Getting Over It

On October 13, 2012, in Uncategorized, by admin

I don’t remember exactly when I first had my dream, but it’s one of the very few recurring dreams I’ve had in my otherwise richly populated but poorly remembered nightscape. I suppose it was sometime in my late teens, because it involved skiing along a narrow, sinuous trail that followed the contours of a big mountain that most definitely wasn’t Pats Peak. In the earliest versions of the dream, it was Great Eastern at Killington. Later versions featured Bear Claw at Loon, and later still, Oblivion here in the Valley.

Setting that aside, the dream is always the same: bright sun and deep packed snow, eventually morphing to glorious spring corn. In my dream, I am always with friends — first my high school ski pal, Todd, but later a precession of other great friends — and we’re always skiing along and laughing when we round the bend and the snow abruptly ends, leaving us to sadly remove our skis and walk through the muddy grass, the delight of ski season crashing down to an untimely end.

My recurring dream came perilously close to reality last March when, after a decidedly dicey season, winter came to an unceremonious end after days of bright sun and unseasonably warm temperatures. One weekend, we picked our way down Sunnyside, carefully steering around ever growing brown patches, till the brown patches had grown to the width of the Gema headwall, leaving one turn’s worth of suspiciously greyish-white cover on the far skier’s right. We shifted to the front side, then to Northside, seeking shadows and snow that didn’t splash with each turn. The only refuge was the very narrow lee of the trees on Tyler, and in our heart of hearts we knew it was all but over.

Rumors circulated that the Resort was going to hold out for two more weeks, that they’d secretly been banking snow and really wanted to honor commitments to late-season skiers coming in from the UK. We watched the brown patches grow bigger each day and shook our heads. We were going down hard. By the last Saturday in March, we knew it was over, even if the lifts were still turning. Nancy, Nathan, Ellie and I called a few friends and met in the seasonal locker room for one more morning of skiing. We were rattled by how much snow had disappeared under the lift. The Chute was more granite than snow. At the top, we skied off the lift and made our way over to the top of Northside.

We all set off down Tippe, carefully threading our way though the bare spots. Incredulous that it was all grinding down so far, so fast, we took the lift up one more time and tried Tyler. Same story, different book. Surprisingly, the best snow and the best turns of the day were to be found over on Valley Run, where the low angle and occasional shade kept things somewhat wintry, at least till you hit the frightening cravasses at the top of the Valley headwall.

And so it ended, with hugs and handshakes and a sense of disbelief for a season that almost never was. I don’t think I could identify it at the time, but somewhere down inside, I felt cheated and angry. I tossed my skis into the our locker unceremoniously and stashed my boot bag in my cubby at home without much further thought. If winter wanted to abandon me, I could do perfectly well without winter. Let the mountain biking begin. My bad skiing dream had finally come true.

The spring and early summer passed without much ceremony. I was busy with work and family commitments. Somewhere down inside, I was still angry. When I had ski dreams, they all ended in patches of dirt and snow so slushy it was no fun to slide on. Every dream was like reliving the worst last day I could remember.

Finally, something broke, like the fall weather finally turning cold and the snow guns lighting up on High Country. I woke to the early August sun streaming through my bedroom window, and realized I’d had a mid-winter dream, one of high snow banks and smooth trails and gliding at top speed. I was getting over it. Within a few weeks, I had ordered new skis on eBay and booked a ski week out west with my family. Sometimes it takes a while, but we skiers are nothing if not resilient by nature.

Today was a typical stick-season day in the Valley. The morning sun revealed a surprise dusting of fresh snow on Tecumseh, coating the trails all the way down Sunnyside. Blustery winds blew occasional snow showers about, and the faithful, or slightly ski-addled, took each big flake as a portent of great things coming. Last season sucked. I can say that now. I know the season to come will be much, much better.

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If you’re a fan of Waterville Valley, you’re probably a fan of the Greeley Ponds Trail, too. It stands for many of the best things about life in the Valley: family hikes, the enduring beauty of nature, and the hardscrabble history of loggers and farmers who realized the real value of the land was in welcoming visitors looking for peace and a connection with the mountains. The Greeley Ponds Trail was, for all intents and purposes, scrubbed from the map by flood waters from the remnants of Hurricane Irene in August, 2011. Now, the Waterville Valley Foundation has joined forces with the Waterville Valley Athletic and Improvement Association, the National Forest Service, and the National Forest Foundation to restore this historic trail. To find out more, please visit restoregreeleypondstrail.org.

 

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