Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 15

Monday “So last week I discussed the meaning of life. This week I’ll go even deeper and answer the burning question: “What does a ski patroller eat?!” It makes sense that ski patrollers must eat super healthy to stay ready for action at any given moment, right? Um, sort of… Now, don’t get me wrong […]

By Josh Allen

Mar 18 2011

Tired Trees
Photo Credit : Allen, Josh

“So last week I discussed the meaning of life. This week I’ll go even deeper and answer the burning question: “What does a ski patroller eat?!”

It makes sense that ski patrollers must eat super healthy to stay ready for action at any given moment, right? Um, sort of… Now, don’t get me wrong – I eat fairly well, part of the time: lots of vegetables; a banana every morning, and apples every day during lunch. Also lots of protein. If this was my infallible pattern of consumption, I’d be just fine. But when food is free, or endless, or some combination of the two, my Achilles’ heel is revealed. No, I don’t mean that thing encased in my ski boot, I mean the reason why I am ready for a nap right now…

I fall prey to pints of Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup, or perhaps Mint Cookie if I’m feeling adventurous. And then, I mean what the heck, there’s an endless pizza buffet at a local restaurant every Monday which I may or may not have gone to tonight. And the mysteriously appearing food at the end of the day in the patrol hut. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I eat it. I know it’s not healthy – it’s mostly fries and interestingly textured hamburgers   but it’s there. I think maybe if it cost me a dollar, I’d pass. But it’s free. And that, my friend, has taken on a whole new value this winter. Free things are worthy of my attention.

I tell myself I only eat those things occasionally. I eat tons, literally, of oatmeal, which apparently removes cholesterol. I also mix peanut butter into my oatmeal, to negate that effect, but let’s ignore that and think one word: protein. Protein is in peanut butter, thus making it valuable and delicious. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Protein is useful for lifting toboggans, skiing through moguls. And sleeping… Uh oh, that pizza is going straight to my head. But this is the last Monday I’ll be having it. I swear.

You know what’s not powder, but equally as awesome to ski through? No, not the ruts left behind by super-G racers. Nope, not even the wildly raging river beneath the chairlift that looks just barely cross-able by a brave (or confused) skier. So what is it then, this mysteriously excellent skiing surface?

Slush! Yep, that’s right, slushy, wet snow is super fun to ski. I’m not being sarcastic here, not in the least. Today the temperature rose significantly, up to around 40 degrees by the afternoon, creating ideal spring snow conditions. And were they sweet. Bouncing between trees in the woods as if you’re skiing on buttered pillows; spraying snow off the side of the trail as you make rapid turns against the tree-line’s edge, and cascading through moguls that might instead be clouds – these are the feelings of spring skiing. Not to mention the warmth of the sun on your face as you take a break and lie down in the snow at the bottom of the lift. Maybe I did that while waiting for someone on sweep – but can you blame me? There’s nothing better than simultaneously feeling the warmth of the sun on your front and the coolness of snow on your back.

I’m ready for spring skiing. Don’t think that soft snow means bad snow. It’s quite the contrary. And once you can ski with little more than a long sleeve shirt and a vest, skiing becomes just like a day at the beach, plus way more speed and excitement. Instead of setting up a chair and watching the waves roll in until your eyes close, you can get out of the chair, carve turns through perfectly mushy waves of snow, and best of all – get a goggle tan all your friends will be madly jealous of. I’m working on mine already.

Sometimes rain comes along with the beautiful spring days. Having proper rain gear for skiing in March and April is essential. Rain gear allows you to enjoy skiing without damp seeping inside your clothing. My rain garb consists of a stylish combination of giant yellow PVC pants and matching jacket. They’re large enough to fit over my ski pants and over my ski coat. Ok, I look like I’ve eaten too many muffins when I wear them. (And I have eaten too many muffins) But that’s okay, because even if I look like an enormous yellow marshmallow, I remain protected within my startlingly bright shell. As an extra bonus, even in the densest fog, I shine like a neon banana. And I’m fine with that.

I’ll admit – there are cooler solutions out there. I’d recommend getting an oilskin duster, if you can acquire one. They’re a bit on the expensive side, but relatively stylish. Dusters are full-length coats that cover your legs, in addition to your upper body. This means that when you sit on a lift slick with rain water, your bottom will not be instantly soaked. And trust me – that is the one area you really want to keep dry for comfort’s sake while on the mountain. If you’re not convinced, here’s the kicker. Dusters are worn by cowboys and people in New Zealand – so basically awesome people and if you wear one on the mountain you’ll earn the respect of ski patrollers even if you’re in a bright neon pink one-suit underneath (just keep that part hidden).

This past week has been “Canadian Week” at Okemo. It’s similar to February vacation week for the U.S. In all other ways it’s been completely different. For instance, instead of the mountain being filled to capacity by skiers and boarders careening towards each other in desperate attempts to rush through the lines, the mountain has a sense of serenity about it. Sure, there are plenty of Canadians on the hill, but they’re all so, well, polite. Friendly. Interested in asking about my job, and happy to have a conversation on the lift about anything at all. I heard that one Canadian was even found on Mountain Road, simply taking a nap. That’s what I call laid back and admirable. We don’t take enough naps – let alone in the snow. We should follow this man’s lead and nap more, and we should follow Canadians in general and learn to appreciate our fellow people more. I’ll take Canadian Week anytime. I’ll always remember this scene at the end of each day: numerous Canadians sitting outside in lawn chairs, enjoying the last hour or so of daylight. No rushing, no stress. Just admiring the place and the time. A good life, and a good way to spend it. So, thank you Canadians, and come back soon.