Mike Lawrence: Winter Park lark
February 8, 2008
Steamboat Springs — I’m not a fun person to ride a chairlift with these days.
I say that because some college friends of mine are in Winter Park this week. They arrived Saturday night from San Diego, Baltimore and Annapolis, Md., for an annual dose of Colorado skiing, something easy to take for granted living in Steamboat Springs.
Having never been to Winter Park, I picked up a cup of high-voltage Shop ‘N’ Hop coffee – that “twice the caffeine” claim is no joke – and made the two-hour drive through the hills Sunday morning and met my friends at Mary Jane.
It was a beautiful day. Not too windy or crowded, a little bit of sun, good snow – the works. My friends had just coughed up hundreds of dollars for airfare, rentals and lift tickets, plus food and beverages. They had planned this trip for weeks, with flurries of e-mails and phone messages. They had traveled far and they were now, finally, getting lifted up the slopes to take on some bumps and jumps.
Despite all that, I couldn’t help myself. I had to start talking about tree wells.
I had to tell them about the two tragedies that recently struck in Morningside Park, and about how tree runs could become dangerous in a second. I babbled. I ranted. I droned on like the “voodoo economics” teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I pointed out hazardous spots.
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I’m surprised they didn’t throw me off the chair. Or, wisely, they could have been tuning me out.
Don’t get me wrong – warnings and caution have their place, but there’s a line between making a point and being excessive, and I was crossing it. Maybe it was the coffee – which hours later still had me twitching spasmodically – or maybe it was how sad the two deaths were. And how easily it could happen to anyone.
What saved the moment, thankfully, was the random guy on the end of our chair. It was a six-person lift, with the cattle-pen automatic gates that swing open to let you board. This guy got on with us. He eventually chimed in with a story about a recent spill he took.
That got us onto other spills, mishaps, war stories and laughter.
Sunday and Monday were two fantastic days of skiing. It was a blast, and I’m stoked that my friends got to spend all week in the deep stuff.
But it made me realize my habits on the mountain – any mountain – have changed. And that I’d rather cross a line of conversational etiquette than not say anything.