Greg Dennis: Random notes from the ski slopes
Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex expert, says that skiers make the best lovers. “They don’t sit in front of a television like couch potatoes,” she explained. “They take a risk and they wiggle their behinds. They also meet new people on the ski lift.”
She might have added that skiers get the health benefits of spending a lot of time in the great outdoors and that they are, by and large, extroverts. Maybe it’s all that time on the chairlift and in apres ski. Whatever the reason, skiing and conviviality just seem to go together.
I spend most of my ski days at Sugarbush. It’s big and well run, has plenty of steeps, and is less than an hour’s drive if the roads aren’t snowy.
I fell in love with the place as a kid when Stein Eriksen ran the ski school. There was a novice trail called Tranquilizer, and the presence of fancy-schmancy New Yorkers earned it the derisive nickname of Mascara Mountain.
These days I also ski Sugarbush because for those of us 65 and older, it offers the absolute best deal in skiing. The Boomer Pass (AKA “Geezer Pass”) starts at $169 for midweek, non-holiday skiing all season long.
At that price I can also afford to buy a Mad River Glen six-day pass. A large, informal group of us likes to ski Mad River on Friday afternoons and then repair to General Stark’s Pub in the charming old Basebox.
Every one of us is at least 60 years old — decades past our youth — so any afternoon on the slopes feels like a bonus. We know one day it will all end.
A couple of years ago, sadly, one member of that informal ski group had a medical incident on the way home. He never really recovered, and died not long after. Another friend of the group, ill with brain cancer, took his last ski trip out west this past December. He passed on to the Big Mogul in the Sky a few weeks later.
See what I did there: two of life’s great themes, sex and death, in just the first eight paragraphs. Meaning that everything else in this column will go, ahem, downhill from here.
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Beer remains the skier’s intoxicant of choice. But cannabis is a close second.
There’s always been a below-the-radar “lets get stoned and go skiing” scene. But as cannabis in its various forms moves into the mainstream, it’s increasingly common to see someone vaping on the chairlift. Or, god forbid, in the parking lot before taking their first run of the day.
Stoned skiers scare me a lot less than drunk ones, though. Every time I see someone quaffing a cool one in the base lodge bar at 11 a.m., I say a little prayer that they won’t plow into me on the hill once they finish their liquid lunch.
Vermont is currently in the Wild West of somewhat legal but unregulated marijuana. I’m rooting for our state House of Representatives and Gov. Scott to come to their senses and decide to tax and regulate cannabis.
If they do, Vermont’s ski industry will have some interesting choices to make about how they approach more overt smoking on the slopes.
Eric Friedman, the eminently quotable communications director at Mad River, put it this way in a Ski magazine article: “Can you imagine Mad River-branded weed? ‘Smoke It if You Can’? I’m having a field day with the possibilities.”
The article said Friedman opposes legalization, and that at the time of the article, the board of the shareholder-owned Mad River cooperative had decided to take no position on it.
“We’ve talked about it, and among Mad River skiers and co-op members we have some people here that are really involved in lobbying for legalization,” Friedman said. “But from the co-op’s perspective we don’t want to come out one way or the other. We have a really diverse community of skiers, from dirt-bag weed-smoking hippies to arch-conservatives, and we would never try to speak for all of them.”
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Heading into what is often the snowiest month of the year, Vermont skiers have a lot to be happy about. Despite the increasingly common freeze-and-thaw cycles that come with climate change, the base of snow on the slopes is relatively deep.
The Snow Bowl seems to be running the lifts later into the season these days, and it’s quite possible that Sugarbush will remain open until early May.
With the trout opener set for April 13, a bunch of us are already dreaming of trifecta days: skiing on corn snow in the morning, fishing the New Haven River in the afternoon, and topping it all off with a frosty IPA.
Greg Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: greengregdennis.
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