The thermometer reads -20 when you wake up, -28 for those metric obsessed. At least it's sunny out there, but by the bend in the trees you can tell the wind will be a factor. It has been 3 days since the upper mountain lifts have run. But you have to get up, exit the warm bed and get after the day. It is mid January in Maine. Hopefully the car runs.
Maine mountains are cold and windy, all the time. The mountains in the north are relatively empty this time of the year. No one wants to pay for a lift ticket to spend a day outside in this bullshit. As I put on the park crew coat once more, I certainly wonder why I am doing this. I don't want to go ski today, no one does, I know the majority of people on hill will be employees. Rewind to the beginning of November.
Getting the job on the Saddleback park crew was a dream come true. I wanted nothing more than to build parks, ski all the time, and hangout with my friends.
December ski season starts, it's already cold. Opening day is pow, we close the park down and go shred, the park needs some cat time anyways. Cold, deep, epic, opening weekend is the best. I realize I made the right decision to do this. I watch the sunset with friends and realize this is the ski bum dream.
The snow stops though, the cold doesn't. It does for one day, rains, and boom, back to classic east coast. Bulletproof ice, extreme cold, angry people. Weeks and weeks follow of this. I grow angry, why did I do this? I start to think more about my after ski activities more than my ski activities. Where and with who am I drinking becomes more important than the skiing.
Alcohol and the ski bum go hand in hand yes, especially when the snow isn't good. When the snow is bad, it gets downright insane. I'd say we partied every night but thats not true. We got really really drunk everynight and sometimes we would party. If we aren't having a good time on hill, lets have a good time off hill at the very least, well rather lets forget we didn't have a good time on hill.
In a bad winter on the east coast, I can see most of the year being forgotten between 30 racks and cheap whiskey.
Luckily unlike every other Maine winter, the snow comes back. It falls often, light dry pow days. The skiing is good, but god dammit it's cold. You get less and less excited about each day, even though the skiing is good. Frostbite dots the face and your toes, some days the mountain is closed because of wind chills exceeding 70 below. It is brutal, but you keep going. Skiing deep pow all day, and drinking all night. We all slowly start to look the same, disheveled, tired, broken.
If I were to sum up the season from here,
January: snow begins again, weeks of not seeing 0 degrees. The drinking is heavy, when it snows 8 inches overnight and it is negative 10 come morning, you aren't that excited. People are putting hand warmers between layers of their facemasks. The wind smacking against your face hurts, the chairlifts are slow. Ski all day, have some epic moments, and some moments where death seems a bit more near than it should. Drink all night to forget the pain and reminisce about the best turns so far.
February: It isn't getting warmer, there are days of sunshine, but the sun doesn't feel all that warm with a 20 mile per hour wind blasting you in the face when it already is only 5 degrees out. The snow is good though, and it keeps coming, the parks are fun, building them is fun. Dressed as a marshmallow we all get the best turns of the season and take park lap after park lap.
March: It should be warmer by now, but it's not. The snow keeps coming, we are all talking about how it is the best ski season the east has had in years. We all believe it, and on paper sure, the snow is deep, and keeps coming. What people don't talk about is the actual mountain conditions. On hill employees are riddled with frostbite burns, and people are sour at times. We just want some warm weather and we haven't really had it. There are a few days of promise, temps in the 20s, and we all go full beach weather. It is promise and it is beautiful. Spring will be good, if it shows up in reality.
April: I turn 21.
Spring hits and Maine becomes worthwhile for once, warm days with scattered snow events, a soft park, it makes Maine good. Reggae fest, pond skimming, parties on parties. Life is good and looking down at the sunny corn runs in front of us, I realize that I wouldn't have traded this for anything. The frostbite on my face and toes, fuck it, the weathering of my skin, fuck it. This shit has been good, and despite copious amounts of liver damage, I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
If you're able to deal with the lifestyle, feeling like death every morning, and going out into the coldest environment around to work and recreate, followed by alcoholic binge drinking, I would recommend Maine to you. You belong here if you like to party and live in the mountains. Maine is calling and it might just be your home.
I am leaving for Colorado come fall, I will be back, perhaps raise my kids in these mountains, make sure they get a little hair on their chest.
If you can be a skier here, you can be a skier anywhere.