|Far from the madding crowds: scoping out a new season.|
While the hoards of Black Friday shoppers rise early to stand in line, my family, if all goes well, will be making our way to the mountain for opening day of ski season. When there is snow on Thanksgiving weekend, I ski. That has been true since my immediate post-college years when I lived in Crested Butte, Colorado.
During those ski town days, I usually spent Thanksgiving working, then joined friends – and friends of friends – gathered in someone’s living room for a hodgepodge of holiday dishes and traditions around a makeshift collection of card tables and mismatched chairs. Most of us were far from home and family, working odd holiday hours in a town where shops, restaurants, and ski lifts were open on Turkey Day.
People showed up when they could, after or between shifts, coming together in the comfort of good food, friendly company, and talk about the fresh ski season. Back then I was thankful for being in the mountains, living in a beautiful place with other people who embraced that beauty and loved exploring the wide-open spaces around us. I was happy to have a job that included daily ski breaks, a decent place to live, and people to gather with on this holiday of giving thanks, even if they weren’t quite family.
I’m not sure I even knew about Black Friday until I moved back East. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention before. Or maybe this national day of shopping has morphed in the past couple of decades into the consumeristic beast it is now. In the modern era of constant connectivity, you don’t even have to leave the house to buy presents, and online shopping has its own special holiday in Cyber Monday.
Well before Thanksgiving, I started receiving texts and emails touting Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, sometimes from stores where I’ve never even shopped. They can send all the advertisements they want, I still won’t be buying today, and probably not Monday either. My holiday shopping tends to be on the small scale (even with three kids) and as local as I can make it.
During the Black Fridays I worked as a reporter, I spent a good portion of the day after Thanksgiving popping into those local shops in the post-parade crowd of Main Street Littleton, talking with local business owners and shoppers. The resulting story was generally a combination of fluff (what were the “hot” items this season) and substance (how important were Black Friday sales to these small shop owners).
Surrounded by hustle and bustle, and jotting soundbites into my reporter’s notebook, I longed for the steady hum of the chairlift’s bullwheel, the sensation of skis slicing through snow, the comfort of not being corralled into small spaces with so many people. (My claustrophobic exception is the tram car, where the end result of a top-to-bottom run absolutely justifies the sometimes crowded means of transport).
Lots of things have changed since those early post-college years, geographically and otherwise. My Thanksgivings have returned to a more traditional scene – a day off from schedules, gathering with family, eating too much. These days, I spend my winter weekends coaching 6- and 7-year-old aspiring ski racers. We kick off the season the day after Thanksgiving.
It turns out I am thankful now for some of the same things I was thankful for 20 years ago when I lived in the mountains of Colorado: work that allows me to ski quite a bit, a pretty nice place to live with the beauty of the mountains surrounding me, and the closeness of family. Plus, I get to spend Black Friday on skis.