The perfect day

I blew it. Saturday was the big powder day, and I went up on Sunday - which, although technically still a "powder day," featured snow of a decidedly more maritime consistency.

See, with a limited supply of lift tickets and child care, we had carefully weighed our options and decided that Sunday would be the better of the weekend days. With snow in the forecast indefinitely, we figured more time would only allow for more of the fabulous fluff to stack up. However, seems that in the middle of the night, with the Weather Channel safely turned off, Mother Nature had pulled a cruel switcheroo. With a wave of her magic barometric wand, she nudged the jet stream just so, giving us what surely must have been intended for Juneau or Seattle.

I knew we were in trouble the moment I stepped outside the next morning. The weightless, face-shooting, airway-choking, superhero snorkel snow of the previous day had been compacted into a spongy slop that squished and splattered under my feet. Rather than scattering off my windshield like pixie dust, the snow now slumped off and crumpled in a pile with a dull thud. The air was warmer, too, downright tropical, and a light drizzle added to the rainforest feel. Whereas the previous day, I found myself running back inside for more layers, I now found myself shedding them before I even left the house.

Of course, the mountain is a good 3,000 feet higher than town - a completely different climate zone all together, I told myself. Numerous times, I had ascended that hill under sunny skies only to be transported into the depths of bone-chilling winter within mere minutes. I clung to this positive imagery as we headed north, the car fogged up like a hothouse on wheels. However, not far into my first run, perspiration began trickling down my cheeks. My neck gaiter funneled heat upward into my face like a stovepipe, rendering my goggles useless. Soon, I was sweating like a wild pig in the Borneo jungle, cursing the four layers of polyester smothering my midsection. Forced to choose between passing out and looking like an amateur, I opted for the latter and went for the full-body vent. With jacket flapping in the breeze and arms outstretched to facilitate the cooling process, I bee-lined it to the bottom, turning as little as possible to avoid any excessive exertion.

Once at the bottom, I peeled layers faster than a cheap sideshow performer. Fortunately, as my body temperature slowly returned to the safe zone, I found the conditions to be much more agreeable. Although the face shots I had envisioned were nothing but a soggy memory, the snow was soft and the rocks were covered, I reasoned.

I tried to enjoy myself but couldn't get over the nagging feeling - perhaps emanating from my scorched thighs - that I had picked the wrong day. And for those of us who hold our precious few fun passes like aces in the hole, only to be played at the exactly precise moment, this is the stuff of nightmares. You know the ones: It's a powder day and you step into your bindings only to find they aren't attached to your skis, which by the way aren't real skis, but those mini ones. Your friends take off, disappearing into a cloud of white, while you're stuck up to your knees in thick snow that has somehow suddenly turned into quickrete. And did I mention the jeans?

While the day was not nearly this bad, what anxiety I did harbor was only further borne out by the reports of those who had been lucky enough to experience Powder Day No. 1.

"It's a lot heavier today," they noted. "Whew, sure is warm up here. Yep, yesterday was the day. Best one so far this season. Yessiree ."

By the end of the day, I was ready to tell the next person who regaled me in unsolicited tales of his or her perfect powder day to stuff a sweaty Smartwool in it. See, there's nothing more bitter than a skier scorned, especially through fault of her own. We're curious that way. While more than happy to incessantly blab about our own experiences choking on thigh-deep powder, we become impossibly resentful when others try to do so. Sure, we may ask. But the truth is, we really don't want to know. It's far too painful. In other words, if you're sitting there, enjoying your hamburger just fine, you really don't want to know about the filet your friend had the day before.

My foul-weather mood was further compounded by the following dreary Monday morning and the large moat that now separated me from my vehicle. With child in tow, I made a daring leap to the car, only to land ankle-deep in brown slurpee. The pleasant feel of freezing-cold water filled my shoes and settled comfortably between my toes. As I sloshed in and sat at my desk at work, I once again tried to feign interest as a co-worker described his Stupendous Saturday.

"It really was the perfect day" he began.

"Yes, I know, " I mumbled in my best woe-is-me tone as I mindlessly turned to my computer, breezed through e-mails and caught up on the weekend's headlines: the tsunami death toll had reached 150,000; a toddler was swept away in a rushing torrent in California; and the U.S. "accidentally released" a 500-pound bomb on a residence in Iraq.

It was right about then that the funk lifted. I was getting worked up over something as trivial as the weight of snow, and there were people in the world whose lives were swept away in the blink of an eye. Here I was, living my idyllic existence, where the only thing I could find to get down about was the fact that my day of skiing was merely great, rather than epic. I mean, think of all those poor Midwesterners who spend their lives skiing 200 vertical feet of boilerplate and never once complain.

And that's when I realized that any day spent breathing the mountain air, laughing with friends and merely being alive - snow or no snow - was indeed a perfect day.

- Missy Votel



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