Tales from the Lift Line I: Waiting for Winter

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by Mary-Colleen Jenkins

Photo at right: This time last year at Alpental. Photo by Mary-Colleen Jenkins

Welcome to the second annual installment of our ski blog series, Tales from the Lift Line. Mary-Colleen Jenkins, a dedicated Northwest skier, is back at it again, sharing her weekly adventures. Check in here every Thursday to follow along with her posts about skiing with her family in the Northwest. Post your own thoughts in the comments! ~ editor

Because of a 1979 ketchup commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoLoyg3JKRQ), I often have a Carly Simon song running through my head when I’m waiting for something exciting to happen.

“Anticipation/Anticipa-a-a-ation/Is making me late/Is keeping me wa-a-a-aiting…”

On a clear September day we clambered up Cave Ridge Trail towards Guye Peak. Sweating and thirsty, we stepped out of the trees onto an outcropping and faced Denny Mountain and the Alpental ski area across the valley. In the haze of the afternoon sun our home mountain looked wild and ramshackle. Growth and rockfall littered the slopes, a marked contrast to the snow-covered smoothness of our typical winter views. So much that is familiar was camouflaged by foliage, but we could make out the faint lines of the lifts and the graying towers against the mountainside.

We stood there for a while, my husband tracing routes for our daughter, routes that she can practically ski with her eyes closed but that looked foreign to her in their summer green.

Alpental last September. Photo by Mary-Colleen Jenkins

“I can’t wait for winter!” she said before turning with her friend and scrambling up a boulder to eat lunch.

And, so began the season of waiting for snow. A season that usually ends in mid-December. A season that has been lingering much too long this year.

Shortly after our hike, I noticed that the spiders were building their webs in our shrubs much earlier than they usually do in autumn. A sign of an early, good winter?

Then our neighbor called over the fence one afternoon. The Farmer’s Almanac promised a winter of storms! The days of rain came shortly after — the wettest September in history, according to meteorologist Cliff Mass (http://www.kplu.org/post/mass-2013-was-kind-boring-year-some-interesting-details). My husband watched reports of the snow level getting lower and lower. Rumors of big snow proliferated. I rushed my boots into the ski shop to be adjusted.

“Anticipation/Anticipa-a-a-ation/Is making me late/Is keeping me wa-a-a-aiting…”

The rains passed with September. November dawned: sun… sun… dry… dry… the snow level rising and rising. November rains? Not nearly enough.

But still we engaged in the annual rites of passage from fall into winter:

The ski movie on the big screen: heads in the crowd bobbing to the soundtrack, bodies swaying in synch with the skiers dropping over impossible cliffs, the crowd  “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” until the end.

The pre-season ski party: tall tales, injury tales, true tales, embarrassing tales, oh-my-god-really? tales.

The dreaded trying on of last year’s gear on the kids: “Please-please-please let it fit!”

December? “Below average snowfall,” according to Cliff Mass. Of course, we could have told him that.

Crystal Mountain last winter. Photo by Mary-Colleen Jenkins

But, we got out anyway. Our first day, Dec. 22, was lovely. Sunny with a bit of new snow at Crystal. A nice enough day to start getting our legs back in gear before another dry spell hit and the snow got worn down. Out again on Jan. 3, we helped use up the few inches of new snow at Crystal before the thick layer of ice underneath was revealed in all its glory by the end of the day.

“I can’t wait until Alpental opens,” said my daughter as we walked back to the car. Winter had finally — almost — arrived. “I really like it here, but it feels more like home to me there.”

“Anticipation/Anticipa-a-a-ation/Is making me late/Is keeping me wa-a-a-aiting…”

Most ski areas in the state are open, with plenty of warnings about early season conditions. Mission Ridge, another unfortunate hold out, is set to open on Thursday, but we’re still waiting and hoping that The Summit and Alpental gain enough snow during this week’s predicted storms to open — or at least get a lot closer to it.

And, when that last-to-open ski area has enough snow to get the lifts running, then the anticipation and the waiting really is, finally, over. When that happens, winter truly has come to stay in Washington and the ski community can breathe easy — and we can all stop wishing that we had just a little bit of that polar vortex action over here!

Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, writing coach, and writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads.

Catch up with all the previous posts of “Tales from the Lift Line” below.

2014:

>> I. Waiting for Winter

>> II. Dorothy and Oz

>> III. The Poles You Save May Be Your Own

>> IV. Vittels

>> V. What kind of parents let their kids…?

>> VI. Olympians

>> VII. Emergence

>> VIII. Nickels and Dimes

>> IX. Nickels and Dimes Part II

>> X. Letting Them Run

 

2013:

>> I. The Beginning

>> II. When Seeing is Believing

>> III. Expeditionary Forces

>> IV. Velocity

>> V. Pack Rat

>> VI. Dude

>> VII. Expectations

>> VIII. Don’t Cry in the Trees

>> IX. The Sounds of Silence

>> X. Known/Unknown


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