Thursday, May 28, 2020

Off-season bonding

Sunday was a good ending day—to a great season. Slushy spring skiing, tutus and onsies, smiling people all communing on the lift-served hill to enjoy one of the better ski seasons in recent memory. One mid-timer who is edging toward old-timer status mentioned Sunday in line at the NFL that this season was pretty average—even slightly below average—for when he first arrived in the 1980s. True that, but times are a-changing and I’ll take this past season over and over and over again in this world of climate change.

Transitioning to the summer and the bike, paddle, hike or golf seasons began Monday. Ahhh, off-season. They aren’t always great but they are always sweet for the breath of refreshment they bring. This one appears it might fall into the sketchy category, at least for the start, if your off-season joy is based on the weather. It looks like we may transition right back to winter for much of the next couple of weeks. Anyway, it obviously will be a while before single track mountain biking or high alpine hiking is available anywhere in the north valley. But we need the water and it’s good for Blue Mesa.

Normally, this is a great time of year for bikers to get their spinning legs back at Hartman Rocks. That won’t happen for a while, either. Tim Kugler of Gunnison Trails said that a “mud closure” was put in place at Hartman’s as of this week. It’s too muddy for fat bikes and too wet for mountain bikes, so now it is in wait-and-dry-out mode. He predicts it will be late April before biking is okayed down there for the trails that are getting the sun. But hey, the skiing is still good in a lot of places if you are willing to earn your turns.

That puts a bit of hurt on those who love the idea of great skiing literally switching to great biking like flipping on the lights in the Rec Room. It happens sometimes and it is great but it won’t happen this year. The message was sent via email this week when OpenSnow touted “Cold powder for the west this week & weekend.” Now, in theory that can weed out those who came here for constant paradise and are seeing the rougher side of that coin. They may decide the city with a mall and food court is okay after all.

It isn’t always easy to handle eight months of winter with a cold, muddy in-between period. In that vein, maybe everyone should remember to try to keep an extra eye on those staying here and who are having a difficult emotional time with their life and the weather—they might need some extra help to get through a tough time. Help out those friends, family and neighbors who might need an extra bit of help these days. We have seen too many tragic springs in our past.

Now, if the weather turns to blue sky and 50s, the school break week here is one of the best of the year. Quiet and dusty, it is a time to slow way down. But the slowdown this year might be better in Utah. It’s just part of the off-season choices. And it is the beauty of any off-season. Off-season offers the chance to slow down and not work so hard. It offers the chance to catch up with a dinner or a simple chat with friends and acquaintances you’ve missed in the bedlam of ski season. It offers the chance to chill on a bench or gather at a bar or around a campfire. It is the chance to again breathe deeply, reconnect with friends and nature, look around and deeply remember why you all moved here in the first place. It wasn’t to work more.

Off-seasons are certainly shorter these days—and I’ll argue again that working to turn every off-season week into a tourist time is not good for the general health of the overall community. Those living in a mountain town are fortunate to have off-seasons—despite how brutal they might be on the outside. There is a certain bonding between those who embrace a challenging off-season. So the choice is to make the best of it no matter what it looks like. That part is up to you.

Anyway, here’s a shout out to the really fun 2018-2019 winter ski season.

We’ll wait and see what the new Vail Resorts ownership group announces for improvements on the ski hill for next year. But that sounds like too much work at the moment—so grab a book or a friend and enjoy the bonus we get for living here. Take the memories of a great ski season with you wherever you are headed and accept the sweetness—no matter how harsh it seems on the surface—of the coming spring break.

Happy off-season, everyone.

—Mark Reaman

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