By Tony Crespi
The couple in the lodge were arguing. Both looked furious. Most evidently, their weekend plans had gone asunder. Listening shamelessly, with other onlookers, it was clear that the afternoon looked unpleasant. She was cold and frustrated by the hard ice on the mountain. He, on the other hand, wished to ski more: he buckled and walked outside. She looked angry: she sat in the lodge. Alone.
Ah, weekend romance on the mountain!
Earlier in the conversation it had come out that their weekend lodging was 45 minutes from Killington or Okemo. Distance meant they had no middle ground. One could only wonder how different the outcome might have been had she had the option to go back to their hotel or condo; perhaps even enjoy the second half of that day at the spa.
Some days mountain couples look as if they don’t even like each other.
Understandably, balancing adventure travel and a relationship can be challenging. Too often relationships — on and off the trail — seem to fracture. Walk into the base lodge at any major mountain and not every couple seems “connected.” One person is racing to catch an early lift while the other seems irritated that they couldn’t sleep in. On the slopes one partner suggests a black diamond while another suggests an early lunch break.
Family researchers Herbert and Irene Goldenberg have noted that approximately 1 million divorces occur annually in the U.S. Still, given that more than a third of divorcees remarry within a year it seems clear that people are looking for close, romantic, relationships.
But I saw little closeness that day, so why do so many find themselves in situations like this?
It’s not the sensation of speed nor the excitement of adventure that necessarily keeps couples linked. But it does provide an important link for some. In the 1930s world water speed champions Harold and Lorna Wilson spent a lifetime redefining convention. With his university sweetheart, Lorna, as chief mechanic, this couple captured powerboat racings top honors, becoming three time world champions. Yet, understand, as chief mechanic Lorna oversaw a transplanted Rolls Royce Merlin engine that was removed from a Spitfire aircraft fighter into their famous “Miss Canada III.” Truly, her skills and their partnership offer a unique view on a shared adventure.
How often has a partner dreamed of a twosome skiing and travelling to a distant mountain for a powder escape? Sometimes couples have indeed turned dreams into reality. Writers are avid readers you can see.
Another example comes from the 1940s. Anna and Harlan Hubbard lived for eight years aboard a shantyboat exploring the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. While enjoying sunsets, sunrises, as well as a frugal life, the Hubbards stepped outside modern conventions to live and share a rare life together. They pushed aside conventional careers. They stood apart from 9-5 routines. Together, they crafted and defined a unique adventure and adventurous life.
More recently, from the ‘90s until his death in 2006, extreme skier Doug Coombs helped redefine contemporary adventure skiing. A Boston native who grew up skiing in Vermont and New Hampshire, the two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion and his wife Emily Gladstone founded Doug Coombs Steep Skiing Camps – first based in Jackson Hole and later Chamonix, France. While his death in a tragic accident trying to save a friend in the Alps left his wife and son in mourning, his shared adventure with his wife is a powerful illustration of a couple who shared an extraordinary life.
But such examples might be the exeption, not the rule. A quick look (and listen) in any ski lodge and you’re likely to hear couples fight. Divorce is rampant.
As this winter unfolds, too many couples — from those still courting to those married – will forget the joy and fun of travel and sink into pointless arguments. It can be different. While not all-encompassing, the following points might (or might not) be useful as you plan your winter escape:
1. Choose the destination mutually. Not all mountains offer equal appeal to couples. Is the goal a shared romantic escape? An on-mountain condo with a blazing hearth or a hidden bed and breakfast can be in sharp contrast to a Spartan and inexpensive motel a half hour plus from the resort. An on mountain choice can offer great flexibility for the skier expecting first tracks while allowing a partner the option for sleeping in and meeting late morning. Choose thoughtfully. Consider the purpose.
2. Plan mealtime options. Is lunch in the base cafeteria ideal? Or is lunch in a village café preferred? Dinner? Fireside? Local supermarket? Upper class bistro? While you can be spontaneous about the exact location, don’t assume you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to expectations.
3. Examine off-mountain options. Not all adventures need happen on the slopes. On, off, and above the mountains are a range of travel adventures available to skiers and riders. Consider: Snowmobiling, a hot air balloon ride, a private pilot lesson or scenic plane ride.
As you contemplate your winter adventures consider how you might further polish and craft future escapes. The extraordinary couples who used adventure and travel to shape a unique partnerships offer an example to follow. Likely they quarreled. Couples who enjoy true intimacy will invariably disagree. But disagreements should not color the entire experience negatively.
As you consider your travel plans it is our hope that you too will take a moment to reflect on your relationship with a loved one, with skiing, and with life. It is our hope that your adventures as a couple will craft special memories. This winter, savor your adventures. From that first run. To your last run.