Monday, November 21, 2005

Opening Day

by SonDog

When I moved to Vail in 2001, I couldn't wait for opening day. I mean, I don't think I slept the night before Vail mountain opened. I spent the evening waxing my board, making sure all my gear was in order, doing yoga at 3 a.m. to keep loose, and literally wetting my pants on the way up the first lift that morning (Okay, I totally made that last part up, but you get the picture).

This being my fifth year living in Vail, CO, I've run the gauntlet on emotional excitement level for opening weekend of the ski resort. As the years have come and gone, so has my child-like giddiness. When I was 22, I didn't have any responsibilities other than making sure my refrigerator had plenty of Sierra Nevada beer on the bottom shelf and that I could drag myself out of bed by 8 am each day. Honestly, if it ever was empty, there was going to be hell to pay (the beer was obviously priority numero uno). My point is that I had no problem hucking myself off of terrain park kickers with no regard for personal safety. I didn't worry about the consequences of riding recklessly or trying to do new things on my board even though all signs pointed towards me failing.

As I sit here today, I have a wife, a dog, a mortgage, and various other responsibilities in my life. Four years ago, the last words I would hear when I left the house were, "Rip it up today, bro." Usually it came from my good buddy, NaceDog, while he had a beer in one hand... at 8 am (Note to Reader: NaceDog is now one of Vail Ski Patrol's finest. I don't know why, but I do feel much, much safer on the hill knowing that he is a patroller. You will hear much more about and from NaceDog through the winter months.). Today, the last words I heard when I left the house were, "Just don't go and kill yourself, okay?" Those words are from my wife, who does not have a beer in her hand at 8 am.

Hey, at least I'm not injured...

With that, I headed out to do some early-season riding on Sunday morning. The mountain was in fantastic condition and it was a beautiful day, so I figured I might as well go up and try to get those warm and fuzzy riding feelings back. The entire mission for the day was simply to cruise around, not hurt myself, and practice some of the moves that would be necessary for later in the season.

The first run of the day, a cruiser of a run off of chair 4 called Christmas, was just what I needed. While I came damn close to catching an edge (and subsequently crushing my face in the snow) a couple of times, the nice and easy groomed run provided the perfect opportunity to link some turns, accelerate to a pretty good speed, and not hit a tree on the inaugural run of 2005/2006.

I could not script the next three hours any better. I maneuvered some moguls pretty well, I got the feeling back for riding switch, and I even pulled off a couple of nice grabs off of some little kickers. In all, I felt as if I was back into the flow, so to speak. (Note: "The Flow" is a phrase I like to use to describe the euphoric feeling that comes from completing a difficult run with every body part still in good shape.)

SonDog, trying to find "The Flow"...

By 1 pm, my legs started barking at me and I knew it was time to head home. When my legs start to get tired, I tend to get lazy on the board, which means I tend to fall... hard. Since I had stayed upright through most of the day, I considered myself lucky, and headed down the last cat-track when... SPLAT!

(Class Exercise: Standing upright, tie your legs together with a rope that is attached to a pickup truck. Tell the driver of the truck to accelerate as quickly as possible, and without warning. See how good your face feels when it slams into the ground at 71 mph? That's what it feels like to catch an edge on a cat-track.)

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic day on the hill, and a good start to the season. If there's one thing I've learned to do very well, its fall. And while I've dated a couple in my life, I wasn't born blessed with the grace of a ballerina (You would think that I would have acquired some through osmosis or something, but it never happened.). At any rate, I didn't let that collapse damper my day.

So, consider this your warning. Through this winter season, you will hear plenty of stories from the mountain. Stories about powder days. Stories about slamming my body into trees. Stories from NaceDog's Ski Patrol escapades. Stories about DMo's new apartment and hot tub. And on and on and on.


Anonymous said...

And for all those interested, by “kicker” he means any small collection of snow found idely lying in a flat groomed run. This guy is the king of jumping off of nothing.

bh said...

and for all those interested, by "anonymous said" he means chicken shit who doesn't have the guts to attach any form of identification to a posted comment. This guy is the king of gutless.