On March 17, 2016

The Mountain Journal: Livin’ the dream

By Robin Alberti

A group of four skiers ride a quad at Killington this past Sunday, March 13. The warm sun made for spring skiing.

By Tony Crespi

The run was steep. The snow, as it has been often this season, firm. In the distance the sky was mostly blue with patches of cloud. As I cruised into the liftline, the lift attendant (a.k.a. the “lifty”) was grinning. After a moment of friendly chatter, I asked about his seeming boundless sense of happiness. He smiled, “I’m livin’ the dream.”

The fellow loading the lift with me, a businessman from New York City, laughed.

Most folks, of course, don’t feel like this lifty “livin the dream.” Most folks balance work, family, and a host of responsibilities with weekend escapes. Many people ski once or twice in a season. Others—“weekend warriors”—travel late Friday afternoons or late in the evening to the mountains. Many of these travel home late on Sunday afternoons. The fellow I rode with explained he had left “the city” early on Friday with his kids. En route he completed a host of business-related telephone calls as they drove. He noted he often worked late in the evening and would sometimes work from the mountain Saturday mornings. He felt pleased his children could ski but noted he could not simply drop his work: the economy will not tolerate a lack in business diligence.

In contrast to this hard-working (and hard-driving) businessman, the lift attendant, we learned, lives locally. He’d moved to the mountains. Permanently. Sure, he earns less, but he plays more.

On lunch break I listened to several ski pros in the lodge. It seems they too are “livin’ the dream.” One fellow has taught skiing for several years. Raised in New York, he raced weekends in Vermont as a young man, then he moved to Vermont after college. Another explained that summers he has worked off Cape Cod. As I put on my coat, one pro looked thoughtful. He was honest.

“This has been a challenging winter,” he said. “I’m wondering if I should go home.”

Like many, he wondered if this is part of a new weather pattern. Should he stay the course? Should he venture West? Should he explore graduate school? Should he move to more populated areas or to the south and become, well, part of the large group who work weekdays and play weekends?

What is the dream? Scan the base lodge. Listen. I know. It’s shameless to eavesdrop but most folks are, well, loud! Really loud. On the lifts I spent the day asking questions. I am curious.

A few months ago I saw a small boat in Montauk Harbor with an unusual name: “Someday Came.” Sitting in the lodge that day I heard folks talking about the possibility of skiing more after retirement. The problem, as I saw it, was that these folks were in their 30s! Now, barring winning the lottery, and if they were impacted by the economic downturn as so many have been, this meant they would only ski weekends for decades.

I’m not sure this is the dream. For many, dreams wait. Some day? Reflecting on the boat “Someday Came” that I saw in Montauk, I remain thoughtful. To be honest, I didn’t see the owner of that boat so I don’t really know the story. But for him, it seems, eventually Some Day did come and he bought the boat!

Many people—too many perhaps—wait to live their dreams. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from that lift attendant and boat owner.

Here’s reality: Killington and Okemo are big playgrounds. Some runs are really long. Some are really steep. When conditions are right, a day on the mountain is memorable. On those days it seems such escapes capture more than just a day’s escape. But most folks have to leave these dream-like playgrounds when the weekend ends and travel home. The locals don’t. They can ski daily. Most are outside in the mountains daily. For that lifty, he’s captured the kind of life he imagined. It’s his dream.

The rainy days when it should be powder falling (especially in Febrary and March), however, can dampen the adventure and dull the dream. In the end, it’s your call. I’m inspired by the lift attendant, and anyone who is living their dream, whatever that means to them. For me, a day trip to the mountains with my wife, is also living the dream, albeit a short dream, but few dreams last forever.

Do yourself a favor and dream away. From that first run. To that last run.

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