Outside, the wind is whipping across our weather worn balcony like the tail of a pissed off dragon. Our plastic lawn chairs are sliding back and forth as if on the deck of an sinking ocean liner. The world is a sheet of furious white, which for us mountain folks is pure titillation. The mad arrival of new snow is our crack.
And for the last three days, Tyler and I have been doing the proverbial crack snort with great joy. Inclement weather? Whatever. At the top two days ago, the winds were so strong a nearby tree felt inclined to smack me in the face with a snowball at close range. On the way up, we saw a small-ish avalanche other skiers had sympathetically triggered (meaning, they set it off from some distance away) the day before. Yesterday, once we de-skinned and began our descent, the visibility was so bad it was like skiing on the moon. We drove an hour from our house to just outside of Copper on Sunday, avoiding the backed up, barely contained fray that was I-70 just to hike our sorry butts up a mountain… and have some of the fluffiest, butteriest turns yet this season.
Those of us who live up here be like, “Duh.” So worth it. Cause we’re obsessed, and it feels like this:
Folks outside of this strange bubble be like…
Aaaaah, mountain living: it’s unpredictable and frustrating yet concurrently, enthralling. Aside from crack snow obssession, I particularly enjoy life in the mountains sometimes because:
1. When — opening a bottle of wine for a group of feisty Russians at 11,444 feet or merely opening a can of corn at home — you happen to nick your finger, you’re royally hosed. There might be two feet of snow on the ground, but there’s about as much moisture in the air here as there are sharks in a tornado, no matter what Hollywood might tell you. That cut will not heal until May, or if you’re lucky, late April.
Instead, it will spread like a chip in a windshield. What started as a teeny-weeny boo-boo will grow into a Zoolander version of the Grand Canyon (“How will the children see the sights if they can’t even fit into the National Park?”). No amount of salve, super glue, prayers to Shiva, Vishnu, Allah or Jesus will heal thy wounds. Only the arrival of summer and/or a free trip to the Caribbean (because you can’t afford to buy one because mud season left a gaping wound in your bank account) will provide relief.
2. Trips to lower elevations can provide morsels of unforeseen excitement — like purchasing a bag of Garden of Eatin Blue Corn Tortilla chips that sits innocuously beneath the rear hatch until the Eisenhower Tunnel. Halfway through, a loud bang resounds which causes Tyler to duck and cover in the passenger seat like a real life Chicken Little. Luckily, I have such nerves of steel that I barely even swerved, but a shock of adrenaline raced through my body like a full-grown Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker across the length of a lifeboat out at sea (“Life of Pi,” anyone?). A delicate smell of corn wafted innocuously across the car’s interior as we dissolved into laughter.
3. At any point during the night, a mysterious rumble could rouse you from a vat of happy dreams. The metallic pulsations become louder — is it a train? Nope, we’re not in Europe. Has a raging beast from the dawn of time burst forth from the frozen mire of Dillon Reservoir? Not likely… that’s way too much excitement for Summit County. So, you brave the chill outside the triple ply down comforter to peek through the frosty slats at this mysterious cacophony — it’s a snowplow, blazing forth in a shower of ice, magnesium chloride and testosterone ($5 says the driver is a dude — it’s Summit County after all).
Sated, sleep claims you once more… or so you thought. Another sound greets the tired eardrums — it scrapes like a Knight in full armor with a bum leg, piercing through the wee hours like a jousting stick. It’s the Midnight Shoveler, as Tyler and I have deemed him. If even an Angry Inch falls, the Midnight Shoveler braves the storm to eradicate the layer of whiteness upon the asphalt — and any chance of sleep for those who reside above his brazen efforts. Does the Midnight Shoveler ever sleep? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, but the wind has snow in it and that means the Midnight Shoveler will rise again, like The Dark Knight with a shovel.
4. As I write this (I started this testament on Sunday), Eastbound I-70 looks like a string of veggies lined up on a kebab. Bumper to bumper is an understatement. It’s easy as a mountain person to feel a wicked satisfaction creep up my chilled spine watching all the folks who have been guzzling our eggs and making a two-lane road into a one lane road lined up like ants on a log. However, I have been trying to subscribe to the “Love thy gaper” channel. So I feel compassion looking out the window at those poor travelers. But dude, I also feel relief! Living in the mountains means I don’t have to sit in traffic with the Joneses every time I want to romp around in the nature.
Traffic might be avoidable, but winter driving itself harder to dodge than Alfred Hitchcock’s birds if you’re Melanie Daniels. Rewind a few nights back to an entertaining seven-mile drive from Keystone to home, when a clear view and snow packed road turned instantaneously into a mind liquefying blizzard. I cruised happily at 45 mph one instant and the next, it was as if a large, mischievous hand splashed the windshield with whiteout, only to wipe it away again moments later. Several vivid parts of my life splashed by the headlights, shimmering across my excited irises like errant fireworks. Brake lights emerged from the soupy white like the eyes of a puzzled demon, disappearing again to blink away snow and shake its head in wonderment. Other cars emerged, driving not in lanes but wherever they saw fit; in front of me a co-worker passed them and I followed suit, diving into the shoulder as another curtain of white erased reality.
Squirrel. I mean, ski.
I’ve been inside for entirely to long… need… to… ski…
Yeah, I’m not obsessed at all.