SKI & RIDE

Skiing. Riding. Riding. Skiing.

With the possible exception of surfing, eating Twizzlers, or doing the New York Times Sunday crossword, they’re easily two of my favorite things to do on this green and white earth.

Some of these life-loves can easily be enjoyed in the span of a single day. But not skiing and riding. Twizzlers and crosswords? Easy-peasy—I do’em together all the time. Riding and Twizzlers? A natural pairing, and a motorcycle is a great excuse for executing a Twizzlers run (plus you look a lot less like an ass-hat riding with a Twizzler in your maw than a cigar or cigarette, especially since you can chew it and swallow it). Surfing and the New York Times Sunday puzzle? Totally doable between expression-sessions, so long as you don’t drip too much.

But I’ve never been able to jam skiing and riding into the same day, for obvious reasons. Good conditions for one (snow, ice, frigid temperatures, winter) are grim conditions for the other. Especially since I’m not one of these “studded” types.

But this Sunday, the last of this January, the stars (or suns) somehow aligned, and I finally got my chance to ski and ride…without actually planning for it.

According to the Weather Channel, Sunday was supposed to be a pretty mild midwinter day in New England. The weather gods were calling for mixed sun and clouds in the high forties. And since one of my kids is at school (hi Noah!), one’s in Florida seeing an aunt (hi Maisie!), and one’s taking the ACT (sorry, Ivy!), this here kid decided to go skiing. So I roused myself at the usual commuter wake-up time (5:30 am), hopped into my truck, and made a run for Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Ski Butternut.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride up Route 8 through the Litchfield Hills and the southern Berkshires. I was stoked to revisit the beginning of the Trans Mass Trail (see my all-dirt MA ride here) at the intersection of Rood Hill Road and Sandy Brook Turnpike in Sandisfield, MA.

That was then….

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And this was now.

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I made it to Great Barrington in under 2 hours, suited up in the parking lot, hoofed over to the base lodge, and was on boards doing runs by 8:45. Butternut (like most of southern Vermont and northern Connecticut) has had a disastrous snow-desert of a season, and everything on the trails was 100% man made. But for snow of the non-organic variety, it was surprisingly well-groomed, and actually pretty sweet.

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I went up and down Lucifer’s Leap a dozen or more times without pause, carving and charging the corduroy until I could feel the burn. Not this one (although I did vote for him  wayyyy back when I was a college kid in Burlington, VT)…

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But the one in my legs. Burning quads on the way down, and then riding the quad on the way up, run after run after run. It was a carver’s delight.

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Despite it being the dead of winter, it was actually warm enough to be skiing in a sweatshirt. Here’s yours truly at the top of Lucifer’s, a Connecticut guy on Massachusetts snow “representing” for Vermont, courtesy of his alma mater. Nice to get a few shout-outs from some other Catamount dads.

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I went up and down like a yo-yo, meeting oddball folks on the lift and making ski-talk on the ride up, and then dialing in the lactic-acid power-carves on the way down. I don’t think I stopped or paused once. And since I’d been making track since 8:30, I broke for an early lunch to rest and soak up some sun.

A plate of fries, a bowl of New England clam chowder, sunny skies and temperature hovering in the mid-fifties? I was having a joy meltdown.

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Unfortunately, so was the snow. I skied until 1:30, at which point the snow was thick like Stew Leonard’s soft-serve, and just as sticky. So before bogging a ski and ripping my hip out of the socket (it almost happened a couple of times towards the mushy bottom), I decided to call it a ski-day, and head back to CT.

The drive back was just as delightful, and for most of Massachusetts it was so warm I actually had the windows down. At one point around Marlborough, the temperature gauge in my truck hit sixty. In January. In New England.

It is a natural law of New England that when the temperatures rise, so do the bikers. And as I drove through Winsted, sure enough I passed maybe a half-dozen guys out on motorcycles. They were the typical Northern  CT black & bedazzled Harley crowd, brapping their way up and down Route 44. But they were out there riding. On a Sunday. In January. In New England. So I stepped on it.

When I pulled into my driveway an hour later, I marched into the house, took off my ski pants, pulled on jeans and riding boots, threw on a jacket, grabbed my (other) helmet, and headed out to the garage.

I can’t express how weirdly satisfying it was to go from ski boots to riding boots, from ski helmet to Shoei, and from snow gloves to motorcycle gloves—all in the span of a few hours. It took a little more effort than usual to swing my tired legs over the bike, but once I was in the saddle, it felt stupendous. My airhead fired up on the second try, and we were off and riding. 

Two and half hours earlier I was carving on two skis. Now, I was carving on two wheels. Call it love-squared. 

I went for a typical Fairfield beach lap, motoring over to Southport, then Burying Hill, and then on to Compo. Here’s my airhead by the beach at Southport, with a mini dirty Buttenut in the background. 

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At Compo, I ran into another guy on an BMW, but a late-model R1200GS. He was out for a cruise with his young daughter, who was riding pilion. He knew his airheads (although he pegged mine as a ’73, when it’s a ’74), and we had a nice bike chat, both shaking our heads at the guilty pleasure of riding through such an unseasonably warm winter.

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“Yeah,” I said. “Whatever happened to skiing?”

Some pleasures shouldn’t be gloated-over. Just enjoyed in private silence. 

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