Okemo Mountain, Vermont

Friday night, the YC family drove up to Ludlow, Vermont to spend a couple of days “skiing” at Okemo Mountain.

I put quotes around the word, skiing, to pre-empt all of you out there chuckling at the fact that a goodly part of the Northeast, including the normally snowiest of ski mountains, look, for the most part, like this:

As Brian would say, it’s enough to leave one “disconsolate”. Word.

And if you are someone who has spent some time skiing in Vermont, you can imagine how disconcerting it is to drive down Route 100 (Route 100 is the road that runs through all of the Vermont ski resorts; it is said that Route 100 is always plowed…well, this year, it’s kind of llike, who cares?) and see not a bit snow, not even a single flake, to arrive at your hotel and park your four-wheel drive in a nearly empty lot that should be punctuated by snowdrifts but isn’t, and to get out of said four-wheel drive with your jacket off and look up towards the mountains and see nothing but the dull green and brown of a snowless wintry landscape – nary a snow covered peak in sight.

But we have friends who have a house in nearby Plymouth, and they told us that there is actually some decent skiing at Okemo, even when it rains, as it did on Saturday. Apparently, they do a lot of snowmaking up at Okemo, as long as the temperature hovers at around freezing. This weekend, the cold was off and on. The first day, the only snow to be seen was on a few specified trails on which they had made snow, and for the most part the only trails they could make snow on were the beginner and intermediate trails, as the expert trails tend to be too steep to hold the manmade snow without the benefit of a decent natural snow base.

Saturday night, as we drove to the house of our friends in Plymouth for a nice, hearty post-skiing (no, really!) meal, there was a light snowfall. And when I say light, I mean light. In NYC, it would be the kind of snowfall you might not even notice because it was the sort of fluffy snow that doesn’t typically stick to the sidewalk. But in Vermont, even a light blanketing of powder can change the whole picture (literally):


With or without that light dusting, on both days that we skiied, the conditions were, well, odd, at best. On trails that began midway up the mountain, you’d start out coasting on a thin cover of powder over packed powder, but as you schussed down the trail, you’d hit patches of visible ice that you just had to point your skis down and wait (and hope) for a softer patch to make a speed-controlling turn. As you went further down the trail, the visible ice would actually become a bit softer in consistency so that you could actually make turns on it. Closer to the base of the mountain, much of what we were skiing on was sort of brownish-beige from being mixed up with dirt and grass.

Up at the top of the mountain, the climate was completely different. The air was freezing and foggy – so foggy that you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you – and the snow had the consistency of sand. Seriously. It was some of the oddest snow I’ve ever seen or felt – coarse granules, dry as dust. I would have taken a photo if there were any visibility at all up there. And skiing on sand isn’t easy. You never quite feel like you can bite the edge of your skis into it. But then, just as you’d get used to making your turns in it, it would change to something else – depending on whether the trail was thin or wide, depending on how many skiiers had been there already, it might have been any combination of softer, harder, colder, wetter…until ultimately, you’d come to the archetypal “Loose Granular”, which looks something like this:

Now, does that really look like snow to you?

But really, it was all good, and I’m not just saying that so that I can play at sounding all yogic and philosophical. If you can ski in those conditions, then you can ski any conditions. I spent quite a bit of time on green (easy) runs because I spent a lot of time skiing with Adam, who was learning to ride a snowboard…


…and let me just say, there were no “green” runs this weekend. Everything was challenging, everything was a lesson in not getting too attached to the conditions that you like, to the conditions that you’re on at a given moment. It was a lesson in going with the flow.

One of the things I most enjoy about skiing is that it gives me a reason to be outside and active in the coldest of weather and yet not feel particularly cold. My favorite runs are the ones where you can’t see the chairlifts going by and for the most part, you don’t have to see other skiiers or hear the sound of their edges going by. I love to feel as if I’m all alone in the wilderness. I like to hear the sound of my skis alternately sliding and biting into the snow. Some people like to ski with their iPods. To me, apart from how completely unsafe that is, it just seems to defeat my purpose – connecting with nature.

It turned out to be a really nice weekend with some really great skiiing, and now I feel ready to go out west in February. Plus, my new ski boots are a fantastic fit, apart from a couple of bruises ve on my shins from tightening the buckles a bit overzealously.

Skiing feels like a perfect compliment to yoga – looseness, calm and the ability to twist the hips while keeping the torso quite all are enhanced by yoga. The flexibility gained in yoga minimizes injuries from falls and keeps soreness at bay (the husband is wearing a heating pad on his sore calves today, whereas I have already been to the shala this morning and had a fabulous practice – other than the fact that I had to do the three seated finishing postures right after Supta K and take a 30 second savasana because I was needed at home).

About Supta K – My Anonymous Shala Mate witnessed me gripping my hands tightly today in Supta K (as well as my losing my grip as my ankles were moved together). But she knows this quandry well, having lived to tell about it as she now nears completion of Primary. I feel very pleased that progress is there, progress continues, and I shall continue to do my individual study outside of the shala to keep the progress happening.

YC

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