I welcome the end of Winter because Summer is sweet, but I always feel a tinge of remorse to see the snow melt away and know that I won’t be back on skis for another eight months. The season typically ends with some Spring slush runs and over the last 10 days I have experienced this transition at Stowe, where we were skiing over huge dirt patches in 70 degree sunshine in the brightest ski attire we could find, and in Whitefish, Montana, where I went to visit my college roommate, Marty and his family.
The first day actually had mid-winter conditions and we hiked into the Canyon for some delicious powder and had a day of hoots and hollers stomping through 3000 acres of stashes at Big Mountain. The temperature was close to freezing and as a snow junkie, that is a crucial threshold… The next day, Spring arrived and dashed our dreams of pioneer powder: we rode snowmobiles deep into the wilderness and established a road to the top of a steep pitch covered with perfectly spaced trees. One snowmobile towed three skiers up to the top and then turned around to head down and pick us up at the bottom. The sun can be the ultimate outdoor pleasure, but on this day it turned our pristine powder into thick cement and robbed us of a last dance with winter’s bounty. We turned to our snowmobiles for some alpine exploration, but even that proved a challenge in the mashed potatoes, getting stuck and digging out repeatedly. It was my first experience on a snowmobile and I had some epiphanies about these machines:
1.) It felt like what I imagine riding a Speeder Bike from “Return of the Jedi”/Mariokart would feel like.
2.) It is incredibly fast and powerful.
3.) It doesn’t always turn when you want it to.
4.) It requires a full body strength to maneuver.
5.) It allows quick access to terrain that is unattainable with any other mode of transport in any other season.
6.) It is very fun to ride.
Tuesday was my official farewell to the ski season and while most of the mountain hadn’t softened up enough from the overnight freeze to make one last aggressive day, the groomers did provide some high speed bombing and I went out in a blaze of gravity. It was a quick vacation and smooth transition into Spring in one of the most beautiful settings this country has to offer. I feel lucky that I will have the opportunity to return there this summer for Marty and Sandy’s wedding and to enjoy the sun and warmth in all its glory, with Winter skiing just a memory or a dream.