By Merisa Sherman
After 252 days, Killington Resort finally reopened to the public for skiing and riding this past weekend. For so many reasons, there was absolutely no place else that we have wanted to be for the past eight months, to remember the feeling our skis and boards gliding underneath us as we meander about the mountain in complete freedom. To share this beautiful collection of mountains with our wonderful community once again was a dream I almost hadn’t dared to dream over the past eight months. Yet at long last, this precious day arrived.
Miraculously, we pulled into the lot at the same time as one of our very good ski buddies, blasting music out of our cars for that grand entrance. But we’re older now, so that music gets shut off as soon as the car comes to a complete stop. We see another friend, sitting at his vehicular base lodge across the parking bay, chilling as he would have on any other day and he toasts his beer at us. And as we chat from a distance, we go through all the motions: boots on, goggle lens adjustments, forgetting our gloves, dropping our skis because we forgot our left arm is still not quite strong enough yet and then remembering them. Except for the masks on our faces, everything felt the same … yet … interrupted?
It felt more like the day after a heavy melt rainy day than opening day. With the six pack running, we started our day there, just like we would have done if it was March 16 or a traditional Nov. 22. Instead of walking onto the Gondi, down the Stairway to Heaven and taking those first glorious turns up on Rime with everyone watching, we simply slid our way down to the six-pack as if it were any other day. I struggled with the damed RFID scanner like I always do (I still miss the old sticker days) and slid quietly onto the lift, being sure to keep an appropriate “snowcial distance” from our buddy.
And up we went. Maybe we could just call this the end of the 19-20 ski season instead of the beginning of a new one? Like we have been living in a strange world for the past eight months and are only getting back to the dream … or were the past eight months the dream and now we’re back to reality? Honestly, I’m so confused at this point I feel more like Alice in Wonderland than anything else. Up is down and down is up.
In so many ways, we didn’t want to be here at all and in others, there was no place else that we have wanted to be. We had eliminated skiing from our lives, not daring even to dream of the time when we would be free to slide on snow once again. There wasn’t a hope of a snowflake and we resigned ourselves into thinking that crunchy leaves, a few snowstorms and bare branches would be enough to get us through the cold days of winter. We had become resigned to the idea of enjoying a few inches of snow here and there as they came. But as much as I enjoy walking through the woods on snowshoes, they are a sad substitute for the pleasure of sliding down a mountain covered in snow.
After a few runs on Snowdon, we couldn’t take it anymore. I mean, is it really an opening day if you don’t ski Rime? There, amongst the familiar Trail 1 and Trail 2 of the North Ridge, we made it feel like Opening Day. We took our familiar lines, and made the traditional Dr. Seuss type jokes of the early ski season. It felt … a little more like it should have and instead of focusing on the uniqueness of the situation, we could finally focus on why we were there in the first place: Skiing!!
And ohhh, to slide down that mountain with the cold wind hitting your face! To meander in absolute freedom, manipulating your skis about as if they were an extension of your body. To feel the winter winds wrapping around your body, lifting you from the earth until you feel as though you were floating. To trip on the ice chunk because the light was flat and your goggles are fogging and you were hoping it was a sticky ball of snow that would smush under your skis. To ignore every little thing in the world until you become one with the mountain. To be skiing and riding again. To be truly free.
Thank you to the hardworking staff at Killington Resort for all your commitment to making our mountain a safe place to be. Thank you to Governor Scott and his team for listening to the science and working hard to keep our citizens educated and safe and our businesses open. And, finally, thanks to all Vermonters and our entire Killington Community (both near and far) for caring about the safety of your neighbors and friends. Together, we can keep Killington open.
One final note: This week marks the one year anniversary of my column!! Thank you, Polly, for sticking with me and to all of you who have taken the time to read my words each week. I am truly grateful.