On October 25, 2023

Livin’ the Dream: Snowliage

 

By Merisa Sherman

 

 

I can feel the cold air entering my nose as I take a deep breath. I dare not open my mouth, because I just brushed my teeth and it will just feel too damn cold. I am on the chairlift, my legs swinging underneath me as the chair floats higher and higher up the mountain. Even though my legs are weighed down by my equipment, they still feel like they are floating underneath me. Jack Frost is nipping at my nose and my cheeks and my chin and I can feel my lips chapping on the ride up.

Watching the skiers beneath me, studying their technique and imagining the details of my own as we continue on the 2,250-foot glory ride to the top of the North Ridge. Looking over the treetops to the right, we can see the manmade snow floating up from the guns on Powerline. We’re here, it’s awesome and my whole body is twinkling with the excitement on the P-Tex touching snow once again.

Only it’s not real. It still isn’t winter yet and I feel like I might be going stir crazy. It’s October and my body feels like it should be running laps on Rime. Over and over again. My legs should be swing around underneath me, my femur rotating in my hip socket, my knees angulating simultaneously as my shins remain parallel. My toes are lifting in my boots, pushing my heel back into the pocket as my skis swing underneath me like a conical pendulum.   

The dreams are real. And vivid. And heartbreaking. Because they aren’t quite real, just overwhelming. Well, they are real in the sense that I can feel everything muscle fiber moving in my body but unreal in the sense that I know I’ll never ski this well in real life. The terrain is never this perfect — although there are days when it feels like it is so close.

My newsfeed is filled with pictures of opening days gone by and the big smiles that seem to me directly from the snow, through the heart and onto the frozen faces. We haven’t opened in October since 2018 yet I still dream of snowliage. Those beautiful October days where the white snow is littered with multicolored leaves that are still falling from trees.

Have you ever truly seen that, the snowliage? Where you can feel the crunching of leaves beneath the thin layer of snow, the leaves working like a layer of insulation for the earth and my asparagus. And then the snow, just resting on top because there isn’t enough weight yet to actually compress the leaves. It’s a cool feeling, that floating snow when it hasn’t quite settled in yet, snow that crunches underneath you while you’re trying to make a turn. And I say trying, because while the snow isn’t heavy enough to compress the leaves, your body is. And that means that sometimes you get stuck underneath, rather than on top of, the snow. And good luck trying to turn without a hop in those conditions.

And then there are the leaves on top of the snow. Like someone vomited glitter all over the trail but it doesn’t change the skiing at all. Except for the feeling of lifting a leaf with the tip of your ski – yes, you can feel it. Or skiing through a small pile beneath a tree that has just molted. Skiing through leaf piles. Not something I ever thought of until I moved to Vermont. It happens much more frequently while Nordic skiing, I feel. Those moments where you think that WD-40 might be a better wax than even the classic yellow. I love it. Especially when a leaf gets stuck on your skis or in your binding. That is fall skiing.

And so we won’t be open for Halloween. But it’s not from lack of trying. The average temperature in Vermont has risen 2 degrees over the past century and 1.5 degrees since 1968 or something like that. I’m not really sure what that means, but there it is. Was it easier to open in October when the K Chair was there or now that the Stairway to Heaven takes us to the North Ridge? You cannot blame the K-1 Gondola installation in 1997, because we didn’t open in November until 2000. All I know is that Killington works its butt off to put out a great product as soon as and for as long as they can.

And that’s why I live here. Because we love snow here. We love floating over the cold white stuff while dreaming of greatness. Unfortunately, for now, it’s more dreaming than achieving greatness but … We seriously need the temps to drop. I’m going back to my dreams until they do.

Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident. She can be reached at femaleskibum@gmail.com.

 

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