Maxed out 

The Thrill is back

By G.D. Maxwell

There’s a palpable difference in the air this year. Or is that just the rain?

People who don’t usually seem particularly excited by the prospect of another ski season are almost giddy, children caught up in a Christmas Eve that seems endless and teasing, reminding themselves and everyone else they see that Santa’s coming, Santa’s coming.

Heightened anticipation extends well beyond the newbies who’ve drifted into town over the past six or eight weeks. They’re always pumped at the prospect of bumming through their first season in a place they’ve either visited or simply dreamed about. Easily identifiable in their newly-acquired, not quite comfortably fitting phatpunk attitude, they wander the village sneaking quick looks up the slopes, judging for themselves the depth and quality of virgin snow, nearly busting just beneath their skins to get up there and slide back down.

Shoulder season weather teases them. Endless foreplay; no relief. Some snow, some rain and, to underscore the irony in their lives, a bit of sunshine, something otherwise treasured but wholly unwelcome at this very moment. Walking slump-shouldered and toqued, they’ve become supplicants to pagan gods and goddesses of precipitation. Let the heavens open up and unleash their manna. Pray to Ullr. Find a virgin to sacrifice. Let it be me.

It’s expected of them. The drama plays out yearly as every new crop of fresh-faced suckers drifts into town. But when you see the same look on faces etched and worn by age and repeated exposure to hundred-day seasons too numerous to clearly recall anymore, well, maybe this is the new world order, the lens through which events of mid September get simultaneously focused and blurred.

"Get back to leading your normal lives," our leaders extol, all the while changing the landscape of democracy, edging it toward something lying so far beyond the curve of normal no one who remembers their Social Studies lessons can begin to identify it.

"I remember normal," we each think, remembering something perhaps unrecognizable to the person closest to us. Normal is shuffling through the off season with a cadence of expectation. Normal is sweating through the chill of October and November, sweating the snow that seems to come only teasingly if at all, sweating the unsure start of a New Year on the calendar of ups and downs, sweating rebirth at a time the rest of the hemisphere celebrates the season of death. Normal is the painful realization you don’t have nearly enough dough to afford a season pass and new board(s) this year and normal is realizing you didn’t need new after all, just a chance to get the old out, patch the base and let gravity pull you toward a state of bliss where you can’t even remember what you’re riding, just that you’re riding.

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