Freshies…not really

Making some early season runs at Mount Wachusett

Making some early season runs at Mount Wachusett…thanks for the picture, Ed Collier

As I was leaving work on Friday, someone mentioned the possibility of snow overnight. Further investigation uncovered a forecast calling for anywhere from two to four inches of snow. While it wasn’t the promise of a real powder day, the prospect of getting on some natural snow was really appealing. Peering out the window later that night, I was surprised to discover that the snow had already begun to fall and, maybe more importantly, it had actually started to accumulate.

It never ceases to amaze me the draw that skiing has on me; despite promising myself this year to not get so involved in skiing that I begin to neglect the other sports enjoy, I’ve already found myself chasing days on the hill. It was bad enough that I’ve already become fairly compulsive about snagging runs on the the local mountain’s groomers; the idea of a real snow today spun me into a tizzy. With my pass to the local mountain not valid on weekend days, my mind began to whir as I set to forming a plan that ensured me making some turns. I wandered from the couch to the gear room and started packing a bag to tour. If I couldn’t ride the lifts, I could at least go and skin a few laps before the mountain opened. Even better, I could beat the masses to the freshies.

It's pretty easy to pack these days as things rarely make it further than the drying rack

It’s pretty easy to pack these days as things rarely make it further than the drying rack

I woke early to the sound of our neighbor shoveling his steps. I knew that it had to be a good sign, but dared not look out the window fearful that the excitement it would cause would certainly keep me from getting the last few precious minutes of sleep before the alarm went off.  (As excited as I was to ski, staying in a nice warm bed on a cold winter morning also had real appeal.) Fighting off the lure of my bed, I grabbed my ski stuff and headed for the door; stepping outside, I started thinking about the taunting texts I’d send to friends about how they missed out on the first snow of the season and how epic conditions were…

But, shit! The two to four inches of snow we’d been promised turned out to be no more than two inches of snow and it appeared that, at some point, the snow had turned to rain giving the snow a crunchy consistency.

By this point I was committed enough to my ski plan that it made no sense to turn around and seek solace in bed. If nothing else, I would still get out,  make some turns, and get a day up on my ski buddies. Pulling into the mountain’s parking lot at 7am, I was surprised to see attendants directing cars–normally the mountain is vacant at this hour. Then I remembered that the mountain starts the lifts early on weekend (the things you forget in the off season). To make things worse, they started letting people ride the lifts about fifteen minutes earlier than their advertised start time…good for them, but bad for me. Not only would I miss out freshies, but I would also only able to do one run. As I booted up in the parking lot, I heard the people gearing up at the cars surrounding me ribbing each other about who was going to get first chair that day. It was inspiring hearing people so stoked to be out on a day that so far had been a little bit of a disappointment for me. It was also more than a little satisfying that I knew it didn’t matter who got first chair because first tracks were going to mine.

Sure the snowfall didn’t meet expectations (does it ever really? I mean, there could always be more) and I didn’t score the multiple runs I had hoped for. I did, however, get to enjoy the mountain in a way few others do: by myself. I met a fellow skinner at the top and we spent a minute discussing what a nice day it was shaping up to be as the sun came out and temperature began to rise, and how lucky we were to be out, ahead of the crowd. I made long, leisurely turns down the mountain enjoying the fresh corduroy, and was grateful that the previous night’s snow filled in the bare spots of the day before. Sliding past the lift line, I thought, maybe this day wasn’t such a wash, after all. Twenty minutes later, I crawled back into my bed to enjoy the vice that is a warm bed on a cold winter morning.