The smell of sunscreen permeates the air around me. You know — that smell of coconuts, moisturizing cream and zinc oxide all rolled into one. T-shirts abound, as well as a cool pair of shades. Others recline in chaise chairs on the deck sunning themselves like lizards baking on a rock of their choosing. And why not — as sunshine rains down, and temperatures approach 60 degrees.
A day at the beach, you might ask? No, more like a spring day on the ski slopes. Record temperatures in Colorado have made a day of skiing feel more like a summer day at the beach the last couple of weeks. Though highs of 56 degrees may not seem particularly warm to those who reside in Florida, when combined with the sun’s rays radiating off of white ski slopes, it can feel every bit as hot.
My friends back east find it incomprehensible to think you can go skiing after weeks of record temperatures. How can there be any snow left? But when you have average snowfall during the winter time of 300 inches plus, it can take a long time to melt all that snow.
When I lived in Lake Tahoe, we would go skiing in shorts during the month of April, and there was still a good eight feet of snow on the ground. I can remember record snow years like this one in the Sierra, where snow covered most of the hiking trails well into July.
But the snow you are skiing on is quite different than the champagne powder all skiers covet. Earlier this week, I felt as if I were skiing on snow akin to a giant snow cone. You know, the snow cones you buy from the ice cream vendor that gets covered with sticky, sweet syrup turning red and purple? Imagine that slushee covering entire ski trails and that’s what it is like.
Skiing in the slush is not optimal — its very slow, and tends to suck your skis into the snow. On top of that, as you schuss down the hill going from shade to sun, you get a push/pull feeling. As I cross through the shaded areas — ZOOM – my skis speed up! But as soon as I cross into the sun — I feel as if I am being launched out of my ski boots as the slush grabs my skis into a grinding halt.
To make matters worse, at the bottom of the ski run as the snow melts off, ponds start to form — blue-green with some dirt in the middle, literally standing water up to a foot deep. Such was the scene I encountered at the bottom of the chairlift earlier this week.
Ski resorts understand these are not desirable conditions for most skiers, so as the temps warm in the springtime, they come up with clever methods to draw people to the slopes in spite of the challenging conditions. Among the favorites of spring ski events is pond skimming.
Pond skimming actually deliberately creates above-mentioned pond of several feet through an enclosure. Up hill from the pond is a ramp, similar to a ski jump, but much smaller in size. The challenge is for skiers or snowboarders to shoot off the ramp and literally “skim” the pond much like a water skier skiing across a lake.
Upping the ante and entertainment factor during pond skimming is folks wearing outrageous costumes or no costume at all, simply donning a bikini or surfer trunks. Others try pulling off tricks — spread eagles, helicopter spins — I’ve even seen some try to do back flips. As you might guess, waivers are signed ahead of time, and certain rules restrict the craziness less it result in injury.
So as we move towards spring and closing day for ski resorts, if you want to see something truly humorous and outlandish, head for your local ski resort. Or better yet, sign yourself up to see if you can “skim” the pond — it makes for a great story for your friends and relatives.