Monday, April 19, 2010

Mud Season

Yesterday, my son, Mark, and I skied the last day at Winter Park for the season. We were some of the last people up the Panoramic lift at Mary Jane before they closed it until next November, but coming down the face of Parsen Bowl was a little bit less than wonderful. A couple of inches of powder didn't hide the fact that we were skiing on crud. "Well," said Mark, "that wasn't the best run of the day."

At the end of the day, Mark took me down Hughes, a famous run leading to the base of Winter Park. It was my first time ever to ski it. Truth be told, I couldn't have found it without his help. Winter Park is not the most intuitive ski mountain, and it has skiing secrets.

The snow was nasty, but it wasn't that nasty. Coming down from Mary Jane, we saw ski patrollers taking down fences around hazards. "That's dangerous," I thought, "skiers could hurt themselves," but then I reflected that we were just about the last legal skiers on that run for the season.

The family had a celebratory dinner at a restaurant in Winter Park that evening. In the face of a bad economy, we'd had a huge number of wonderful people stay at the High Mountain Lodge, and we needed to enjoy each other's company. It was a disappointing meal for me, but Julie and Mark liked their selections.

After the wildness in the restaurant on the last day of ski season, it was eerie going into the Safeway this evening to buy food. Gone were the exhausted skiers buying anything they could cook quickly in their rented condos. Everybody was gone. There was no reason for anybody to stick around.

Driving out to the store this afternoon to get groceries, I came around the corner of the road and saw the Continental Divide stretched out from north to south as far as the eye could see. It was stunning, the contrast of the white of the snow on the high peaks with the fading colors of the forests down below. Murphy, the Lodge Dog, thought she saw the neighborhood fox about then, and she barked her way into the Safeway parking lot in Fraser. After we got to the Safeway, she forgot about the fox and turned her attention to the dogs tied up outside the grocery store. Lordy, the racket she raised. Hanging out the window of our Subaru, she let out a chorus of barks at the dogs tied to pillars around the front of the store, and they responded with some deep-throated "woofs."

The funny thing was, outside of two dogs tied to posts and Murphy barking from the car window, there weren't that may living things in the parking lot.

Mud season had arrived. The Safeway had noted that fact by halving the price of most of its groceries. There was nobody in the store, when a week before, you couldn't have found your way down any aisle without tangling with visitors from elsewhere in the country half your age who prefaced every comment with "Dude!" As in: "Dude! I know your girlfriend's a vegetarian, but that sausage looks awesome!"

There's nobody here right now, except us. Locals sort of recognize each other in a sort of shell-shocked way. We have a month or so before the summer crowds show up.

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