Grunge vs. Glam.
Although it was only 4:30 in the afternoon when we loaded up the car, the winter light was starting to dim. But it would be good and dark when we arrived at the ski area around 6 for another night of night skiing. It would also be good and cold, but we were kids – mostly bullet proof.
We would have slept every night on the mountain if our parents let us – resort rats who just couldn’t get enough of winter. We’d drag up the slopes on a T-bar, Poma or tow rope, burning holes in our mittens just hanging on – nothing duct tape couldn’t fix. Then bombing down the half-lit runs, leather boots locked into Head skis or Harts, firing off as many rounds as our legs would allow. We wore a lot of wool back then, so if you bit it, the snow would stick and you’d gain about 30 pounds each crash.
And of course you always messed with your buddies – pushing down on someone’s back binding with your pole so the ski could pop off and he’d take a digger, wiping out hard, making you laugh so hard stuff came out your nose. We didn’t have much going on upstairs and couldn’t care less – until we’d get yelled at by The Dude.
Every resort has one: a superb-skiing, sophisticated, handsome ski instructor all the dreamy-eyed girls drool over. Ours looked like Fabio – you know, the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter guy. Of course we hated him; he was always busting us. The girls dubbed him Hero; we called him Hurl.
Our hero was just the opposite: a crazy kid named Joey whose folks ran the mountain. Joey was way ahead of his time, wearing sagging pants with underwear sticking up in back, way before hip boarders ever dreamed of it. He was the first skier we knew of to wear a helmet; his parents made him ski with this crazy old leather football helmet without the face guard, a pigskin stuck on his head.
Joey loved jumping off anything and blasting through the trees, and his parents were afraid he’d crack his head like an egg. He wore these goofy goggles that were too small so they pinched his face together. And his nose was always running.
He could ski on anything – sawed off short boards or super long Army Surplus planks. It didn’t matter – he didn’t go in much for turning anyway. And the helmet set his style, hunched over like a football player, tucking down the mountain. Of course we all knew he was retarded; he was pure genius. Man, could he fly.
Like us, Joey was always getting in trouble with Hurl, and I think he hated him even more than we did. One night, Hurl was pulling his usual flashy turns down the mountain, making sure everyone was watching, his scarf flapping gently behind him, when out of nowhere Joey raced up and yanked on that scarf with all his might. This already nuts guy went even more nuts. It was beautiful. You never saw a more spectacular wipe-out: skis and poles flying, snow everywhere, mixing with the night lights, Fabio’s perfect hair now poking out all over the place.
‘Course Joey got grounded good for that one. No skiing for an eternity – a whole week. But he made the best of it after finding the Lost and Found box in the lodge. All week he dressed wild with all the mismatched stuff from the box: bright-colored wool socks, different gloves, funky glasses, dorky stocking caps he’d fold up in front in the classic dorky-stocking-cap-style of the day. He should have been in Hollywood, ‘cause he also danced great, mastering lots of funny moves. That week we took extra hot chocolate breaks just to keep him company.
But each night it usually ended the same – one of the moms who’d been patiently reading by the fireplace would see us dragging in all rubber-legged and droopy-eyed – and we’d get steered to the car, boots crunching on the frozen parking lot where mufflers blasted smoke, warming up for their riders. We’d complain about frozen fingers and toes but it never took long before you conked out on the ride home, the heater thawing out your bones as you stared out the window at the moonlight skiing through the trees.
If you get a chance to go night skiing during your stay in the southern Rockies, check it out. There’s nothing like fun for having a good time.
Just ask Joey.
— Joe Haukebo, Publisher
This article appeared on page 9 of the Winter 2009-2010 print edition of SkiCountry.