At 6:36 Thursday morning, I awoke for no good reason except I felt semi-determined to skin up to the top of Keystone. I say semi-determined because sometimes (okay, most of the time) for me, making decisions is more difficult than… should I finish this sentence? Or should I not? Oh golly, I just don’t know!
Anyway, when I emerged from the warm, humidified cocoon of the bedroom, I found a healthy layer of ice on the inside of our sliding glass door. The thermometer read -7.
“This is stupid,” I said to myself, as frozen air circulated outside like a ghoul in search of a fireplace, and promptly went outside to start the car. The Volvo choked on the Antarctic air, wheezing through the ignition and the plastic panels like there was an asthmatic crow somewhere deep in the cockles of the engine.
“This is stupid,” I said as my glove stuck to the frozen handle on the driver rear door which was frozen in place. When I pulled my hand away, it came clear out of the glove which remained stuck to the handle. I gave up and loaded everything on the passenger seat as the car groaned and creaked under a tiny hint of heat from the unhappy engine.
For the next 15 minutes, I waffled more than a Waffle House full of hungry teenagers over whether or not to retreat to the Bahamas of bed or venture out into the unforgiving morning. In the end, after Tyler stumbled out of bed for a glass of water and to see what the hell I was still doing walking around in ski gear, I decided not to be a little sissy girl.
“This is stupid,” I said as I navigated the chilled Volvo down largely deserted, Siberian-esque roads. In the parking lot, the car’s thermometer read -9. Twenty minutes later, I arrived at the base of the Gondola. A string of shivering Keystone employees trundled away from the hill into the village, mumbling morning greetings which I returned slowly like a movie whose sound is slightly off. One tall dude raised his hand up for a high-five.
“Why????” He said as our frozen hands made contact like two packages of frozen ground elk from the freezer.
“I’m not sure,” I said as I slowed to a stop and attempted to put my skis on. My cold hands worked as well as George Bush’s vocabulary, so the whole suiting up part took longer than usual (imagine arranging Telemark bindings with 10 half-thawed Lit’l Smokies).
Luckily, the first pitch of the Keystone skin is straight up a blue run and if nothing else, it gets the internal heater going. By the top of that grind, I had almost regained feeling in most of my nether regions and there was a lift operator (or lifty) staring at me from the mid-mountain Gondola stop like he’d seen me drop a million bucks in a meat grinder.
“This is stupid,” I said to myself as I attempted a lopsided grin and continued on. After a flat respite, the run turns left and becomes the green rolling Spring Dipper that beginners enjoy and bro bras fly down like neon bats from hell. I decided, for whatever reason, to take the run less skinned and hooked right, more or less following the gondola.
Despite the seemingly pernicious cold, I began to enjoy the solitude and the way the sun fought its way through the crystallized, shimmering air. As I left the gondola again, the carefully groomed corduroy crunched under my popsicled feet and I had a good rhythm going; I would’ve smiled, if I could’ve.
I rounded the final bend as the gondola began to inch forward, readying itself for a small siege of bundled up humans. Above me, a neon rope waved halfheartedly in the breeze, starkly pointing out that I’d been walking up a closed run for the last hour.
“This is stupid,” I said as several ski patrollers cruised downhill carrying an armload of yellow “Slow Down” banners.
Runs are signed downhill and heading uphill, short of omniscience, I couldn’t have known the run was closed. Logical argument? Yes, but I still panicked and blasted into the trees, lodging my skis under every downed branch along the way. I probably resembled some poor bastard carrying a canvas sack of dirty laundry in black clothing and a balaclava on a cold day outside a just-robbed bank.
After lurking behind a large tree until the patrollers passed, I popped out to contemplate my options. The end was in sight, more tempting — almost — than a scorching shower and an extra hot cappuccino. Obviously I could duck the rope… but this paranoia of rope ducking as a Vail Employee (even to put myself back on the right side of the rope) held me in a weird limbo. Should I? Shouldn’t I? As I was debating, the lifts had started running in earnest and a snowboarder zipped by, giving me a very curious triple take. I ducked quickly over to the legal side of the rope, de-skinned, layered up, re-lost feeling in all toes, fingers and face areas and headed down with all the other lemmings.
“This is stupid,” I said to myself as I made swift turns through air colder than a whole room full of Prada clutching sorority sisters with boob jobs and fake smiles. My nose hairs had formed a strange, frozen forest which precluded any breathing except through my mouth. My mouth, however, existed behind a Buff which reacted to each breath — sucking further into my mouth with each inhale, freezing on the exhale. My toes had ceased to exist entirely inside two magnanimously cold, fawn-colored entities that served as boots.
Back at the car, I extracted my toes from my boots and straddled my steering wheel like I was at the gynecologist, planting the balls of each foot over a fully cranked heater vent. Passersby with small children stared into the windshield, openly curious as I cursed loudly through a prolonged pins-and-needles reanimation process exacerbated by Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” wrecking my eardrums. I couldn’t even turn the song down because I was sitting on my frozen fingers which burned like a tiny forest fire for ants. About the time I thought I’d seen the light, I re-discovered ten toes, ten fingers, the volume button and a gas pedal. And then that blistering shower and scorching cappuccino were calling me insistently like a 13-year-old with a new iPhone 5s.
And those were just the two things Sylv-cicle needed most to reanimate for an afternoon of writing, an evening of serving pizza to 350 people last night and an early morning this morning (at Keystone by 630) serving a breakfast banquet to hundreds more. Last night in the Slummit meant a low of -9 with a -28 degree wind chill. Today it’s a balmy 10 degrees or so, and tonight temps are back in the bitter range. But today, I’m overly caffeinated and inside and that isn’t stupid at all…
Except that it is a balmy 10 degrees and I think I should go for a skin.
“This is stupid,” I will say as I navigate sleepily through the soupy grayish white, chilly air. But that’s the thing about me: it might be stupid, but at least I can write a blog about it.