It was something I had waited for since April 20, 2008. The wind was sharply blowing, stinging as it hit your skin in frigid bullets. I sat through my Friday classes, impressed that for once I hadn’t fallen asleep. The only thing running through me was some cocoa krispies which were scarfed down at 7:45 that morning. 4 hours later I was in my last class, tapping my toes as my leg had a mini-seizure. It was Friday. The weekend was beginning and I was going to go skiing.
Friday night seemed to be going on forever. “This is better than Christmas!” Colleen said as snow quietly fell. Let’s face it. We were excited. Okay, okay we were beyonnddddddd excited. While my friends had been telling me about their amazing days riding out west for the past month, I was stoked to finally get to experience this myself. Deciding to keep it a mellow night, we casually sipped wine and watched movies, toasting the beginning of the amazing times that were to be had in the next five months. We laid in bed with a happy buzz from our drinks and the overwhelming idea of shredding. As the clock ticked by we laid there. We were silent but knew we were both awake. Our clocks set for 5 am, we forced ourselves to close our eyes, hoping that the sooner we shut them, the sooner we’d open them on the anticipated day.
I woke up to the sensation of a hummingbird flying against my wrist. Roll over. 5am. Thank you cell phone, I am slightly hung over. 15 minutes later the sensation returns, this time making me feel guilty and anxious. I text Joe Tyson and Evan Williams and tell them to not rush on getting ready, Colleen and I are pretty sluggish. Around 6am we’re stuffed in the car—angry, cold, and excited for the day. After an unanticipated hour in the car; full of hyphy music, whiteout conditions, and fishtailing (the last of which I take full responsibility for) we made it to Stowe, parking in the second row amongst 20 other cars.
We peered out of the windows and looked at the cars around us. We were easily the youngest riders there by 30 years. I tugged on my hat and stepped out of the car only to be bitch-slapped and thrown back. November 22nd and the harsh winter winds were already owning me. Many of the riders pulled on their ancient boots in the parking lot as they nervously tried to use every minute wisely. Still feeling a little uneasy, Colleen and I told the boys we were heading inside to get ready. Pushing through the doors we were met with a handful of wrinkly, bearded faces. The suits reminded me of gaper day, but weren’t worn in a joking nature. The weathered one pieces were faded, but still embodied the spirit that the old riders still had within them. The young fluorescent essence that lived in that suit became resurrected as the flurries turned into inches and the inches turned into feet. Father Time took a vacation and let Jack Frost take the reins. It was time for the youth to play, no matter what your birth certificate said.
We snagged an early chair as our bodies froze to the lift. 0 degrees at the top and the peeking tip of my nose was red and angry. Being the only person on the face of this earth without an iPod, I wasn’t one of the many who participated in the experience of having a first run song. When the boys asked me what my first song was going to be, I told them the sound of my skis cutting and the wind whipping. I successfully took my run, noobishly falling and getting tripped up. Meeting at the lift, we were stoked. First run of the 2008/2009 Season. Count it.
Riding that first day was one of the best on mountain experiences I’ve had in my ski career. While it doesn’t matter how many people you ride with, this year was different. As some of you might have read in the previous blog, my school’s ski and board scene was blowing up. The night before was a big game of phone tag as club members tried to coordinate rides. Although we had a handful of runs under our belt while others were just waking up, we eventually all collected together. Skating over to the lifts I looked around and realized I was surrounded by classmates. Without anyone counting for sure, there were close to 20 familiar faces. Getting in line, no one cared who they were with. We all knew each other, whether for 4 years or 3 months.
During the day I shared the numbing experience of riding the quad chair with two freshmen, Danny and John. Being excited myself, it was obvious that they were more stoked that I was. They were hanging out with all ages of students, and everyone was treated equally. Since they were new to the mountain, Colleen and I answered any questions they had, told them which places to stop at for good food (or even better, free food), and the back route to the mountain. Telling them all of this was like sharing secrets. Handing over pieces of the Secret Ski Bible coincided with a passing of the torch. Somewhat nervous about this, it was only right. I was no longer a freshman and I had learned all the tricks. While we couldn’t tell them them all, we shared a few. It was their year to learn and my year to ride.
As the hill got busier, we used our energy to fight past the congestion and continue the day. The adrenaline kept us going for awhile but eventually wore off and we were forced to succumb to our exhaustion. Go figure on one of the last runs, I cut by the boxes and planned to cruise through some pow to talk to EvWill, and managed to dig in my tips and slam my face into the snow.
Riding home I fell in and out of consciousness while Joe entertained Ev and Coll with stories. We talked about how great the day was (pow, opening, east coast/end). Once we got home, we peeled off our clothes, took scalding showers, and proceeded to throw a surprise party for our friend Christian’s 20th birthday. (Not to disappoint, but the shower to party scenario had a few in between steps—like redressing.)
Although Christian was shocked, initially thinking that we didn’t give a rat’s ass about his day, we hung around while eating pizza, Red Bull, and cake. We were there for two hours and the eyes started sagging and the numbers starting decreasing. At 8pm, Colleen, our friend Meg, and I left the party only to unlock our door and crawl into bed.
Waking up for day two was a little easier than the first, but this time we were met with muscles that weren’t being as elastic as we had hoped. Rolling around in bed, we pathetically moaned yet still got up within 10 minutes of our alarms freaking out. We successfully were in the rhythm. Coll drove, I sat shotgun, and we mowed on Red Bull and Poptarts. Although this year was different because of the precious cargo know as Ev and Joe in the backseat, we were excited for the change.
Hitting the slopes was like last season never ended. The nods from the lifties, the awkward conversations with the single riders, and the body remembering the movements of the mountain, were all familiar. It was an amazing feeling to be back in my element, to be back on my terrain, and regaining the ability to be in a situation where I feel genuinely and wholeheartedly happy.
This year I made a new rule for myself after a conversation with my snowboarding and skiing friend, Caity. We spent an afternoon talking about how the mountain was our release—our escape from everything else. During this exchange she told me how she doesn’t ride with her phone physically on her. This shocked me because Caity is the only person I know who can have 5000 things going on, and be on top of it. Her Black Berry is constantly nearby and an essential part of her being on her game in all of the things that she does. When she said it stayed elsewhere during shred time, I began to think. Skiing is the one time where I am doing something for me. I can choose to be alone, but if I’m not, I’m with some of the most important people in my life. I used to be scared about falling and getting hurt, but the more I think about it, being paranoid is just another thing holding me back from wholly experiencing the moment. Starting this weekend, I powered off my phone and tucked it between a bandana and smashed Poptart in my boot bag.
Sunday was completely different than Saturday. Saturday’s skies were heavy with snow and completely white, while Sunday was April blue. Frigid temperatures still kept us bundled and jittery. Not as busy as the day before, we paired off and did our own thing. Some sessioned the down box and the flat box while others tried to explore where the orange ropes forbade. We spent a fair amount of time over at the boxes as Ev worked on some NIG early season footy. Joe and Ev slayed mad hard, while Coll spent time pushing herself to get shit on lock for the epic season ahead.
I’m the first to admit that the only thing I share with Sammy Carlson is my birth year, and having great hair. No park feature is a friend of mine, unless it’s a feature with a good angle to shoot from. Sunday wasn’t “Jen negates her x-amount of dollars worth of oral surgery over a date with a down box” day. I was stoked to watch my friends ride, get amped to take pictures, and analyze the groms who were pissing me off at the fact that they killed it, and I could still make a hot dollar off of babysitting them.
As crews sessioned, I was surrounded in a mist. The snow guns were huffing along and weren’t close to letting up. I watched their long arms shoot a dusting over everything and everyone. It was like a sprinkling of pesticides. While the gapers were forced to head for cover or shrivel up and die along the edges of the hill, my friends and I were immune. Early season conditions were nothing to keep us away. I peeked my mouth out of my bandana and breathed in the piercing air, and laughing as Joe Tyson lost a ski and finished his trick like nothing had happened. I was with my friends on opening weekend, with or without ideal conditions.
What’s an ideal condition anyway? Is it the weather report from my favorite Utah claimer, telling me how much more legit their Westward situation is than my Eastern? (Yeah right, I could watch The Office 2 hours earlier than you on any god given Thursday and then proceed to call you and tell you what happened before your episode even started.) Fahhhhget about it. One of my favorite skiing quotes is a brief blurb from The Dumont. “Best place to ski? Wherever your friends are at, that's what I say.” I fully agree.
It didn’t matter how many boxes were set-up, how many inches were on the ground, or how many racers were cutting me off during my run. What mattered was that it was the beginning of something great. I was surrounded with my friends and snow on the first day of the season. No matter how you look at it, or how you value your days on the hill, it doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m engulfed in the experience with my two favorite kinds of flakes.
Check out this opening weekend edit by NIGs own, Evan Williams!
Like the pow on opening day, we roll deep. ShredMC08
Thanks to Colleen Moore for her fantastic driving skills, Joe Tyson for freestyling and doing all things hyphy, Evan Williams for trusting to let me hold his precious camera and for being all around precious himself, Caity Courcier for her truly "free-riding" advice and the rest of the people I got to shred with this past weekend! Plus thanks to Nick Mir to the continual... whatever association I have with you.
EXTRA PLUS!!!! A belated/happy/early birthday to some of my favorite riders! Christian Schumacher, Cedric Tremblay-Fournier, Calvin Hawley, and Tommy Shimko! Hope it was/is/will be a good one!