By Merisa Sherman
There was barely room to move. Skis and people were everywhere, strewn about so that one could barely see the snow beneath their boots. So many people gathered in one place that the sound was almost deafening. The cheers of approval when something amazing happened and the groans as we watched someone crash hard. The sound of gloves clapping as the skiers would cross the finish, that low tone that somehow carries further than the highest screechy noise. And the five flags, blue and red, that would shoot up as the skiers crossed the finish.
Oh the colors, the super bright Day-Glo colors of the 1990s were everywhere. From the crazy stretch pants that we all thought were fantastic (mine were bright pink, of course) to the ridiculously bright jackets and skis and boots and … was there anything that wasn’t lime green or neon yellow or that weird ‘90s blue? Looking back now, I wonder how our eyes handled all that brightness without causing an aneurism. And of course, the brightly colored headbands and hats — did anyone not have those neon UVEX goggles? Mine were pink, of course.
This was the greatest day of the year. The apex of the season. The party to end all parties. I still have never seen a party more filled with greatness than the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenges of the 1990s. There were people everywhere, gathered on the snow that was filled with shot skis and shot luges and just shots. Liquor bottles. And beer cans. And fanny pack flasks. Mine was pink, of course, and filled with water because I was, like, 8 years old.
And snowballs. There were snowball fights everywhere. You had to collect a bunch of snowballs to ride up the BMQ because otherwise you were defenseless against the snowballs that would come flying up to hit you in the face. When I finally went to my first Phish show and all the glo sticks went flying, my first thought was of the snowball fights at the BMMC. It was the last time I had seen so many projectiles flying at once and I loved it!
Honestly, I don’t remember the competition at all until I was much older. I remember the cheering and the heckling and the groans as someone faceplanted after a twister-spread. Or a double daffy. It was go big or go home, that’s all I recall. The energy that swarmed around the base of Bear Mountain was surging, it was alive and there was nothing anyone could do to control it — and nobody wanted to. There was a sense of rawness, of freedom and lawlessness. This was skiing in its purest form. These were the bad boys of skiing claiming their space and reminding us that skiing is supposed to be FUN.
This was gangster, follow no rules but the ones we make ourselves kind of skiing. This was the O.L. crew accepting all challengers … and stomping them into the ground. This was showboating, hot dogging, zipper slapping — anything to just have a good time. Before bump skiing became organized, structured, and dare I say it, boring? Before a points system, before the bumps were perfectly seeded. It was everyone skier for themselves just rockin’ down the zipper line putting on the best show one possibly could in the cleanest manner. A pure skier vs. mountain. It was amazing.
We all know what happened next. As with anything, bump skiing grew up and became professional, organized and under the umbrella of FIS. More rules were passed down and the throwing of flags became a thing of the past. The state police were stationed at the entrance to the parking lot, and cops lined the roads on the way home. Snowballs were deemed too dangerous, kegs were banned — even donkeys were no longer allowed.
I had waited my whole childhood to be an adult at the mogul challenge … and by the time I was old enough, the party had been banned. I had missed it.
But did I? Really? BMMC is what we make of it.
Every year, I pull out my bright neon yellow sweater, some Technica monstrosity that I bought at Southworth Ski Shop in the ‘90s, grab my BULA band and my UVEX sunglasses that I save for just this occasion. I fill my fanny pack flask with Jack and head for Bear. I’m there to party with my ski bum friends, watch some bumpers go crazy and get more than my fair share of rowdy. I’m there to celebrate skiing. I’m there to get the spring bump season started off the right way. I’m there for the shot skis and the friendships and the amazing group of people that make up this community of diehards. I’m there because it’s the BMMC and I wouldn’t dare miss this party.