Greg Dennis: Remedies for snow-starved skiers

Mad River Glen is famous for its “Ski It If You Can” slogan.
But in a winter like this one, what’s a skier to do if — ski it, you can’t?
Despite a bit of white stuff this week, we are in the grip of one of the warmest winters in memory, due in part to climate change and El Niño. So while Colorado skiers are experiencing Powder Nirvana, we have so far been consigned to a Vermont “winter” that resembles nothing so much as Georgia in January.
There haven’t yet been reports of skiers jumping off buildings onto bare sidewalks, but you’ve gotta wonder when it’s ever gonna snow again.
And by snow I mean not the two inches that fell Monday night. I mean — you know, snow. The kind they get in Baltimore and Boston.
The kind that makes it worth getting up at 6 a.m. to drive up the mountain in a white-out so you can be on the first chair at 8. Enough so that there are still fresh tracks after lunch, and plenty more in the woods a day or two later.
Sure, the snowmaking at the Snow Bowl and Sugarbush is excellent. So we’ve been able for the past few weeks to slide down something resembling the real thing.
But even the best snowmaking can only do so much when Mother Nature throws 24 hours of heavy rain at you.
In the aftermath of last week’s wipeout, the daily report from Sugarbush this week was warning people to “ski with care” because “thin cover exists on trail edges.” In case you were wondering, “thin cover” is a euphemism for “bare ground.”
Après le deluge, Mad River took a big hit. That ski area suffers mightily in winters like this one, because it lacks much snowmaking and has the quaint belief that skiing should involve actual real snow.
So while Mad River’s ever-entertaining marketing director, Eric Friedman, was wishfully touting MRG as “the Revenant of ski areas,” even Friedman had to confess on Tuesday: “Despite the new snow, we have been forced to suspend operations again during the midweek period.”
Most New England mountain resorts have closed any trail that doesn’t have snowmaking. And even many of the steeper trails with snowmaking now resemble semi-vertical skating rinks.
Absent the rare phenomenon of a decent snowfall, I offer here a few alternative activities for skiers and boarders. (And a caveat: I had to meet a Tuesday deadline, so if you’re reading this on Friday and it’s been snowing all week, have pity on a columnist forced to obey Father Time. And besides, I try not to let reality interfere with a column idea.)
So, my fellow skiers, assuming conditions remain well short of excellent I suggest you consider the following:
• Practice your golf game. After all, people were competing for local tee times the week before Christmas. So the course could open up again any day now.
• Organize a cookout on your patio. Why wait until August when conditions are so promising right now?
• Tote up the savings on your heating bill. Unless you were unlucky enough to be one of us who did the pre-buy at a much higher price than the current one, you’re saving a bundle on heat. Put it in your piggy bank and use it to pay for next winter’s season pass. (Hope springs eternal within the skier’s breast.)
• Be honest: Couldn’t your closets use a good cleaning?
• Bernie or Hillary? Debate endlessly.
• Take a nice long walk in the woods. No bugs! And none of that pesky white stuff to get in the way.
• Try out all those new soup recipes.
• Knit one, purl two.
• Drive south. I hear the skiing is really good right now at Wachusett.
• Buddhists say it’s calming to chant “om.” Except in this case, chant “s-n-o-o-o-w-w.”
• Get on YouTube and watch endless clips of people skiing deep powder. Warning: While this may temporarily ease symptoms for some skiers, it has been known to send others into such a deep tailspin that they immediately blow their bank account by buying a plane ticket to Aspen.
• Buy a plane ticket to Aspen. Your bank account will recover.
And if all else fails, spend a few minutes contemplating what the slopes will be like if Vermont decides to legalize marijuana.
“Supporters are definitely playing the cannabis-tourism thing up big, playing off the microbrewery example,” the Vermont Ski Areas Association’s Parker Riehle told SkiNet.com. “It’s possible that it’s the next new niche that plays into Vermont’s localvore, agriconomy thing.”
It should be noted that Riehle also said: “We’d want to stress to moms, in particular, who make a lot of the family vacation decisions, that they’re not going to walk into a cloud of pot smoke if they come to Vermont.”
Just in case you were worried about those pot smoke clouds.
But really, in this paltry winter our imaginations can run wild.
As MRG’s Freidman said when SkiNet.com asked about legalization, “Can you imagine Mad River-branded weed? ‘Smoke It if You Can’? I’m having a field day with the possibilities.”
And one more suggestion. If things get really bad and the snow has evaporated a week from now, you can always go out and mow the lawn.
Greg Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: gregdennisvt@yahoo.com. Twitter: @greengregdennis.

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