White skinny legs sticking out from under plaid shorts. An equally porcelain bare chested young man skiing up to me, leaving a spray of slushy snow in his wake. People sunning themselves on the deck, while sipping beer, enjoying the warm rays of sun. Such is the scene of skiing in late April in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Earlier in the week, I was on the fence about skiing any more this season. It had been two weeks, and when it’s 70 degrees in Boulder, it’s harder to get yourself psyched up to ski again.
My friend texted me — “Are you going skiing this week?”
“I’m off on Friday – do you want to go to Mary Jane?”
“Ok, I’m in. I’ll pick you up at 8 a.m.”
Driving into the parking lot at 9:30 a.m., the scene feels surreal. Mud and dirt have replaced ice and snow. No fighting for a parking space today. The few cars already there have staked out tailgate spots, setting up chairs alongside their cars, and even portable barbecues.
It’s hard to know what to wear. I know it’s going to be baking warm, and yet the Panoramic lift tops out at 12,000 feet and can be quite windy. Even in late April, high elevations combined with cloud cover and wind can still feel a bit brisk. I opt for a light shirt with a shell on top.
One thing you won’t find me in is a pair of shorts and tank top, something I spied a couple of college girls wearing. I know I don’t have the body for it anymore. Even in my twenties, I never felt tempted to be that daring. I’ve never been sure I won’t crash and burn, and all that exposed skin would then be covered in road rash. Or should I say snow rash.
Early on, the snow is crusty. A young snowboarder who rides the lift asks me a favor.
“Excuse me, do you ski here a lot?”
“Yeah, I work here part-time.”
“I dropped my goggles from the lift, and this run is too hard for me to ride down. Would you possibly be able to get them for me?”
I feel sorry for him. The glare of the sun off the snow is blinding.
“Sure, I’ll got get them and meet you at the lift.”
I live to regret this. The bumps are crustified, and trying to ski them is like skateboarding across a gravel road. I grit my teeth. In the end, I sideslip most of the bumps, but do make it to his goggles in one piece.
He seems grateful as I hand them over.
Within 30 minutes, crust has softened into slush. The rest of the day is spent powering through the slush. There are no groomed trails. Only small waves of slush on what was groomed overnight, and giant bumps of slush on the mogul runs.
Still, I’m enjoying the views of snow-capped peaks, conversation with people on the chairlift, and just getting in some exercise on this beautiful blue-sky day.
Though we planned to wrap things up between 2 and 3 p.m., we find ourselves riding the lift one last time at 3:30 p.m.
As I power down one more slushy run, my legs are feeling it. Yet I feel happy, content and worn out in a good way.