My favorite thing about Super Bowl Sunday is that so many people stay home and watch football on television. Because that means no lines at the chairlift. Ski conditions were almost perfect today -- sunshine, moderate temperatures, and hard-packed snow -- and yet the slopes were empty. The kids and I arrived first thing in the morning before the chairlift started running and left only after they shut it down at the end of the day. It was so warm that I could take as many runs as I wanted to without my feet getting cold. I was in a miserable mood last week (I hate February! Have I mentioned that?) but it's impossible for me to spend a day outside in the sunshine and fresh air and not feel a whole lot better about life. I'm sunburned, actually, and I can't tell you how good that feels. The great thing about a few weeks of cloudy skies and subzero weather is that when a day like today comes, it feels like a miracle.
After three hours of skiing in the morning sunshine, we met inside the lodge for lunch, and all stripped off layers of clothes; how wonderful to be too warm! The lodge is just a big room with windows facing the slopes. It looks nothing like the ski lodges in 1930s movies; the atmosphere is more like a locker room. Picnic tables are scattered all about and everyone has piles of stuff: wet clothes, boots, snowboard cases, coolers, bags of food. People are constantly taking clothes off or putting them on, and dancing about in their socks to avoid wet spots on the floor.
Every Sunday, we share a picnic table with NeighborGuy and his three kids, marking our spot by piling all of our stuff on it. NeighborGuy and I always joke about the fact that we bring all kinds of healthy food -- and then succumb to pressure from the kids and buy french fries with hot sauce. That smell is hard to resist. So today, when out of the blue, he handed me an apple, I figured he was hinting that I should eat something healthy, so I took a bite. He gave me kind of a surprised look but said nothing while I ate the apple. Later, Boy-in-Black said to me, "Do you know why NeighborGuy handed you that apple?" I shrugged.
He continued: "We were playing with it - kicking it around on the floor - didn't you notice how filthy it was?" Uh, no.
Usually we pair off to ski or snowboard, but we do at least one run as a whole group. Boy-in-Black and OlderNeighborBoy have been boarding for five years, and they delight in showing off -- carving at top speed as close to my skis as they can, hitting every jump in the terrain park, and getting as much air as they can on their ollies. The adrenaline I get from skiing down a slope is only heightened when I'm surrounded by a pack of high-energy teen-agers. After skiing through that energy - the laughing, the teasing remarks, the flashing grins, the rattling sound of edges carving into ice, the whoosh of air as their bodies brush by - I feel ready to tackle the week.