Winter Friends- Squaw Valley

As we begin the winter of 2010-2011, I look forward to a lot of things. Skiing, hanging out in my ski clothes, not really ever washing my ski clothes, sneaking into hot tubs, watching the snow fall, and talking about how all other mountains ever created really should just speed up their erosion process on a time-warped geologic scale because they really can’t hold a candle to Squaw and therefore should just cease existence. Mt. Vesuvius, thanks for taking the lead.

Another thing I gladly await is the return of winter friends and faces who have disappeared all summer. I had a reunion with the gal at Dave’s Deli the other day when I was buying a tall boy PBR for the upcoming Funitel ride. Near daily fixtures in our lives for months last snow season, we hadn’t seen each other since May. Lifties back from Australia now back in my routine with a, “How’s it goin’” and a ‘Cheers mate” and smile each lap. Many co-workers who during the summer months work on the

lake return to the friendly confines of PlumpJack when the days get short. And those guests at the hotel who come up week after week – and who during a season become friends – they too begin again to trek up Interstate 80 for the common thing we love.

This topic of guests who are my friends comes to me with spontaneity, and thus I write unaware of how they would feel if I broadcast their true names upon the Internet (can you imagine the logistics of attempting to explain what the heck the Internet was to someone in 1954?), so I will speak in tongue. “SK”, his wife “IR” and their intrepid cocker spaniel will embark (no pun intended) upon the Squaw Valley Inn this weekend. “SK”, who I might say looks more like a really good chess player than a skier, is actually a darn fine skier. I know this because I have skied with him. We saw each other on the hill one day last year and then had a great, let’s say hour and a half skiing together. We made our way down to Headwall, and thinking my twenty years of youth on this guy would be comical, I let him go first down Headwall Face in three old day bumps after an early February storm; and “SK” killed it. He owned me in the bumps. Most of my interactions with “SK” came in the hotel after that day skiing together, but after that day the interactions were as friends – if not winter friends.

Two other guest-friends come to mind. One, we will call “Winemaker D”, and the other “Miss Cupton.” You will never guess what “Winemaker D” does for a living, but I will tell you that he is just about the most stand-up guy you’d imagine, and he always makes sure the front desk has a couple of primo bottles of his art when he leaves. He too is a very strong skier and I ran into him on the Funtiel one time a few weeks after “SK”. On the ride up, we talked about a rating scale on wine and how it should reflect the type of night it brings you. (While this is by no means a “G” rated blog, it is not for solely for audiences over seventeen, so I will leave the rest of that anecdote up for imagination.) “D” had just joined a Squaw race group which allowed him to lap a course set up on the lower mountain that morning. He was jazzed at going so fast on skis again, and in a whole new way from his younger days as a mogul skier. I took maybe my only groomer fall of the year while skiing with him on Shirley Lake of all places, and I knew he saw as he Super G’d right on by me. I was embarrassed but buried it deep down to a place where it wouldn’t hurt. I do divulge this about his identity: he produces a wine that is “named after people that are forced to live in jail” which is a blend of liquid velvet and skiing derived laughter.

The third guest- friend whom I hope to see this season (although she did mention the abhorrent words, “ski lease”, late last year as she honestly did come up every week) is the aforementioned Miss Cupton. She may be the only one of the three of whom I am a better skier, but her progress from the beginning to the end of 09-10 was remarkable. And not only on the slopes.

Mid-way through the winter she had already achieved “local’s status”, and by Cushing’s Crossing on closing day she knew roughly 45 times more people in Squaw than this hermit-artist-skier did. I think that Team Tie-dye even made her an honorable member. Wow! Heck, I think even Squaw founder Mr. Sir Alex Cushing even arose from the grave, jump-turned down KT, and gave her the key to the Valley. And even if she does opt for ski lease this season, she is a winter friend who I hope to see, just like “SK” and “Winemaker D”. For it is winter, and thus time for those friends you are stoked to see during this half of the year; whose names you might not always remember, but whose face you can recognize under beanie, helmet, goggles, with zipper all the way up, only by the sunburned tip of their nose, cold-blushed cheeks, and white-chapped lips.

Plan a visit with friends at PlumpJack’s Squaw Valley Inn today!

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