Mercer Island Reporter


Things you hear on the slopes | On Snow column

Mercer Island Reporter Columnist
December 24, 2012 · Updated 10:35 AM

Heavy snow falls in Whistler during the early ski season. This year marks some of the heaviest early season snow fall for local resorts, including Whistler. / Mitch Winton/coastphoto.com

I now have a few ski days in my rear view mirror. The first was at Crystal Mountain, and if I thought I would be alone on that December Sunday, I need not have worried. I saw Mercer Islanders Doug Rosen, Dr. Jim Martin, and Carl Plateau while taking a break for lunch. Even better, I took several runs with not one, but three guys named Sam LeClercq. Not one at a time, but all at once. I know it’s a big family, but still…. By the way, Crystal is celebrating its 50 year anniversary, and it’s off to a great start.

An early Christmas present came one week later when I logged four days on snowy terrain at Whistler/Blackcomb. If current trends continue, this B.C. mega-resort will set a record for the most December snowfall in its history. To say snow coverage was good is a gross understatement; snow fell the entire time we were there, and rocks I’ve seen bare late in January are totally undercover. For the season they have had about 17 feet and more is on its way.

I mention all of this simply to say that the snowsports season is humming. So far this year the Pacific Northwest (and Sierra) is the place to be if you want some quality conditions. By contrast Colorado snowfall has been quite sparse, so we should be feeling quite good, if not smug, in comparison.

If you have been procrastinating, get rid of the excuses and help yourself to the goods. Santa has brought us a very appreciated holiday gift. Moreover, a drive to the mountains is a great way to experience some “holiday spirit.”  We all can find some beauty and majesty when in the mountain environment. Think of the mountains as our cathedral, our place of spiritual renewal, that place where the magic of the holidays can be captured….over and over again.

One thing that struck me, both at Crystal and Whistler, was what I heard from someone riding the chair with me: “this may be good, but you should have been here yesterday.” Apparently, as good as I thought it was, I missed the truly epic day before. And that reminded me of a list I once put together, of things people say to each other on the mountain, things that I actually find humorous. Let’s start with the yesterday comment.

• You Should Have Been Here Yesterday. Who are these people who are always in the right place at the right time? If I could have been here yesterday (or last week, this morning, during the famous powder storm of 1997) don’t you think I would have?

• Where Are You From? Serves as a great ice-breaker, and can be asked in other ways: Are you from around here? Where do you live? Where are you staying? Local skiers with season passes love to find visitors with daily or weekly lift tickets and this question.

• How’s The Snow? Now here is a real test of one’s philosophical outlook? Are you a whiner or a Pollyanna? If you want to keep a little powder stash a secret, don’t advertise.

• Have You Been to the Top Yet? Men want to impress other men that they are good skiers or boarders. That’s why they say things like this, or even better, “Is the top open?” Like the guy was going to head up there anyway - right!

• Meet You At The Top (Bottom). This is the ultimate time-wasting technique. Do not say yes; do not agree. You should be protective of your snow sliding time. Make him wait for you, but you might get points waiting for her.

• My Boots Are Killing Me. This is a great cop-out for quitting early and retiring to the lodge. It’s a subtle way to get out of skiing in snow conditions you may not be able to handle.

• Mind If I Ski With You? This is a great way to acquaint yourself with an unfamiliar mountain resort. It’s also a great way to acquaint yourself with unfamiliar skiers or boarders. The more direct, seldom-stated version: “You’re pretty darn cute.

• I’m A Little Out of Shape This Season. Another generic disclaimer, this expression is intended to obscure the obvious; he’s not only out of shape but probably a poser as well. The real truth is the person’s physical fitness is the same every season.

Celebrate your holiday in the mountains. Ski you there.

John Naye is a Mercer Island resident and the past president of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association. He can be reached by email at jnaye@trekworks.com.

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