I was at the store when I heard the first newscast warning of the impending storm front coming. It was supposed to be one of those that would threaten the record of snowfall set in 1978. Everyone within earshot was groaning about the weather. I, on the other hand, was jumping for joy at the thought that for once I have good timing. Our ski vacation was already planned, our accommodations booked, lift tickets in hand. Everyone else was heading out to the grocery to stock up on canned goods. I was packing the car with our equipment.
As we were leaving Cleveland the weather really was rather bad. The roads had yet to be plowed and traffic was at a snails pace. I've always been slightly amused that people seem to forget each and every year HOW to drive in frozen precipitation. It's not as if it doesn't get like this every year...so why the memory loss? The further we got from downtown, the deeper the snow as we entered into the snow belt. But oddly enough the roads were in better shape out here. Once we got past Mentor the traffic had all but subsided.
I drive a Jeep Commander, and I have to tell you it's awesome in snow. It drives well in other seasons, but you can tell the way it drives that it just LOVES being in this deep fluffy stuff. Makes me feel pretty omnipotent as well. Traffic on the road was pretty light, most people with brains were at home, readying themselves for the onslaught of bad weather. At times I was the only car I could see in either direction. I love the feeling of the road being all mine. But every so often there would be a big semi that seemingly appear out of nowhere. I was cruising along at a pretty good clip of 55, which was pretty aggressive with the condition of the road, and a truck would blow by going at a speed that I would consider 'reckless'.
At one point there was a pick-up that was right on my tail, less than a car length behind me....and there wasn't anyone else around. I was thinking, "Go the f**k around! There's PLENTY of room". But no, for more than 25 miles he dragged behind me....On one hand, I was patting myself in the back that he felt that I was worthy of following for such a long time, on the other I was expecting it to be some sort of freak ready to run me off the road and kill us right out of the movie "Wind Chill". But then he too disappeared off one of the exits and I was alone on the road again.
A few times Kim, my friend and matriarch of the other family, would call and ask about the condition of the road. They were a little behind us as they had to stop and find new wipers blades for their vehicle since there's failed to keep up with the conditions. I sensed she was on the fence about whether to continue onward or to turn back and maybe leave in the morning instead. I suppose my answer was a little padded and driven by selfishness. I wanted them to be there while I was there and if they turned back, that'd be one less day I could spend with them.
"How are the roads?"
"Pretty good. The further east, the better they are." (lie)
"Any traffic issues? Accidents?"
"None that I saw" (blatant lie)
"Do you think it's okay to keep going?"
"I think it's alright. Might take a little longer to get there, but it'll be worth the knuckle driving." (truth)
When we pull into Ellicotville there is an easily 14 inches of fresh powder on the ground...and it's still snowing. It's maybe some of the best snow I've been in...including the 'out west' snow that is my rule to gauge snow. Holiday Valley is like a little Snowmass in Colorado...smaller and about $10,000 less in expenses. It's only taken us 5 hours instead of the normal 3 1/2, but hey, by the looks for what I see right now it'd have been worth 10 hours of driving.
I got a pair of skis to handle this particular kind of snow, shorter, fatter and really easy to turn in this deep powder. I need to keep reminding myself though not to push too hard...the last time I skied in snow this deep I blew out my knee. Trust me, you don't ever want to do that. The slopes weren't busy at all, some runs you were the only one there. It was perfect. I even skied the glades it was so nice. I really don't do tree skiing, so it had to be nice. I have to admit though as I was going through the trees, I kept thinking, "Don't do a Sonny Bono, don't do a Sonny Bono." (for those who don't know, Sonny Bono demise was when he hit a tree skiing and it killed him) I clipped a branch once and had a fleeting thought that perhaps I should pick up one of those helmets, but I didn't do it.
There were, with the two families, 4 adults and 5 kids. They have a great ski school at Holiday Valley. Mike and Rosco were our kids instructors...great guys, superb skiers and they have patience that is commendable. I would like to emulate these guys. The kids have had them as instructors in the past and were excited to be there. The routine is you check them in at 10 and then you don't see them again until 3. It makes a fun filled day for them, and a time for the adults to get a little alone ski time in as well.
When we went back to get the posse, we would then ski with them for a bit until the lift ticket expired. See what they learned that day; see what the progress is. Apparently this time Mike and Rosco were teaching them the art of tree skiing as well. Every run we went down, all these little kids are taking the tree line and swooping in and out of the trees like nothing. Taking jumps, skiing backwards, even doing a little on slope ballet with the poles and swinging each other around. The joy and lack of fear in their faces is contagious...and here I am in the trees, again.
Little Sophia is 6. She was the youngest in the ski pack. We are buds...I help her with her boots and equipment and she gives me hugs. It's awesome. I hung back with Soph and her dad, and let the older kids ski ahead. She said, "You stick with me. I'll show you where all the secret trails are." And she was right...she did. We finally had to pawn her off on someone else in our group, who is an excellent tree skier, because he was the only one who could keep up with her through all that.
I was amazed at my own daughters progress in skiing. She's only been at it for 3 years now. If you get close enough you can hear her humming while she skis. She's got her own inner beat. I saw her take a few spills when she was airborne and had a bad landing (which scares me...but what can I say)...but she just picked herself up and went on her way. It's very cool.
Both my daughter and I were positioning to stay an extra day the company and snow was so great. I called around, even to a neighboring town to see about lodging. Nothing. Nada. Our friends offered to let us camp at their place, but that was just a few too many bodies crammed into a small space with all the stuff. I mean, even for the 6 of them it was cramped. But that was really sweet and heartfelt...and it crossed my mind to take them up on it, but then I thought about the 1 available bathroom and changed it quick. There was a condo efficiency for rent; but that was going for a cool 3 bills....and in this economy we couldn't quite feel right about that decision. Plus then another day of lift tickets, food, ski school and incidentals...you've already racked up another $300 plus. Maybe that's why the slopes were as empty as they were. It's definitely not the cheapest sport on the planet. It's one driven by accoutrement's. LOTS of stuff. Lots of EXPENSIVE stuff. Perhaps that's the reason the slopes weren't packed.
But I suppose I can wait on that commentary another day. Today, everything is right with the world...the snow has that effect on me.