By Merisa Sherman
There’s dust in my eyes, but I’m trying to ignore it as I relax in my lawn chair. I have to turn my head to stop the dust from going down my throat — or worse, into my drink. Willing myself to believe that a bluebird 48-degree day is perfect parking lot weather, I am becoming one with my chair, my legs extending out in front of me while I chat with my closest neighbor.
We just met. They had parked next to me, so now we are life-long ski friends. Because that’s how it works in the K-1 parking lot once spring has started. Whomever you park next to, that is your official tailgating buddy for the day. Which either means you are making sure you park your car down in Bay 4 where you can catch the most sun and least amount of cars and can guarantee a section with all your buddies … or you are parking higher up and taking the chance of meeting someone who could end up being your new ride or die.
But that’s the cool thing about the springtime lot. It’s the common experience of the wind constantly blowing dust into your face and the idea that wearing a puffy coat and ski pants rolled up to show off your après ski flip flops is a fashion all its own. It’s pretty much my favorite ski time look. Your feet can dry out after skiing all day in the soggy snow but your body stays warm and toasty in your puffy — because 48 degrees isn’t really that warm.
Or is it? I was sweating almost the entire time I was skiing, so tailgating makes sense. Right? Plus, anyone crazy enough to ski this time of year relies on two things.
First, you need to take breaks to rest your legs. There is no way you are skiing bell-to-bell non-stop moving all this snow around. Because it doesn’t move. It just sits there, melting for hours, either turning to soup or fog. And if we’re out here tailgating, you know it’s soup.
Two, you need companions. Nobody really likes to go spring skiing alone. You need a friend to keep your energy up, because this kind of skiing requires more than a few Skittles to get your body going. You need laughter!
So here we are in the parking lot, swapping ski stories and swigging drinks. We laugh about which trails just didn’t cooperate with the groomers last night (Lower SkyeLark, could you just please behave??) and which trails just soak in that sun so perfectly you wonder why you didn’t ski Highline all day. You chat about avoiding Superstar like the plague because in just a few short weeks we will once again learn every nook and cranny — but it looks so good with all that snow that you just can’t resist and so you ski it anyways. You laugh at the guy who skied Bear in the afternoon because everyone knows that you can only ski Bear in the mornings this time of year. But nobody really cares because we’re grateful to be making turns at all this late in the season.
While there is laughter and jokes, there is also a bit of sadness as we inevitably list off the trails we didn’t get to ski this year. The trails we missed because of whatever reason. It’s like not having checked in on an old friend and your heart pinches a bit. I missed Catwalk this year and it hurts, truly hurts. I love the walk up, the moments just standing at the summit and then riding the glorious wave down. I don’t know why I missed it; I just did. The timing was never right, I rarely rode the gondola. Maybe I wanted to ski it with my dad and he wasn’t here. I don’t know. Some years the list is longer than others and there’s no real rhyme or reason to it, just that every season is different.
No matter the year, some things stay the same. No matter how many days a year you ski, this is the time where everyone starts to make their farewells. For some of us, this past weekend marked the final run, the sticky snow a reminder that our body parts are no longer interested in the variable experience of rotting and melting snow.
But for the crazy diehards, we’ll be here for two more months. We’ll be the ones here to welcome everyone from around the East Coast as their ski areas close for the season and they make the journey to the Mecca that is Superstar in the spring. We’ll be the ones still lingering in the parking lot until the sun drops down behind Snowdon and the lot goes dark and cold. We’ll be the ones refusing to go home, skiing and laughing until the last chair turns and the party officially ends … and maybe, even a little beyond.