During a normal year, these would be our weekends to slather on the SPF 50 and bust out garish spandex. We’d party in the parking lot with brats roasting away on tailgate grills. “Take one if you want one,” we’d say to complete strangers. “There are plenty.”
On the lift, we’d pull tallboys from hoodie pockets and pass them around to chair-mates without the slightest urge for hand sanitizer. On the hill, we’d carve surfy turns in slushy corduroy.
But 2020 is no normal year.
As we sit in quarantine, it seems trivial to be bummed about the early end to our ski season. After all, there’s bigger things afoot. Still, we’re far from our mountains, far from our normal. That can be tough to deal with. Yet as skiers, we know there are good things to look forward to. And looking forward might be exactly what we need right now.
Spring skiing, for me, has always represented skiing at its core. It’s a time when people seem to take things less seriously and really appreciate spending time on a snow-covered mountain. It’s a bittersweet time of celebration, in memoriam of a vanishing winter.
Using the term “bittersweet” here may be a subconscious choice of words for me, because Bittersweet is the name of the place I first learned to ski. This 300-foot mound in lower Michigan became a 350-foot mound the summer before my senior year of high school when they bulldozed enough dirt to increase the vert by 15%. They also built a high-speed quad to the top.
Bittersweet was the first place I ever skied that spring Slurpee snow. I ditched the coat and poles to ski with arms stretched wide in nothing but a T-shirt, and watched the way that sunshine and melting snow invigorated people’s spirits in a way that felt like a toast to living life up to the brim.
While we won’t be riding up a chair together this spring, I still hope you’ll hoist a glass with me in celebration of this time of year, of things to look forward to—next year and the years after that.
Cheers to costumes, bikinis, and one-pieces in neon green. To pond skims, garden hose races, and cardboard classics. To showing off that dirt beard goggle tan you worked so hard to achieve.
Cheers to the lines you skied this winter, and the ones still sitting at the top of that checklist.
Cheers to the tingle of cold snow spray on exposed forearms, because it’s about to be a long, hot summer. To snowmelt running downhill, finding its way into trout streams.
Cheers to sleeper pow days and bluebird sunshine. To soft snow and the warmest wax you’ve got.
Cheers to laying down the kind of turns you’ll lay behind a ski boat on an August evening. To slushball fights, live music, and tipping lifties in beer and high fives.
Cheers to the way skiing in a hoodie finally just feels right. To the way everyone smiles in April, when everybody’s here for the right reasons, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a local, tourist, patroller, or liftie.
Cheers to making it through this bummer of a spring, knowing that next year will be one for the books.