Unlike most places around the country, we live in a place that not only welcomes big weather events, we pray for the big storms. Most of us are prepared to deal with the consequences. For us, those consequences include everything from having to shovel a driveway and chop more wood, to remembering the bus schedule and dealing with killer snow banks on Elk Avenue. But more than anything, the big storms bring joy.
We have said many times that we are essentially lowly snow farmers in this high mountain valley. Our crop is the white magic that falls from the sky between November and March. It is a miracle. If it snows, we reap the benefits. There are the personal benefits of floating a line in fresh powder and sharing a blustery line with hundreds of friends at the North Face Lift. It lightens our heart. There are the economic benefits of people beating a path to our mountains to experience the joy that fresh snow brings. It keeps us working. There is the aesthetic joy of beautiful mountains and a quaint town wrapped in the soft white fluff beneath a crisp blue sky when the storm takes its leave. It refreshes our soul.
If we have a lean crop, like we did last year, it can be a rough year. We are snow farmers.
The prime winter season begins this coming week. Crested Butte Mountain Resort will open its lifts Wednesday. For the next five months or so the bull wheels will spin so we can access the high slopes without having to “earn our every turn.” That too is sort of a miracle. The resort is becoming masterful at making and grooming snow if the natural crop disappoints. But going natural is so much better and is what draws in those that support our snow-agrarian community.
So here’s to a new year. It is always a mystery to what we’ll get. But the days before the season begins are always full of excitement and hope. Optimism abounds. Plenty of people have already explored the backcountry on skis after our first real storm last weekend. Lily Lake is seeing activity from the skinny ski Nordic set. Halloween Bowl has been skinned and Baldy has slid (be careful out there, people). Some children of the village will be so excited to be on the “first chair” they may camp out in the wintry night at the base of the Red Lady Express the evening before the lifts open.
It is tradition. It is part of our natural cycle. As we approach the start of a new winter’s season, the mountain bikes are stored and the ski jackets dug out of the closets. We become excited as the dark clouds form over Kebler Pass. We begin clicking on the CBMR Pow-cam, or the Donita’s Cantinacam to see the latest real-time situation. We begin watching the Weather Channel at all hours of the day or perusing the latest Joel Gratz forecast to see where the low-pressure systems are building in California. We want mudslides in L.A. or torrential rains in Portland (sorry, Dan and Kimberly)—because that means that a few days hence we may be enveloped in the joy of the white falling from the sky.
The ski area opens this Wednesday. The resort is letting everyone who wants to ride their lifts do so for free on the first day of the season. So, here’s to a bumper crop. Here’s to a copious amount of snow. Here’s to a wonderful 2012-2013 ski season. And remember—you can’t ski every day of the season if you don’t ski the first day. See you in line.