Worst Day Ever? Really?

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On Saturday the line at the bottom of High Campbell chair was long enough that I couldn’t justify riding it alone. I hollered out, “Single!” and quickly found a partner to ride the old double chair that accesses expert-only terrain. The conditions were less than ideal.

crystal_mountain_view

View of Southback from the Throne. Mt. Adams in the background.

The front side was breakable crust over a foot of guanch and the the Powder Bowl side was chalky but firm. A few patches of crust still lay hidden, and a fall there could mean a long slide. Still it was the best skiing on the mountain. And the sun was out. And the crust was warming up. And it was my day off. And there was barely a line on this busiest day of the year.

On the chair I struck up a conversation with the guy I’d found in line. It was my day off, and I really didn’t need to be critiquing this guy’s skiing ability. But sometimes intermediate skiers get on this lift thinking it will take them to the Summit House Restaurant and end up staring down a step chute at the top. These people usually need to download the chair, which is a bit of an ordeal in itself. The first step in making that happen is identifying them in the first place.

This guy looked like an intermediate.

“So have you skied this chair today?” I asked.

He nodded as a way of answering my question, then said. “This is the worst day ever.”

“Really?”

“I mean it’s sunny and all that. But the crowds. And there’s no powder.”

“Well,” I started. I was about to give him my any-day-on-the-slopes-is-better-than-a-day-at-work spiel.

“Have you skied this yet?” He asked, finally looking at me. “I mean, it’s pretty difficult. Powder Bowl is okay, but you wouldn’t want to, er, fall.”

“No you wouldn’t.”

“I mean, it’s not easy.” He said. “You wouldn’t want to fall.” He looked at me pointedly.

“You’re right about that.”

He stared straight ahead, not even looking at me. “I come up here every weekend. My kids are in ski school. While they’re in their lessons, I try to make some laps on this chair.”

I held my lips together and breathed.

“The skiing’s pretty tough though today,” he said again. “I mean, there’s no easy way down. You know that, right?”

This guy thought I couldn’t ski. Maybe it was the bota bag. I had to give him that. But if you ever want to see the Bad Kim come out, just make an assumption that I can’t ski. She loves that. She eats that up. It’s like swinging the doors wide open and saying, “Come out and play Bad Kim. This guy needs to learn a lesson and you’re just the gal that can do it.”

I (or the Bad Kim, rather, but how would he know that?) looked at him through my mirrored lenses. His too-thick helmet sat far enough back on his head that it revealed a two-inch gap between it and his goggles. His jacket looked like it might be a better sponge than a technical piece of clothing. And his boots were vintage.

His skis, on the other hand, looked pretty legit–K2 Sidestashes. But still. He was an intermediate skier at best trying to school me. That just wouldn’t do.

“I just took a lap out South,” I said snottily. Again, the Bad Kim was at the helm. The Good Kim would have bitten her lip. But what can you do?

Gaper Gap Guy raised his eyebrows and swiveled his head around to the left to look at Avalanche Basin. “You went out there?”

“I skied Brain Damage.” I was laying it on thick. I can be such a brat.

“You walked all the way to Brain Damage?” The patch of skin above his goggles wiggled, mirroring the action of his eyebrows. After a moment he cleared his throat. “I only go out there when there’s powder. I mean today? Not even worth it. I mean, was there any good skiing out there at all?” His laugh came out a little shrill. He was making fun of me. He was deriding me, putting me down, actually. Bad Kim didn’t like it one bit.

I sighed. “I go out there every day. I call it Crystal Mountain’s 20 Minute Workout.” I smiled, but my eyes didn’t crinkle up at the edge. It was that evil Bad Kim smile.

“20 Minutes? 20 minutes! It only takes you 20 minutes to hike out there?” He paused then shrugged. “That’s not bad. I guess.”

I swung my skis back and forth a tick. The Bad Kim was tired of this guy. “I like the sun.” I said. It was lame, but better than antagonizing him any further. “I like to think I’m stocking up on Vitamin D. Did you know that it’s foggy in town?”

“It is?”

“Yeah. And it’s sunny up here. Isn’t that great?” I was gathering momentum for my great-day-on-the-slopes lecture. But the top was getting close. We’d have to unload soon. Bad Kim had simmered down, and the Good Kim, the Real Kim, wanted to make it up to this guy.

“So are you getting off to the left?” He asked.

“Er, yeah.” I thought it was an odd question because one of the expert elements of this chair was that the off-load ramp was actually a wall. You had to literally jump off at the top to the left and get out of the way. There wasn’t any other option.

“I’m getting off to the right, so I’ll let you go left then I’ll go behind you.”

I should have said something. I should have told him that we all have to hop off left, then you can go right after the chair has passed. But Vintage Boots was pretty sure he knew the ropes around here and Bad Kim wasn’t going to let him off that easily. So I just said, “Have a nice run,” fake grins and sighs of relief all around.

I got off left and watched it unfold in the eyes of the patroller standing in front of me. He was looking back at the chair and yelled, “Watch out. Move. Get out of the way!”

I turned back just in time to watch Seasoned High Campbell Skier get stuck in the off-load ramp, the chair we’d just exited arcing back behind him at a 90º angle.

As hard as it was to do, I tucked Bad Kim back into her hiding place and buttoned my lip. When I dropped into Powder Bowl a few moments later I made myself not watch him ski a few chutes over to my right. Instead, I remembered my own unspoken advice about how any day on the slopes is better than the alternative.

All I can say for myself is that I have weaknesses. We all have them. The first step is admitting you have a problem. That and I’m also hoping that Oblivious Guy didn’t even notice that a Bad Kim had entered the conversation. It’s entirely possible.

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23 responses »

  1. Day off or not, you are a professional ski patroller, right? Kinda like a lifeguard on their day off not warning a beach newby about the undertow.

  2. Thanks for this piece. It was hard. We all assess each other “out there” and our shadows lurk. And Saturday was a great day. I made laps on Powder Bowl and thought the snow was just fine. Many of the kids in the group of 16 I brought for the weekend told me it was great–and they were right. But I also thought the soft snow skiers left on Bull Run was amazing. And yes, I ride a beat up pair of Sidestashes–but no gap. And if we rode Chair 6 together we’d just be glad to be out!

  3. Ha, I love this post. You were much nicer than I would have wanted to be in a situation like that. Though, admittedly, when I run into people like that, I end up annoyed by them far longer than I should. So, I guess just letting Bad Kim show only a little is a good strategy.

  4. I sure enjoyed snowboarding the freshies in the southback today Mon. ( I am not saying where I went, but you know) and am glad that all the gapers along with their litter went on Saturday. Your thoughts about the Saturday crowd are hilarious. Your writing is a lot of fun. It looks like I will have to go this Saturday and will be prepared to heckle the gapers or else go home.

    • I feel sorry for guys like this but please be assured that may of us know and respect the women on the mountain as who they are, rippers, and fellow mountain lovers first and foremost. Guys like that just need a trip with some female locals out in Southback to get there get a dose of humility and reality.

  5. Oh funny and sad, and a familiar type. I like that Bad Kim. Aside: Beautiful weather, nice views. Yeah, there has been better snow, but, oh my God, the views, and the stars at night!! Thank you for sharing. Reminds me – I was touched by your courage to write honestly about less than brilliant decisions when I read your book. Cringed a few times regarding some low bg things, having been there done that and maybe not talked about it, it was breathtaking to read. Way to lead by being real. Thanks :)

    • Thanks katja. I know what you mean about cringing. Diabetes is a disease that never gives us a break. We can’t always be perfect, and only through mistakes do we learn. I wanted to share my own trials with it. In this post I do the same thing. I’m not perfect, even though it would be tempting to portray myself that way. But it wouldn’t be honest.

  6. Serious, non-snarky, non-rhetorical question here (because I actually am at this phase in my skiing) – how would a “never skiied off High Campbell before, but skiing Northway with growing confidence” skier know they’re ready for High Campbell’s terrain without actually getting on it for the first time?

    Shorter version: is there anything in Northway that’s a good litmus test for being ready to ski Southback?

    • Northway Bowl (Gate 2.5) is a good litmus test for Powder Bowl. The hardest part is just getting off the chair and down the ridge. But if you can ski north way bowl you should be good to go.

  7. Hi Bad Kim. Meet Bad Kristen. I read this post 10 days ago and then found myself thinking of it while skiing Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass. The wall had just opened and my husband and I were among the first to drop in. At the bottom, we stopped in the trees to catch our breath and drink in the view. Along came two guys: “Hey boys!” they yelled. “Oh. And girl…” One added. Nice enough, I shouldn’t have taken offense, but I found it interesting that the assumption was all boys, all the time. Actually Bad Kristen likes this. It inspires me to bring my AA game. Cheers!

    • Hi Bad Kristen, pleased to meet you. I love this story. I once wrote an article in The Ski Journal about being mistaken for a guy. I get this a lot when wearing my androgynous ski patrol uniform. Ha!

  8. Funny, you were annoyed with him assessing your skills based on the fact that you were female, but you were doing the same thing… assessing his skills based on his gear… Perpetuating the stereotype, you are no better than he is. Seems like since you are professionally involved with the mountain in more ways than just as a ski patroller it would be best that you act professionally at all times.

    • My point exactly Person. This is what makes me such a terribly bad person. Actually I was trying to poke fun at myself. Mostly because I didn’t really say many of these things, but was thinking then really hard. Bad Kim. Bad, bad Kim.

  9. Pingback: This Proves it: Skiers Make Better Lovers | Kim Kircher

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