Autumn Phillips: AprÃs ski test
I’m not the kind of girl who aprÃs skis with just anyone. It has to be special.
Consider this analogy: The car pulls up to your door at the end of a date. You sit for one last minute with the engine running, and you make a decision. Some people get a quick hug and a “don’t call me again” pat on the back and others get invited in for more conversation.
And so it is when your skis reach the end of the mountain. You think back on the day (and check your pockets to make sure you have cash). Before inviting them “in” you ask yourself, “Was this person a good ski partner, and are they worthy of the aprÃs?”
A good ski partner is not just someone who likes the same runs that you do or someone who skis at the same pace. A good ski partner knows that the most important part of his or her job comes during the chairlift ride.
Chairlift conversations should be short but profound. They should include full disclosure of all powder stashes discovered on the last run. They should be full of gossip and funny things to think about on the way down, and, as the day progresses, they should also be peppered with spot analysis of life, its meaning and other “it sucks to be an adult” chit chat.
Those who simply hold down their side of the chair as if we were two weights on a scale, usually get the “I can’t aprÃs with you. I really have some laundry to do” at the end of the day.
When they’ve passed the chairlift litmus test, an aprÃs ski relationship still must be entered cautiously. (Again, think of the end of a date analogy. After they are in your house, it can be hard to get them to leave when you realize you’ve made a bad decision.)
One reason chairlift conversations are so good is that you don’t have to look at each other during the long silences. You can look at the trees or the sky or at that spot in the snow where someone obviously biffed it and had a hard time getting back up. My favorite game to play is “What’s that?” As in: Is it a glove, a ski pole or a Twix wrapper lying in the snow that someone dropped from the lift?
But in the aprÃs ski environment, across the table from someone, there isn’t much to look at but the other person.
Here are a couple of signs that you should pretend you forgot to let the dog out and have to leave ASAP:
An aprÃs ski partner must be comfortable with the “come as you are” environment. There will be no run to the restroom to apply makeup before ordering something foamy and something fried. You pull off your hat — hair in the air. You loosen your boots, and you relax into the ritual.
An aprÃs ski partner also must have the same inclination for aprÃs spots as you. For most, and for me, the aprÃs ski hour is a chance to realize that you have skied past your closest friends a thousand times that day but didn’t recognize them in their new helmets.
But this is a tough time of year for the aprÃs.
I’ve had my share of pints and pizza at Slopeside, but it doesn’t become my favorite place to be until the stage comes out and the free concert series begins. Slopeside is an early and late season aprÃs spot. And Dos Amigos doesn’t become the place to “see and be seen” until the deck opens or until much later in the night.
So, like falling for a man full of compliments who comes along right after a break-up, I was an easy sway when Josh’s Back Alley Bar opened.
Saturday was the kind of ski day when we just chased each other from the top of the lift to the bottom and then got back on again for another lap. We were exhausted, and we were ready to aprÃs.
We stashed the skis and walked through the tile maze that leads you into Josh’s. Because of its basement and, well, back alley, location, Josh’s feels somewhere between a bar you discovered by accident on the side street of some Eastern European town and the rec room of a college dorm.
There are no decorations except for memorabilia from a long lost bar called Slater’s, where Josh used to bar tend and where he garnered his following.
As Josh put it on Saturday, there are “no clocks, no mirrors, no television.” And, ahem, no jukebox.
The clientele is 99.9 percent local and 99.9 percent people who know each other.
My food was burnt and the beer selection is limited, but that’s not why you go there. You go because it’s the kind of place where the owner strolls in wearing telemark boots, and he stops by your table to ask about your day on the slopes. You can tell it’s the life he has been planning for himself for a while, and you want to support him.
On our way down the alley toward Josh’s, two women walked by holding their skis like trays.
“Do you know where Josh’s Back Alley Bar is?” one asked.
“See that sign for the Mediterranean Grill? That’s it.” (I wasn’t trying to trick the women. Josh just hasn’t replaced the sign from the old restaurant.)
“Then why doesn’t it say Josh’s Back Alley Bar?”
“It’s absurdist,” I said. “Only the absurd go there.”
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