Skiing the Home Front
By Jules Older
I’ve always felt that American food is seriously underappreciated.
Is there anything better than a juicy hamburger, medium rare? Than just-picked corn on the cob, lightly salted and buttered? Than watermelon munched on the deck, followed by a seed-spitting competition?
Clearly not. Though if you talk to ‘gourmets,’ words like burger, cob and melon hardly rate a mention. A raised eyebrow, maybe, but not a word of praise. Not when there’s the dubious delicacies of green-lipped mussels infused with truffle-oil, rock oysters slathered in a papaya-satsuma reduction, wilted arugula sprinkled with saffronated, pistachioized, raspberry vinaigrette to ooh and ahh over.
Forgive them their sins; they know not what they’re missing.
And the same with skiing. Oh, sure, France has its pleasures. The Italian Dolomites: well worth a visit. Austria, we’re told is sehr gut, and fer shur, New Zealand skiing is the dinkum oil, mate.
But without the slightest intention of belittling any of these fine countries and their fine mountains, there is something to be said for skiing the good ol’ US of A.
Quite apart from not having to purchase a passport and negotiate Customs, American skiing has much to offer. Here are half a dozen — which is only a few among many, mind you — items you won’t find in Chamonix.
1. Cowboys. While it’s sadly true that Texans enjoy the same low rung on the Western totem pole as New Yorkers do Back East, I find them a joy to ski with. They’ve got big bellies and big belt-buckles, big hats and big hearts. The women even have big hair. You’ll never find anybody more fun to have a beer with, and that includes everyone you ever met in Austria and Germany combined.
2. Native Americans. At Ski Apache, in southern New Mexico, your liftie, ski tech, patrollers and chairlift partner are likely to be Mescalero Apaches, members of the tribe that happens to own the area. Brown skins, almond eyes, blue-black hair — these are the folks whose grand-daddies made life hell for the U.S. Cavalry and who trace their forebears back to Geronimo. What are the odds that you’ll ski with such legends in Switzerland?
3. Southern Bullets. Don’t quite recognize the term? Never skied with camo-wearing, NASCAR-rooting, straight-lining Southerners? Head on down to Snowshoe, West Virginia. And just try to find their ilk in Andorra.
4. The Brotherhood. The only group that may be more fun to ski with than Texans is the NBS, the National Brotherhood of Skiers. About 99 percent Black, from as far north as Minnesota, as deep south as Miami, (“Oh! So that’s what snow looks like!”), this is the outfit that invented the phrase, “Party with a purpose.” Should you find yourself sharing slopes with the Brotherhood, beg, borrow or make a major contribution to the scholarship fund for an invitation to join the party. Because they mostly meet on American snow, you won’t be skiing with the Brotherhood in Lichtenstein.
5.Crusty old ________ [Mainers, Montanans, New Hampshirites, Vermonters, fill in the blank]. Any area you go that’s not glitzy — say, Sugarloaf, Maine; Discovery Basin, Montana; Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire, or Mad River Glen, Vermont — you’ll meet tough old buzzards who were skiing before you were born, sonny-jim, and can still whup yer skinny butt, then tell you about the days of yore while you’re riding the lift together. Your chances of finding crusty at St. Moritz? You figure it out.
6.People Who Speak Your Language. No, I don’t mean English. I mean the nuances, the rhythm, the shared memories of your soul’s language. I mean folks who can sing the same TV jingles, who don’t gag at the thought of peanut butter and jelly, who understand Stephen Colbert, who don’t stare blankly when you offer them the gift of a high-five. You know — your kinda’ people. You won’t find them nearly so thick on the snow anyplace but here.
Jules Older hangs out at http://julesolder.com. He’s lived in Baltimore, Vermont, New York, San Francisco … and now, Auckland, New Zealand.