09 season – it’s 50th Anniversary – it will be opening tomorrow, the weekend before Thanksgiving. If you live around these parts, you’ll know why: starting this past Monday, the temperature dropped below freezing and has but barely poked its head back above in the five days since. (It was 17F – that’s minus 7C – when I took Campbell down to the school bus this morning!) Up on Hunter itself, that means absolutely perfect snow-making conditions, and according to the e-mails I’ve been receiving from them on a daily basis and the pictures at the mountain’s web site, they’ve been pounding the guns round the clock as if to make up for previous lost years.
I won’t be there tomorrow. Apart from the fact I need to work at least 6 days a week right now if I have any hope of my book coming out next year, I’ve been training for the Fair Street 5k in Kingston, typically the last Grand Prix race of the running season and the flattest fastest course you can find in the Catskills. The last two years I’ve scored my 5k PR on this run; it would be nice to make that three in a row. (Although this year it’s not a Grand Prix race; the last of those has been held back until the Sunday before Christmas, as if taunting anyone for thinking of hanging up their running boots for winter.) I’ll tell you what, though, I’m not used to running in a snow storm in mid-November, as I did on Monday, or in serious below-freezing windchills, as per Wednesday, when head-to-toe thermals still failed to fully warm me up; despite making it a speed work-out, I failed to break a sweat, it was so cold, and didn’t even take the usual post-run shower. It’ll be interesting to see what Sunday brings. And Goddmannit, if I can just get the book edited down, I have a so-cheap-you-won’t-believe-it midweek season pass I bought back in the spring that will allow me to get out on Hunter’s snow, man-made or otherwise, during the so-called working week for nothing more than the price of gas.
As it turns out, a family friend has just published a book about snow. You may know about it because, when he’s not gallivanting around the world trying to get himself killed in the Arctic or the Alps, Charlie English – a Beverley boy like myself – keeps a desk job at the Guardian, and that newspaper published a 5,000 word excerpt last weekend. (You don’t think they’d do it for just any old writer, do you?) The premise – it’s entitled The Snow Tourist: One Man’s Bracing Quest For The World’s Purest, Deepest Snowfall – seems intriguing enough: boy’s father is avid skier, boy’s father commits suicide, boy becomes avid skier, boy becomes man becomes husband, gets into mid-life crisis, decides to go discover world’s most treacherous snow to test his own mortality and desire for freedom. Can’t say I’d mind writing a book like that myself – especially if the Guardian would promise to publish such a large excerpt.
I’m trying to avoid thinking about skiing, and being sent the link to English’s excerpt hardly helped. But yesterday it got worse. The mail brought me the new issue of Skiing magazine, to which I took a subscription last year to help finance my older, snowboarding son’s field trip to Boston (the one where he discovered Family Guy on the hotel’s cable TV). Let me be blunt about this: Skiing magazine, for a middle-aged person like myself who dreams it more than he lives it, is hard-core pornography. There’s no question. I mean, the magazine is full of pictures of people doing things most of us can barely contemplate – and in front of the cameras, no less! – and the stories (because some of us used to buy Playboy for the features, right?) are all about orgiastic adventures and use words that I’m scared to ask my son the meaning of. Schralp, anyone?
The ski season this year could be a long one. The deadline for the book is not. I’ll be at my desk when the mountain open tomorrow – though if I’m a long time in the bathroom, it may just be that I’ve got that copy of Skiing magazine in front of me and I’m fantasizing.