The recent frigid weather was good training to harden us for our trip north this past weekend. We went high up in the Green Mountains of Vermont to ski. Now before you wonder at my sanity, I hasten to repeat what my clever neighbor told me when he heard we were going. “Skiing? Just hang out at the bar for a couple of days, then come back and tell us you went skiing. We’ll never know.”
So with proper full disclosure, I confess that I did not ski. I stretched out before a roaring fire in the lodge with a good book that was interrupted only occasionally for some good food and a good nap here and there. But my children and grandchildren skied and dutifully reported back at the end of each day in such vivid detail that I felt like I had swooshed down from the summit but without the cold and the half-hour wait on the lift lines to get there. Now don’t get me wrong. I always loved to ski. Why else would I have put up with the long drives, the absurd boots, the itchy hats and the running nose except for those few exhilarating moments when the view of the valley below from above the snow line is spectacular, the air is sharp and clear, the snow sparkles with sunlight in an unbroken trail before me and the deep silence assures me that the splendor is mine alone.
That said, age has its advantages, and I stayed warm and dry, letting subsequent generations enjoy the marvel of skiing.
We were there to celebrate my middle son’s 50th birthday. It became a tradition in our family, when my oldest son turned 50, that we would gather at the location of his choosing to properly mark the occasion together. This trip was not without its dangers but not from skiing. It was the drive up to the slopes on Friday that kept us on the edge of our seats in the car, peering into the darkness. If you remember, the day began uncharacteristically warm, but as the hours went by, a deep freeze descended from the north and pushed into the warmer air, creating dense fog.
We crossed the Sound on the ferry, unable to see the shores, and actually missed the turnoff to the Merritt Parkway and thence Interstate 91 from Route 8 on the Connecticut side because the fog shrouded the signs above our heads on the roadway. That wasn’t of any great consequence as we continued on Route 8 to Interstate 84 East, a slightly longer stretch, but it did serve to warn us of what lay ahead.
We drove for the next couple of hours and the fog only seemed to intensify, but we were in good spirits anticipating the coming weekend’s festivities. We even stopped for a nice German dinner in Springfield, Massachusetts. What difference would a couple of extra hours make, we rationalized, since it was going to be dark anyway by the time we left the highway?
Initially driving wasn’t so difficult on Route 103, the first of the back-country roads, because there were other cars snaking along, marking the contours of the road with the glow of red taillights. At one point a bus joined the parade in front of us, and that was dandy. The real problems started when we turned onto Route 100 and left the bus behind. So dense was the fog that we missed the turn and had to circle back for a second try.
We were all alone from that point on, sometimes inching our way forward, straining to follow the yellow midline. Snowbanks lined the road, with only an occasional reflective marker to indicate a precipice off to the side. In that fashion, our hazard lights blinking noisily in the car to avoid anyone colliding with us, we traveled the next 24 miles. We knew we were climbing because our ears popped periodically, but we could see nothing of the mountains. We finally arrived at our lodging, a couple of hours later, in a glazed-eye stupor.
After that, simply skiing was a piece of cake. Birthday cake, that is.