Keeping up with the joneses

I gingerly savored the first few turns, assessing the conditions much like a swimmer dips his toe into a lake before diving in. Or, in this case, a jonesing weekend warrior testing some of the first powder turns of the season. Yes, it’s true - this winter has not been kind in the epic powder days category. Sunny, bluebird, groomer days, yes. But up until recently, work and the jetstream had conspired to give me only enough powder days to count on one finger (I won’t say which one.)

Cry me a blizzard, I know, especially when several friends are laid up with various orthopedic maladies and the backcountry has been sketchier than a house of cards on the Costa Concordia. Things are hard-pack all over. It’s just that if I had to hear one more midweek exploit of “blower pow” and how “totally sick” it was, I was going to give someone a faceshot they wouldn’t ever forget.
I mean, doesn’t anybody work in this town?

Of course they do, if you consider skiing a job.  

Which is exactly why I decided to steal away to the mountain on a recent weekday afternoon. There was just enough time to get in a few runs before I had to pick the kids up at school, and no one had to be the wiser.

Amazingly enough, everything was going like clock work, and I was congratulating myself for actually pulling it off without one of my typical stunts, like locking my keys in the car or grabbing my 8-year-old’s pass instead of my own. At last, I would have the bragging rights in the check-out line, during parent pick-up, walking the dog, as I regaled my envious cohorts in tales of just how good it was.

And that’s when the shit got really deep.

See, midway into my third turn, as I was entertaining visions of faceshots, I suddenly found myself getting one. Only problem is, instead of the snow coming to me, I was going to it. Perhaps in the midst of all that fluff, I had managed to hit the only stump on the run.

No such luck. When I looked down, I saw my ski had completely come off, highly atypical for a tele binding. And that’s when I saw the kiss of death: a completely severed cable in not one, but two pieces.

(Yes, I know, if I had been prepared with one of those backcountry survival kits, I could have used a teeny tiny screwdriver and my frozen fingers to thread a new cable through an impossibly small hole and replace the cartridge and heel piece, which were now hopelessly MIA in the snow. I also know I’m supposed to drink more water, check the smoke alarm batteries, call my mom and rotate my tires on a regular basis, but I don’t always do those things either.)

Anyway, my first thought was to fake it. You know, stick the toe of my boot under that flimsy metal bar across the top of the binding and pretend everything’s OK. Sort of like how I skied two-thirds of the way down the mountain with a blown knee in college.
And speaking of blown knees, I decided the fakey-toe approach could probably lead to one, so after a few harrowing turns, I had no choice but to power wedge to the lift and catch a snowmobile ride out. At least it beats going down in the meatwagon, I told myself as I awaited my four-stroke chariot.

And that’s when I learned it was going to be much worse.

“I’m going to drop you off at the top of Lift 1 and you’ll have to download,” the patroller informed me, putting a serious dent in my apres-braggery plans.

“But what if somebody sees me?” I asked, only half-joking.

But she had no time for jokes, and I can’t say I blame her. There was probably someone out there who was really hurt, with bleeding appendages or broken bones, and here she was, chaffeuring a primadonna who was too cool for downloading.

Anyway, I thanked her kindly and accepted my fate, skis in lap, and did what any self-respecting person would do on the ride down. I cinched my hood tight, pulled out my phone and pretended to be engrossed in a really important conversation.  

Which I sort of was. For starters, I had to call my friend, the one who urged me not to buy those bindings (for which I will use the acronym “Ginormous Godawful Garbage” so as to avoid a lawsuit) in the first place. After telling her she was right and I will never doubt her again, I made another call to my friendly neighborhood ski tech. He took pity and promised a quick fix back at the shop and advised me to salvage the day by getting a loner pair from his buddy who worked at the mountain.

Which, I must say, was pretty good advice coming from a guy who huffs P-tex fumes all day.

Keep skiing? After the ski gods laugh in your face, heckle you and dare you to tempt them just one more time?

Hell yeah – it is my job after all. And so, I held my head high as I fumbled with my skis on the dismount, walked backwards through the maze and headed straight over to Backcountry (shameless plug) in search of compassion. See, in my typical wretched luck, I had left all money, credit cards and otherwise useful means of payment down in the car, meaning I would need to grovel. And grovel I did, as I plead my case to the two very sympathetic, very nice ladies working that afternoon. Did I mention how very nice they were? Anyway, it must’ve worked, either that or they just wanted to get rid of me, but as luck would have it, there was one pair of teles left in the back. OK, so they were for a person of, shall we say, a more petite stature than myself. But at that point, I was so excited to be given a second chance, that I probably would’ve crawled across sharp, metal nonslip stairs for an old pair of Big Foots.
Anyway, after an initial break-in period, which involved at least one vertebrae-crushing endo, the little pixie sticks and I made peace. In fact, we had so much fun (either that or I hit my head harder than I thought), that I completely forgot about school pick up (sorry, honey.)

But in the end, it all worked out. Social Services didn’t have to be called, my beloved fat boards were back in action the next day and that James Earl of a jones got fed. Sure, it’ll probably return with a vengeance real soon, but if it does, it’s good to know Durango can always hook a sister up.

– Missy Votel