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.
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.”
“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?”
“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.