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Thread: Ski stories

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2003

    Ski stories

    Snow Falling on Seaters
    By J.K. GIVENS

    "I'm taking my pants off so don't look," he says. Terrific. I turn my head and try to focus on something else. A late-afternoon storm begins to gently coat every in- and out-of-state car in the lot, including ours, with a thin layer of white.

    From the driver's seat I make out a few diehard souls tucking to the chair for one last run as lifties shuffle their feet toward the corral, slowly pulling up the ropes. Most of the day's skiers are walking that slow, maniacal waddle from the lodge to their cars with boards slung over shoulders, and heavy eyes, and oh man, why did I turn to the right!?!

    "I told you not to look!"

    Girls, lots of girls, girls in bikinis, on a beach, playing volleyball... Must keep looking left...

    "All right, we're good."

    I throw the car in reverse and back out of the lot, staring at the huge flakes quickly piling up around us. I turn to my now fully clothed navigator. "It's just a passing shower, right?"

    "Sure. We'll be fine."

    We leave the parking lot under heavy skies and fading daylight, heading down a lonely, narrow road with no cars in sight. It's snowing painfully hard now. Every mile or so we pass a driveway leading high into nowhere. Sometimes we see a house with a light on. Most times, we don't see anything, particularly the double yellow line. Or the sky. It's just us and the darkness and heavy snow that's now pounding our windshield on this unplowed road in the middle of the woods.

    I give it a little gas around a hidden corner and the back end slides out. I turn into it instinctively, giving it more gas, staying clear of the brake. The car finds its way back to the center of the road and we keep going. Still, silence.

    That house back there had its lights on. "Remember that place," I say, hoping that when, not if, but when we crash into a tree or a moose or whatever else is lurking out there, that at least one of us will be able to trudge back for help. Is he thinking the same thing? It's night now. I can't admit that I'm nervous, but my death grip on the wheel and my forward hunch probably give me away.

    We should have stayed, I think to myself. The wipers tick their whick-whop, whick-whop above the slow hum of the tires floating on unpacked snow. Tomorrow's a Monday. Nobody's going to be on the hill. We could have fresh tracks to ourselves all day. We could find a condo or a hotel or something cheap and we could be sitting on a warm, dry couch right now, planning out the morning. We'd be there early, first in line, first to the top, first tracks...

    "Right," he finally says, as if I'd been broadcasting all of this and he's just taken it in. We could turn around now. Nothing's stopping us. Just pull the car over and turn. Now.

    Movement. I flash the high beams for a second, thinking there's something out there, down in the middle of the road. The light reflects off the snow, completely blinding me. Is this what vertigo feels like? I slowly pull the car over to what I think is the side of the road and put it in park. Snow immediately collects on the hood, half an inch in an instant. I scan the middle of the road but see nothing.

    Flakes the size of hands fall through the steady stream of light coming from both front corners of the car. The light gradually disappears into the darkness ahead. "Should we turn around?" I ask without turning to address my copilot.

    He's quiet for a moment as if savoring or dreading the possibilities. I think about the light in the hosue behind us.

    "What do you think?"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Herd Mentality

    The wind. My god, the wind. In all my life I've never felt gales such as these. It was bad when Tata and I drove the stock back from Eight Mile, but no, nothing like this.

    The wind drifted snow into grotesque forms along the river. Some would break off the shore into icebergs, then spin in the shallow eddys before being caught and swallowed by the deep. I lost a finger and two toes that day. My horse never was the same. I can feel the vacant gap in my boot and glove now as I stand with 65 others in a metal box rising skyward into the maelstrom.

    No one's talking. The tram operator calmly presses a few lighted buttons on the control panel. We pass by Tower 2, barely visible through frosted panes. Someone has drawn a heart and a knife on the window with their warm finger. The tram sways back and forth like a pendulum on the tower's uphill side.

    Why those heifers wandered to the dale was something we talked about for a long time. We weren't accustomed to that much snow in October. We weren't ready. They seemed to know that and went out on their own. Got away from us. There was no carry to our voices in the blinding snow. The wind drowned out even the Santa Fe line until we were almost on the tracks, at the fence. The engine's horn sent the horses jumping and the cows crying. We could hear them, but where were they?

    Lost in the fog. Tower 3 is lost in the fog, and as if by memory, the tram operator eases the car just as the cable ticks over the wheels. Slowly, slowly. It's quiet. Then the freight train pierces the side of the tram with a sideways thud. We brace ourselves. The wind whines like a jet engine. The operator opens his side window and looks out, getting a frosty kiss from the sky, a hundred feet above the ground.

    I spied the brown stain of half-frozen dung in the snow and trotted forward. Must be close. Then four body imprints. The holes were quickly filling. I whistled to Tata and he raced over, saying he found seven. Four are frozen solid, one while standing. If we don't get these horses out of here soon, he said, we'll...

    The smallest toes on my left foot feel numb. I remember that they're no longer there. Phantom feeling. The wind meter on the operator's control panel flashes 67, then 21, then 41. We lost nine animals that day, plus a water storage tank that was blown off its footing and down a cliff, its contents freezing in place like lava dropped into the sea.

    We're getting close now as we crest the tall face of Tensleep. The operator inches the car toward the deck and begins his announcement. "Well you all can guess what's going on out—" and we're rocketed by a blast that if not for the tight quarters would send us all to one end of the car, pressed like sausages in plastic wrap. A passenger leans into me and my ski tips clank against his silver helmet. "Let's be safe out there. Last ride. Anyone who wants to go back down with me can stay on."

    The tram reaches the outdoor station and through the window I see a piece of black nylon ribbing attached to a sign whipping uncontrollably, then it shears off and flies into the void. No one speaks. No one moves. The wind meter jumps to 77 as the operator shields his face and creaks open the doors and I swear that in the dark gray distance I see a stiff bovine standing on the frozen hoar, completely still, head up, and searching for home.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Dream

    Swaying palm trees, rambling surf, waving grass, sandy beaches. These and more are what I truly know. The subtle, monotonous sounds of the ocean's body ever renewing and repeating upon the crags and rocks of the cliffs that surround a beautiful bay. The sky a bright blue, darkened only by an errant cloud that suggests a different climate elsewhere. This is where I live. I am content to surf and exist as my forefathers have done for years before me.

    Within the illuminating spectrum of my nights, however, the life and memories within my brain twist without rhyme or reason. They dance and flit into a dream. In this dream, I am strapped to a pair of boards. Everything around is crisp and cold. The daytime air is clear and thin, causing me to exhale roughly. All around is white. Trees delicately bow to the climatic presence that humbles them.

    Everything that was is no more, and I speak to my friends of that same repeating idea that has been haunting my nights recently. The idea that I live upon an island, trying to surf and to live a simple life. They chuckle and begin to look away downhill. As we descend, the ambiguity departs and within the effort comes the reward. Caressing sweet particles of water give way before my body. I am enveloped by a white world where there is no up, down, or sideways. Long, slow seconds pass until time itself separates. I forget the silly tropical dreams of previous nights and focus everything in my being into that effort before me.

    Down a wind-beaten gully, we head for the lip and pop away with speed. Over and through into the woods. Racing racing racing, dancing amid the flora and fauna. I pop in and out of the branches, ducking underneath and emerging into a copse. Here the snow is soft and giving. Open it up and hop over a buried stump. Faster faster into another wood. Shadows fly across my face as snow billows up to my knees.

    I disappear in the moment and everything becomes possible. Without the limitations of my own perspective I can accomplish anything.

    I emerge from the trees into blinding sunlight, and there they are: three pillows through which I slowly fall as though on an escalator. Every hit flexes my skis back and compresses my knees throwing powder into my face. Air is beneath me and finally I am falling, falling into the deep, deep snow below. On the trail again, I see my friends emerging. All are coated with the snowy attachments of a good day of skiing.

    It is as it should be—surrounded by the mountains, my home for the last 20 years. Trying to eke out a living as my father did before me. The house that he built lies at the base of the valley, surrounded by two lakes and ranches older than the statehood here.

    Perhaps tonight I shall dream that dream of the island again and the surfing, floating, relentless energy of that wave.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Going Soft

    This morning while digging out the car, cursing as you slip and get snow inside the lip of your boots (which you know you didn't tie well but you were too excited by the three-feet-and-still-dumping), you see the kids next door putting up a tent. They came in late last night, the monster SUV in the garage, their parents still in bed. Regular people don't go out in this kind of the storm, only kids and people like you.

    Just build an igloo you want to yell as you pull the car out, but it's too cold to force the window open. You turn the corner and snow slides down your windshield.

    Now you're stopped on the road up to the resort, which is covered with six inches even though they plowed an hour ago. Wind shakes your windows like dice, and the heavy flakes falling make red taillights flicker in front of you.

    You know Trevor is ahead of you. He's probably already on the mountain. All your friends are. You reach back and pat your skis. Cars ahead of you are turning around. Losers, you think.

    You see the orange vest flapping around a bulky uniform—an unlucky county sheriff who got a bad draw this morning. He walks toward your car, but you keep your eyes forward. No one's going to tell you to turn around.

    The tap on the window is hollow. It won't roll down, so you open the door. The wind crackles in and suddenly every part of you feels wet and cold. You shake your head and close it.

    He highsteps around and opens the passenger door, breathes out as he sits and slams the door in one motion. "It's a mess out there," he says.

    You shrug.

    "They'll finish bombing the road in about ten minutes," he continues, "then you can drive up." The snow on his hat and shoulders melts onto the passenger seat. His voice is full of doubt. "Only things open are bunny slopes, wind hold on the rest."

    I'm going anyway, you say.

    He looks at you as if to protest, but instead says "Thanks for the break," and hops back out into the snow.

    They'll hike the ridge, your friends. They're probably gone already. Tomorrow you'll hear all about it. You should have been there.

    The car shudders and the mug of coffee you propped on the dashboard gets the smoke blown out of it. Without much thought you yank the wheel hard to the left. On the way down other cars pull out behind you, the lineup a falling house of cards.

    At home the kids are still there, now spread-eagled in the powder, lobbing loose clumps at each other.

    "Hey," you say. All at once the snow pounds down and you suck in air, surprised at how fast it's coming, how much it hurts.

    "Get in, get in!" they screech. They pour into the tent, then you see a mitten waving at you. "Come on!"

    You duck in and are squatting, looking at their red faces. The tent steams up from your breath. "Didn't know it could snow that hard," one kid says. You know it can. Snow is everything hard, and sometimes you have to fight to stay on your feet, for every single turn.

    A moment later it quiets. They pour out of the tent, flop down breathlessly as if they've been running hard. You take off your gloves and reach down and touch it. It's like cotton candy, it's so light. They laugh.

    "Haven't you seen snow before?" one says to you. You toss it gently at his right shoulder.

    A few hours after the snowball fight, you're inside on the couch and you still hear them whooping. You know you'll lie tomorrow. You couldn't see my tracks, it was snowing so hard. And then you'll say it was soft, the softest snow you've felt in a long time.

    It's good to have something true in every story you tell.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Stinky House

    Creak open the door and the militant mildew immediately lays its lock on your nose. The dingy, northern light seeps through the window, green with molds. Large indiscriminant insects hover next to the bathtub, rubbing their squeaky viola legs together, reminiscent of used car salesmen. The space is layered with legions of dried, dirty towels that have to be beaten into submission. The toilet is textured Jackson Pollack taupe and avocado green. More than one phone call to Ralph talking to God about Buicks has been made on that telephone. The crown jewels of the installation are the mushrooms: several clusters of four-inch long mucilaginous mycological monsters that truly define the funkiest loo ever.

    The living room is jumbled with ripped couches, plastic milk crates, dilapidated chairs, reeking beer bottles, and cigarette butts. The couches are consistently strewn with one dirtbag chrysalis or another (exuding a translucent, sweaty glow), wrapped in some once glorious 800-fill portawomb, a bag of partly smoked funkweed within reach. It is fair game to attempt to lob a butt into the yawning maw of the unsuspecting snoozer. The ceiling sports an intricate Celtic knot, better entertainment than the battered TV with the coat-hanger antenna. Chunks of plaster randomly bombard the unaware. Socks of the indigent litter the scene and are burned in secretive piles in the backyard.

    There is a Formica table in the dining room. There are no eating utensils, and "meals" involve beating each other with chunks of whatever beast is available and wrestling for the carcass. An old Macintosh stereo inhabits the built-in china cabinet and stacks of LPs and singles from bands like The Residents or Bush Tetras slump in the corners.

    The kitchen is beyond dirty. Hazmat suits are required for the layers of festering cold cuts, rotted eggs, moldy bagels and cream cheeses. It could asphyxiate a Frenchman. It squelches any appetite, is rarely used, and never cleaned except when Dean the Weirdo has a glass-smashing tantrum and then only the shards of foot gashing glass are sought.

    The cabinet doors are victims of late-night doodle fests wrought with intricately meaningless cuneiform, curlicues, cartoons, and porn. Coupled with globs of wax, p-tex, and art projects are pickled doll parts, hacked and reglommed army men, and circuit boards that have "You Are Here-->" stenciled into them.

    It is home to a rainforest of new, undocumented species.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Buzz Off!

    Swimming with a pack of sharks, tumbling from the summit of the Matterhorn, rescuing a boy from the clutches of the last grizzly in Colorado. My explanations for how I tore my ACL bear no ties to reality. The truth is far less exciting. I've had my fair share of slopestyle face plants, bump ejections, pillow drops gone horribly wrong—by 180 degrees or so—and yet prior to this year, invincibility was still an ideal to which I clung. My insides would heal forever.


    "Walk it off, Izzy." They were there hiking in Chautauqua with me when I landed on my knee. I felt the pop and my friends laughed, thinking I was putting them on. Now I remember the pain as it shot through my leg. It wasn't what they said, nor was there an audible "pop," just a buzzing. White pain, brain on fire, fear, instant anxiety, verbal exfoliation.


    The MRI. Distract yourself. Think back to school. Magnetic forces aligning. Purely scientific. Block out the annoying noise coming through the ear cups. It's OK, the MRI will show that between my femur and tibia is a mass of indestructible tissue on par with moly-infused iron.


    Whistler. Tahoe. Jackson. Each year we trek to some altar of skiing lore. Last year was to Little Cottonwood Canyon in the midst of a 120-inch week. This year was to be a pond-skip to the heart of the Alps, but my injury has rechristened the epic journey described early on as "Cham '06" to "Revenge of Chamo-knee '07." One more year. As I reflect on last year's holy road to Alta, road signs surface in my brain. I see nothing but hives.


    The nest outside of the office, the hive in our chimney, one in the bird feeder. The yellow jacket that kicked me when I was down, stinging me pell-mell in the roof of my goddam mouth on a single-track trip to Aspen. Buzzing on the Monkey Traverse as late as September. The insurance salesman sending me a box with—guess what, Mike?—a stuffed wasp. On the TV I hear a voice: "Wondering what all the buzz is about?" No. Go screw yourself. Take your damned striped buddies with you.


    The October classic features the forlorn Astros, a team referred to by those on the idiot box as "killer bees." Lost in my appraisal of this nonsense is the buzzing of a coming scalpel, iodine, sevofluorane, marcaine, oxycodone, propofol, stool softener, wings.


    David comes down the mountain, full of piss and vinegar and that goofy grin that he sports when Grand County turns white, gearing up for a pre-rando fest in the Berthoud Pass back-woods. "Have you noticed all of the bees? I just read in the Farmer's Almanac that bees mean an epic ski season ahead!"

    Goddammed bees (and David).

    Post-op: sitting in the recovery room three flights above the OR, I see cards, faces, smiles, hope—and I know that all is well. I was warned about tinnitus, the medical term for buzzing in the ears brought on by certain medications. But in the corner, circling the floral display—a bouquet meant to bring calm and good health—is my winter nemesis.

    Buzz off.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    How to Ski With a Broken Heart


    There was never a time when you weren't there somewhere, waiting at the top of the chair, just one mountain over. In every sharply drawn tree line, and over each crest; on the side of all the pitches I have skied, and at the end of each ragged trail. There you were behind each closing gondola door, just beyond the turn in all the lift line mazes, three chairs ahead of me on every lift I ever rode. You were the keynote in every yodeling echo, just over there beyond the dip. Every detour on the trail map made you righter, slightly nearer, more like home.

    I was missing all the signs until now, looking for the diamonds rather than the easy greens. I guess I needed lots of injuries to know what it would feel like not to ache; to understand the opposite of struggling on the wrong edge. To believe that extending in the right direction makes for effortless flight and that going with gravity brings a lark into my hand. To be able to truly see the markers that guide me down the mountain in a storm, right into your marmot arms. After all of my flimsy and unsettled homes, here is one of metaphysical brick, that sits on any mountain that you ride.

    Through the gathering momentum and wisdom earned from rope tow burns and T-bar tumbles, and a million broken hearts, I knew you were always there, only one run over, bouncing toward me. In every second ticking over on the clock, in every lift ticket sold on each snowy day, in all the wet-heavy clouds, on each flight schedule to the west, there you were. You could have been any duct-taped bum in any lift line and I would have known you. If I had saved all my heart’s squanderings, I would have what you deserve and I would rub your feet at the end of every ski day, until there were 100.


    On this epic blue morning in early December when you feel like you are stealing a secret, you notice once again how the mountain swallows up your knots and opens up your wonder. Winds of psalms gust through your heart. You stand in a jagged stunning cathedral, a life reminder, a check of time, and you feel your best self flying strong.

    And last night you noticed how they are still all young and hard and sweet, like the ones you dreamed of then who held you tight and hold you now. To feel that again–how heaven is–fills you up to almost tears. To remember the steely innocence of ski boys; how they feel, how they smell, and how that is lost in all but time.

    You dance that nostalgia at a filmy distance in a western ski bar with a sweet drunk boy, close but twice removed from forever and your true north; the way you didn't go. A pulse of regret, a tingly ache for yesterday and a wish for another chance to try to dance it right. Right down the mountain road to the cabin where the iron drips wax onto empty beer cases.

    Right down the right path to the right place to be, under a cascade of stars looking down at the children of regret and sending the guts to move them forward to the mountains of their youth where they can stay up high and clear and never turn their gaze nor waver from the right line.

    How to get back there from here consumes and fires you. You keep trying to fly yourself home.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    This Is Not a Test

    Error. Fuck. Press the button again. Same thing—just some digital facsimile of "Er" candy-apple red on the screen. Why am I thinking that? Goddammit! Press it again. No, wait. You've already done it five times! Try something else. Ok, ok, ok. Uh... Battery check. Maybe that's it. No, no it's good—92 percent, same as this morning. Ninety-two freaking per cent, it has to work... Ok. New plan. Turn it off. That's it. Alright, now turn on... Good... Switch to receive and ... BEEEEP BEEEEP. Shit, oh my god, oh my god that was it—it wasn't on receive. Am I a goddamn idiot or what? I mean how many times have I done this before... Hey! Never mind that shit just forget whether you're an idiot or not or what you've done and just stop thinking... Now! Oh god, he's in here, right in front of me, so close, oh man—hold the thing still. Level. Sweep. BEEEEP BEEEEP. Ok, ok stop frickin' shaking you idiot and focus. Breathe. No! Don't hold the breath in, let it out. Let it out! Oh man, right here, right here, right frickin' here. Less than a meter, has to be here... Move that snow. Move the big pieces first. Why'd we leave our packs in the lodge? It's ok, you can use a ski to dig if you have to but it's not great 'cause remember when you tried to dig out that... Holy shit! That's blood, right here. Ok, that's a good sign... Maybe... Slow down, move the snow gently... Yes! Hair, that's Ben's hair... Back or side? Too much blood... Where's his head? Where is his goddamn head? Bloody piece of scalp and hair attached to fucking nothing... No, no, no, it's on this side, this piece is just folded away. Ok, ok, ok. Awwww you've got to be freaking kidding me, he scalped himself! "Ben! Ben! Come on. That's it, move a bit, cool." Push up man. Push up... Alright. "Hey man, listen. You got a bad cut on your scalp (that's an understatement), bit of a flap hanging down. I'm going to put this hat on your head to hold it on and stop the blood. Just sit tight, man... You're going to be fine." You can't die!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    My Own Private Armpit
    Love is a good place for a Stick-Up.

    Early October. I find him parked on a bench in front of the sushi place, wearing the same sneakers as I, thumbing through a back issue of Powder. I'm not-so-stylishly late for our second dinner date. After a bout of nervous grinning at each other, we tuck into the hipster locale and sit at what will become our favorite table for nigiri and miso. I try to focus on the obligatory getting-to-know-you banter, but I really want to throw myself at him. The magazine is open to a story on Big Sky, a place I called home for a short while. He deftly scoots right next to me, to better share the photos of a skier exploding over the precipice of the A to Z Chutes. His lanky leg presses next to mine, and I can smell his soapy warmness and see freckles near his blueberry eyes. Sunny, sinewy forearms ruffle the glossy pages, and we are transported from our wasabi nook in foggy surf city to our snowy imaginations, our slightly embellished memories. We dive into fantastical images of what the upcoming winter will surely opportune. I am smitten. Deeply.

    Late November. "Dude, gettah watch!" An urgent if not aggravated voice shouts through the plywood bedroom door and my barely wakened haze. Slowly I gather clues: the flannel warmth of a foreign, saggy bed; the cozy nest of the Capilene armpit I've been slumbering in; the drab garage-sale décor of a rental ski condo. It's Thanksgiving weekend and I'm in Mammoth. The door creaks open and a hulking figure arrives at the foot of the bed, fleecy arms folded across a broad chest. "Dude, get up."

    I know it's not for me. Armpit's ski partners have no tolerance for the sensual sleepiness that follows an all-night love fest with one's energetic new girlfriend. Nine in the morning is a disrespectful time to gather yourself on a powder day. Yet Mr. Aggravated waits, pleasantly disgruntled and keenly aware that Armpit owns the wagon that is the group's shuttle to the Chair 2 parking area.

    Hastily I make myself decent (wrestle into sports bra, pull on long undies, attempt to smooth passion-styled cave-woman bed head), and wander out to meet these desperate skiers. I find them gripping steaming mugs of java, pacing around in tattered yet top-of-the-line base layers, knee pads Velcroed snugly to their patellas, their beer-enhanced torsos encircled by various generations of avalanche transceivers. They utter distracted greetings, briefly size me up, and point us to the pot of sludgy molten oatmeal on the stove.

    Morning reveals a cavernous dorm for thirty-something dirt bags turned upwardly mobile 9-to-5ers. Unusually robust skis lean up against all available walls, duct tape-wrapped poles teeter in a pile, a rainbow of sticker-plastered helmet-goggle hybrids peers outward from its lineup on the mantle, and stacks of ski mags reveal the singular interest of the gentlemen that will gather here each and every weekend until May. Even then, they will not relinquish their passion just because the calendar declares summer. When the resort season ends they will sojourn deeper into the backcountry, but that is another story only they can pen.

    Occasionally, a lady will join the group. A well appointed wife who "hates the cold" or a business-student girlfriend who studies at the miniscule kitchen table all day. This is generally boy territory though, and the multiple bottles of Jack Daniels, the crumb-mountains on the kitchen counter, and dank towels draped on the loft banister clearly reveal the lack of a consistent female presence. Only later, in the hairy shower, will I discover a bottle of something fruity, frothy, and feminine; evidence of the lone woman who pays a monthly share of rent on this seasonal homestead.

    Mid February. Another glorious weekend in Mammoth. The condo fellows have dispatched to climb and ski something ominous on their tick list, Bloody Couloir, and I have him to myself. The chilled batteries in the GPS fail, and despite the confused urgings of the computer to head toward Tahoe, Armpit expertly guides us to Reds Meadow. We tenaciously, happily, spend most of the day descending to a slow winter creek, crossing under a partially frozen waterfall, traversing some icy dicey business, and skinning unexpectedly uphill. Just when we think we're lost he spots the ethereal wisp of steam, and then the tiny log cabin—a winter ranger's home.

    On the rotten decking, mere seconds after our arrival, all apparel is discarded and we slosh clumsily and self consciously into the dark, sulfurous waters. Our cheeks pinken, my sweaty braids freeze solid, and my toes are reborn from the snug confines of my Magics. Looming above us, in our deliciously private hot spring, is the backside of the resort. A crusty-looking skin track snakes up the slope of burnt trees, evidence of cunning skiers who have enjoyed this spot before us. Diamond-studded sunshine gives way to a pinky-orange gentle sunset. Half a bottle of red wine and dark chocolate later and I'm in utopia. The company isn't half bad either; clever, rangy, hearty laugher. Except his camera seems to be pointed where it ought not. I am in love. Deeply. Silvery moonlight and yips of coyotes escort us home through Tamarack.

    Late March. We sit in the neighborhood health-food eatery, snarkily guffawing at our pasty vegan servers while engaged in travel plans to Kauai. Armpit seems shifty, smiling at off moments, giving sideways glances. I tense up, assuming the worst. He has something to tell me. The season's over, and our relationship with it. Armpit is about to eject me for a comely lass that can actually link her turns rather than careen recklessly and unsexily down the mildest of groomers.

    I need a cool response. Show no emotion. I can take it. Then he mumbles something about a new job.

    Shifting into enthusiastic, tell-me-all-about-it mode, I feign confidence and excitement. Armpit says his new job is not here in Orange County. It's not even in the Golden State. Suddenly the soybean curd is cavorting in my gut, and my grandiose vision of Armpit and I enjoying the good life together falls thuddingly apart. Colorado is calling him, he says, and he is set to go. I smile and say I'm happy for him.

    The next few days are gloomy, cautious. Not wanting to assume anything, I avoid the subject. We play in the waves on the north side of the pier, laughing our wet-rat heads off, gazing across the smoggy ocean toward Catalina Island, sucking down mouthfuls of e. coli and sandy water. A final mushy wave slides my boogie board onto the blond sand well ahead of me. As the water rushes back out again, I catch a glimpse of Armpit's arms flailing into the air as he surfs to glory. The sun is dipping low behind the blue Pacific horizon as we pad barefoot in our wetsuits along PCH back to his apartment and the hot shower.

    "So," he says, charmingly, auspiciously, and to my surprise and delight, "when can you move to Colorado?"

    Late November. Married two months. The thermometer reads a snappy 12 degrees, and there is at least a foot of fluffy snow on the deck. The dogs are running squirrel-recovery missions among the leafless aspens and exuberantly pawing at my hoodie. I wander back inside to the warmth of the pellet stove, twirl the ring on my left hand, and feel the engraved letters of our wedding day scrape against my skins. Unusually wide skis lean up against our living room wall, the bright yellow skins neatly bundled in their sack.

    I am smitten. Deeply. Even the thirty-something dirt bags are my friends now. My skis, my skins. My Armpit.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    My preseason of discontent—and blowing shit up

    I rapidly tired of disemboweling lizards. Concealing concrete blocks in cardboard boxes and stacking them on the side of the road for Fiat drivers to swerve into also had a limited shelf life. Even the cicadas, still singing and ripe for a .177 pellet to the exoskeleton, lost my interest after a while. But in Marina di Carrara, these were about as good as it got.

    There are plenty worse places for a kid, largely left to his own devices, to spend his tenth year. We lived two blocks from the beach and one from Di Lieto's amusement arcade. The arcade's football tables were badly chipped and the whole joint held the vague tang of Di Lieto's body odor. The smart set had long since decamped to Forte dei Marmi, five miles down the Ligurian coast. The summer crowds were back in Turin, Milan, Genoa, and wherever the hell else they descended from. Carrara was just idling at tickover, the hoteliers kicking their heels, the marble quarrymen blasting in the hills. And Paolo Giammalva was giving it large about the upcoming ski season.

    "You know there's already a foot of snow up at Abetone?" Paolo ventured, gazing up from our airless game of air hockey. His words clambered over a trapful of liquorice.

    Later, in the parking lot of the Scuola Italiana Sci Abetone, Paolo and I watched as his mother sped off in a cloud of dust in her ancient Merc. There did appear to be at least six inches of fresh on the clear-cuts of the rounded Apennine hills. Mrs. G was off to spend the day with the butcher from Lucca, giving us the time we needed. "Get going, fatty," puffed the not-so-svelte Paolo as he clattered across the car park in his ancient Dalbello two-clip boots and ill-fitting one-piece. "We're late." Indeed, there was much work to do.

    You could set your watch by Alessandro, the ski patrol guy. This time of year he'd emerge from the bowels of the ancient gondola station at 6:30, scratch his nuts in contemplation, then switch on the engine of the red cat machine before retiring for espresso. This was our five-minute window. Paolo climbed onto the roof of the cat. I passed our skis up, then joined him under the tarp on top of the cab among patrol ropes, boundary poles, and Alessandro's six-pack of Nastro Azzuri he would use to get gently drunk later in the morning.

    6:35. The door to the patrol room opened and clanged shut. Two minutes later, following Alessandro's nasal excavation project, the cat lurched into gear as we began the 25-minute bump and grind to the upper lift station. The clatter drowned out the sounds of our movement above the cab. "Check me out, I'm Rommel!" boasted Paolo, poking his head out of the tarp facing forward. Paolo's father was still in denial that Axis forces lost the war, and some of it rubbed off on his son. I didn't hold it against him. Besides, he was way too young to grow a moustache.

    Our plan, like on previous outings, was to hitch to the top and wait for 'Sandro to fire up the bullwheel of the old gondola that the resort bought in a fire sale from a Hawaiian resort. When he wasn't looking we'd skip down the cat track to hide behind the toilet block next to the explosives shed. It guaranteed first tracks down Sestaione, followed by a surreptitious blast through the larches into the Valle de Lima. We'd spend the rest of the day damming the river and building snowmen over concrete bollards along the Sestola Road. But today was different. Today 'Sandro unlocked the explosives shed.

    Ten-year-old feral kids have a hard time resisting temptation, especially where ordnance is concerned. Paolo and I both grew up with explosives. Our fathers worked at the marble quarries above town and each New Year's Eve they would treat us to spectacularly reckless fireworks displays of drunken bravado. We'd never lit any ourselves, but when 'Sandro fired up the cat and chugged off to blast the open slope at Foce di Campolino, opportunity knocked.

    The explosives shed stank of dead birds and the only light came through a tiny, rime-encrusted picture window. Glass cracked underfoot as we crept to the racks on the far wall. There was a girly calendar three years out of date, and a pile of old newspapers on the table (which today strike me as nostalgically appealing fire hazards). Paolo clambered onto the racks and burrowed into a box at the back. "Get the biggest one," I urged. "And get one for me."

    "Do we need det cord?"

    "No, just grab a couple of the Brianzas." Brianzas were our term for the fat charges that looked like one of the locally produced salamis.

    "I've got a whole box of 16 here," said Paoli.

    "Bring 'em." We carried our bounty into the daylight. The Brianzas were a year out of date, so we decided to test one right then and there before skiing off with a hefty crate of 15. "When it's lit," I directed, "we'll chuck it in the toilet. That'll mask the noise."

    Since Paolo threw like a girl, I decided to lob the fizzing stick through the gaping shithouse door myself. After three attempts to light the charge it wouldn't take. I pulled the fuse a little and rubbed it between my fingers to roughen and dry it. Still nothing.

    "Trust you to pick the only duff box," I shot at Paolo, jabbing the Brianza into his midsection like an accusing finger. "Go back and get another one. And take this one back with you." Paolo emitted a scornful snort and carted the box away, disappearing into the shed.

    Seconds later, he ran out shrieking. And for a fat guy, Paolo was motoring. His eyes were bulging as he came belting towards me, arms windmilling in graceless opposition. It was comical for half a second until I realized what was about to happen.

    My stomach dropped into my boots. When the shed went up the percussive jolt threw me face-first 50-yards down Abetone's steepest run. Every tree lining the piste dropped its snow in spontaneous incontinence. As I lay there, stunned, smoking debris dropped from the sky in staccato pitter-patters. My ears whistled wildly. Paolo's feet were sticking out of a berm 20 feet farther downhill.


    "Oooooh fuck," answered Paolo.

    "Jesus, are we in for it now."

    "It's completely vanished. Gone."

    "Never mind the shed, look at the gondola."

    A huge bite had been taken out of the lift station. The fiberglass was a blizzard of crazed shrapnel. The mangled lift mechanism was a riot of twisted metal, the guide rails ticking as they cooled into warped spirals.


    "Sestaione!" And we bolted down the hill.

    I don't recall much of that first and last run of the '78-'79 season. I clacked onto the tarmac of the Sestola road, took off my skis, and glanced up at the pall of smoke still hanging over Abetone.

    We were silent the whole way down, and certainly didn't discuss Paolo's patent soiling of himself on the hill. It was the last either of us would see of the resort; Paolo received a lifetime ban and I was exiled to England to live with my mother.

    Twenty-five years later the sound of patrol bombs still makes me grin widely. And I can still see Paolo "Blower" Giammalva's cotton underpants dangling from the branch of a larch tree by the side of the Sestola Road.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Sounds of Your Experience

    Some rally you to rhapsody,
    In tune with sweet days and bluebird moments.
    The diminishing beat of the lift's bullwheel,
    The shivering schuss away into a silent corrie,
    Onto smooth running across blank snow that gently crumps below,
    The sound thwump of a well stomped landing,
    The deflation of a lift cushion when sitting back after the knee burner.

    Some signify the shock.
    They crescendo and attack and bring you down into a ball.
    Face in the snow, listening to your winded lungs.
    What caused this wheezing breath?
    The silence of powder running is grabbed and throttled,
    By a rocky sss-snag that scrapes steel and peels P-Tex.
    Or the skittering clatter of edge grappling for bite on ice,
    And failing, then falling into a slither of abrading Gore-Tex.

    The Visage of Winter

    One day
    the scrape of metal edges
    over a slope of glazed ice,
    and the roar of the lift
    as it tirelessly ascends the mountain.

    The next day
    unutterable silence
    of sparkling-white, untracked powder
    below the outstretched arms of the native inhabitants,
    which are adorned with priceless jewelry of white.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Six Easy Rules for Seducing Your Very Own Canadian Bootfitter
    By C.J. FEEHAN

    Return to your illegal summer job in Canada, the job where you coach skiing without a visa for an American company on the Blackcomb glacier. It's a kick-ass gig, and the company you work for is sponsored by the local bootfitting shop because the owner of the shop (an American) has a ski-racing daughter who needs to be coached, and Whistler is so much closer to his Utah home than Chile or the French Alps. As a part of your job—your illegal job—you will be sent to the aforementioned store to clarify details regarding the relationship between the company you work for and the bootfitters. Take note of the guy who manages the shop, the guy you've sort of known for three years but never bothered to pay any attention to because he seemed geeky. He isn't geeky anymore. He's ditched the glasses and he's grown a patch of fuzz under his lower lip (and you know what that's good for).

    Pretend to be flattered by the bootfitter's sophomoric advances and unabashed forwardness. Leave open-ended messages on his voicemail under the guise of conducting business. When he meets you for the second time, he'll tell you he wants to do naughty things to you. Play dumb. But after he buys you a drink whose name you can't pronounce and then takes you back to his place that's decorated like the Polynesian Village in Disney World, try out some of those naughty things with him.

    Agree to run away to the undeveloped property that the bootfitter owns in a remote location off the coast of the Pacific for a holiday weekend. Ride the ferry. Take your Subaru off-roading, go skinny-dipping, build a fire during drought season and have the lesbian neighbors call you crazy, smoke up before prancing through an enchanted forest, and make passionate love for two straight days. When you get back to Whistler, spend an insane amount of money on a bicycle that will be stolen three days later. It will be worth it in the end because the bootfitter will be with you when you discover the cut lock, and the experience will bring you closer together. You will feel his heart beating while you rest your sorrowful head on his chest. He will hold you tight. Try as you might, you will never be able to purge this moment from your memory.

    Leave Canada much later than you were supposed to. Go back to California. Change your entire life. Instead of staying in the city for the year and aspiring to greatness, take a job in the mountains and aspire to make rent each month. Send the bootfitter a postcard, letter, or package every couple of weeks. Burn him Jack Johnson and Donovan Frankenreiter albums. Sign up for unlimited long-distance calls to anywhere in North America. It will be three dollars cheaper if you limit your plan to the continental U.S., but you'll probably want to call that bootfitter in Canada once in a while.

    Never refer to him as your boyfriend.

    Carve out a long weekend to fly back to Canada. Bring your new bike, the bike you couldn't afford the first time around but replaced when the original was stolen. It looks just like the stolen one, but it isn't exactly the same. The bike is your excuse for travel.

    Show up to ride your bike after not seeing the bootfitter for almost two months. Expect things to be the same as they were the last time you lay in his bed, when he held you close and tried to comfort you.

    Lean in to kiss him. He won't kiss you back. He'll tell you he's saving kissing for more romantic encounters, like with a girlfriend. That's his way of saying you will never be his girlfriend.

    Wonder if you ever wanted to be his girlfriend to begin with.

    Unable to answer that question for yourself, get out of bed in the middle of the night because you feel cheap, like a prostitute, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she'll do anything to Richard Gere but kiss him on the lips.

    Sleep on the couch. It will be freezing in the living room and you'll shiver all night.

    The following morning, get into a disagreement over the course of your relationship even as friends, feel tears running down your cheeks for the first time since your bike was stolen, and then watch the bootfitter leave for work at 6:45 AM. Agree to call him, to stay in touch, but don't give your promise a specific timeframe. You'll need more than just hours to think this all through.

    Sleep in until 8 AM. Your eyes will be closed but your mind will be racing. Wake up, climb the ladder to his loft, and jump on the computer to figure out how to get to Vancouver in time for your flight. While checking bus schedules, you'll recognize an envelope you sent him weeks ago, back during Rule 4, tucked into a stack of papers. You know it's wrong to look through those papers, but you're moved that he's kept the envelope and not just the letter. You want to know if he saves all your letters and their corresponding envelopes. He does.

    But he also has all the letters from Lisa and Jill and Courtney and Kelly. They are dated one week ago, three weeks ago, last month, last year.

    Try your hardest not to throw up, then throw up anyway.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    A Faint Cold Fear

    "Scoop!" I yell. A nickname. I don't even remember where it comes from. I brush a bit of snow off my helmet and continue to scan the trees.

    The snow is fresh and deep in this tight, wooded section between runs at our local hill, but my smile has long faded. I can see pretty far uphill, but to my right and left things close off quickly. Below me, it gets even tighter.

    A bird breaks the quiet and flies out of a nearby tree, making my heart jump. "Scoop!" I yell again. I train my ears for the slightest shwish of skis, thwack of branch on coat, or a cry of glee.

    No bird or human answer. Concern creeps over me like a cold coat. I had the lead, he should be above. The turns were sweet, too sweet to stop, but now I think I should have stopped a little earlier. "Scoop!" I cry again.

    I fidget in the snow. How long have I been standing here? Perhaps he stopped somewhere above, to the left or right, out of sight and out of earshot. Perhaps he's still standing there, doing the same as I.

    "Scoop!!" I put everything behind it, but still nothing. How did this happen? Is he below me? By now he's had plenty of time to get all the way down, or

    Tree well. He's upside down, head under the snow, arms and legs flailing, energy evaporating. New snow is collapsing inside, air getting hard to come by.

    He hit a tree. No. Please no. A solid trunk. A heavy branch. A speedy impact, a sickening thud, lights out, snow turning red.


    My voice is hoarse and I am paralyzed by indecision. What do I do? Climb up? Ski down and report? Sit tight and wait?


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Bee Sea
    C'est super cool!

    Just what I needed on a couch-surfing July Saturday. Thanks.

    I ski because I was born without wings.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    gone north, but still on the west side
    Roo for president. F-ing hilarious!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Just when I thought the world only consisted of work and sleep, I come across this thread. There IS something else out there!

    Dude, I'm sorry for the silence. I wish there was room for more right now. Until then, this will get me thru.
    People shooting ski areas should be sued.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Peach Pantsuit
    Thanks. Excellent literary (re)stoke for July.

    I have a favorite......but I'm biased.
    bodies be all up on my behind

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Where the center is on the right
    Bump for good stuff.
    "If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough."

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