Friday, November 25, 2011

Ribbon of White

(Wrote this earlier this week for the Record Littleton -- before it snowed! But with warm weather on the way, we're sure to be back to a ribbon of white soon, hopefully just for a while...)

It’s the third full week of November, which for most people means traveling to be with family, watching lots of football, enjoying and recovering from a huge Thanksgiving feast, and preparing for crazy holiday shopping sales. But if you’re a skier in the East, the third week of November probably means there’s more than turkey on the menu… that’s right, ski season officially began this week!

I’m not sure when Thanksgiving week became the traditional start to season for so many ski areas. The timing of “ski season” is something of an unnatural phenomenon, really, beginning before there’s usually much natural snow on the ground, and ending in early April, when some of the best skiing is still to come. I suppose by April, all but the most diehard of skiers have moved on to baseball and gardening.

So, with the relatively modern benefit of manmade snow, instead of skiing the longer, warmer, sunnier days of spring, we New Englanders strap on the boards for the first runs amid the colder, darker, somewhat dreary days of November. Locally, Loon Mountain opened last Sunday, Bretton Woods spun the lifts Tuesday for some pre-Turkey Day turns, and Cannon Mountain hosted its first skiers of the season today (Friday).

I’ve always been a Cannon girl, and I have a pretty good view of the mountain from my dining room table, where I do most of my work these days. Although I don’t normally ski until December, I found myself this week peering out the window each morning in the dim, pre-dawn hour, looking for plumes of snow shooting from snowguns to create their own weather system in Franconia Notch, anticipating the official start of ski season.

Whether I get out there in the first week or two or not, it’s comforting to see that one long, winding strip of white, unnaturally bright amid the dull grey-brown of a mountainside of denuded trees. The first days on the hill are generally not the best, with few trail options, minimal snow cover, and slopes crowded by eager skiers. But they lay the foundation for the good days to come. The days of soft snow, smooth corduroy, and – nature willing – sweet powder.

And so we fill up with turkey, grudgingly accept November’s darkness, and look toward the mountain, hoping to see that ribbon of white that means ski season has begun.