Well, when you have not skied in 8 months, and you live in the mid-Atlantic, and you get the super bonus of skiing over Thanksgiving weekend, you take it. No matter what the weather is, or the fact that minimum terrain is available, it doesn’t matter. You still go and enjoy the opening of the ski season. You see the usual cast of characters, many of whom you have not seen since last season, and you smile, enjoy their company, and catch up from the long spring and summer.
Our local area, Seven Springs, has been purchased by Vail along with Hidden Valley and the management of Laurel Mountain is in the mix. The vibe is generally positive, and we all are waiting to see how it all will shake out for skiing locally here in Western Pa. So, as I woke up Friday to rain and the prospect of only a few trails and two slopes open, I thought about it and was hesitant. However, as is always my custom, I put on my Gore Tex and headed for the mountains. You never know what the weather is like and even if it rains, I have the positive attitude that the weather will keep the crowds away. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, the rain stopped and a slight mist ensued for the rest of the morning. Glad I had the Gore Tex.
As I made my way to the lodge, I was welcomed by my two friends, Melissa and Jaime Thompson, seen above, and to see their smiling faces and their anticipation of the day ahead as well as the popping of the cork to the new season, my decision to come was solidified. It really is a social thing and great to see the people who, like me, are enthusiastic about skiing. Melissa and Jaime and I have skied for years together mostly at Laurel Mountain which we hope will open soon. Yes, we all have our western trips booked, bought the passes, made the airline reservations and rental car reservations and are looking forward to skiing in the west. But there is something special about skiing at your home turf in the Laurel Mountains of Western Pa. And who cares whether not much is open, we are all addicted to making turns and when you have fun following a guy like Robb Alarcon and see his big strong GS turns, you know that it matters not where you are. You can make turns anywhere and yes- they are addicting. Robb and Billy Boucher and I made a lot of runs together and it was great to see Bill who is always positive. He told me he wants to ski until he is at least 85. I love that. Especially if he still can ski the way he does now which is still great. Ran into Bill’s brother Barry and his wife Margaret, and Barry showed me a new pair of boots that he bought which are kind of a rear entry boot. I gave them the hairy eye but Barry, who knows a thing or two about skiing, told me they are the new thing. Whatever you say Barry. They both looked great( not the boots…… Margaret and Barry) and it was wonderful to reconnect with them again.
Skiing with these two guys on Saturday when the sun came out was also special. I have skied with Porter and John a long time and it is always fun to ride the chair with them and talk about skiing, ski racing, equipment, as we do all summer because we mountain bike together. Johnny Mac has two new hips and a knee and some issues with the other one, but you would never know it by the way that he skis. Smooth as silk and no inkling of the hardware in his joints. Porter? Always rock solid with the best balance. But the opening runs of the season always bring a smile to our faces and the fact that we got out on Thanksgiving weekend is a real bonus. Anything before Christmas here in the mid-Atlantic is a plus and to start Thanksgiving weekend was a real tribute to the snowmaking team at Seven Springs and to the tenacity of Vail to make it happen.
Other mountain bikers, who turn to skiers in the winter, all came out. Tina and the Shark drove in from seeing their relatives in New York and hauled out their snowboards for another season. John Cassucio was testing out his new hip. Dave” everyday” Gault and his lovely lady Stephanie were making turns together. Saw some smooth telemark turns out of the Seven Springs Director of Health and Safety- Bob Horrell and his lovely lady Jamie Forys who used to be the snow sports director at Seven Springs and has gone on to a great job as a buyer for ski and snowboard equipment as well as bicycles at Public Lands. Bob filled us in on what he knew was ahead with the Vail purchase. Things like all new uniforms for the ski school and ski patrol-all Vail issue Helly Hansen uniforms.
Aside from reconnecting with all your old pals on opening weekend, is the fact that you can observe the change in clientele with all the young people. Johnny Mac suggested that we take a run in the terrain park and as we weaved our way around the features, we noticed that we were definitely out of place. No hoodies, snowboards, twin tipped skis, baggy pants, for us. We were definitely the old dudes showing up in the wrong place. Kind of funny but we didn’t return to the terrain park. LOL!!! But it was good to see that snowsports is alive and well with the younger set and no matter where you ski or ride, you will see the new guard taking over. But don’t push the oldsters aside too soon. Many of us can still hang despite our age. That is the cool thing about skiing. It keeps you young and gives you something to look forward to every year- despite the hip replacements, knee replacements and general wear and tear. If you can stay in shape in the off season, you will enjoy ski season so much better- especially as you age. Also, as I have said before, if you live in the mid- Atlantic, you can’t be out west all the time. Ski trips are great and the more you can ski out west or in New England the better. But don’t give up on your local areas. I have started my 61st year skiing and it always starts at Seven Springs with the exception of the one year that I taught skiing at Sugarloaf, Maine after college. Lots of mileage in many different ski areas in my life, (108 last count), but I never gave up on local skiing or my local areas.
So, as I ate a delicious veggie sandwich at the Highlands Market just outside the gate at Seven Springs, I thought about all the years that I have skied at this place. All the memories, all the friendships- many of whom I still have today. Porter and I have skied together for 50 + years. We all started as kids here and are still around. Many people ask me why I still ski locally and I just look at them and say……………..” Why not?” Opening weekend did not disappoint and I am looking forward to good weather which in my book is lots of cold and snow. Thanks for reading and think snow!