As a big mountain skier who started her career in the hills of Connecticut and Vermont, there’s a lot I’ve noticed about the differences in what makes a skier a skier. Some factors are genetic, others physiological, and still others cultural. But one thing is for sure: where we grow up skiing determines much about the kind of skier we become. Of course, there’s no reason one can’t evolve into a powder hound after two decades of East Coast ski racing (that would be me), but she’ll always have her childhood skiing roots. So here’s to the skiers that honed their skills on the hills of the East: may you continue to enjoy your turns wherever you now may be.
You can carve on ice. It’s true: East Coast skiers may not be able to float the powder like those who grew up in the Rockies, but when it comes to holding an edge on bullet-proof ice, your skills go unmatched. Take it to the race course, to the steeps, to the freeze-thaw cycles in the Alps in spring: you’ll thank that man-made snow and frigid temps of your childhood for preparing you for icy conditions anywhere.
No snow? No problem. I’ll never forget the few Thanksgivings I had growing up when, instead of on-hill training for ski team starting as it was supposed to, we would meet in the downtown park for soccer because there just wasn’t any snow. The late start to the season was always a bummer, but I have to say that experiences like this make New Englanders resilient when it comes to dry conditions. When nighttime temperatures drop below freezing, we can be sure that snowmaking teams put all efforts into laying down a decent base.
You’ve tasted Sugar On Snow. This New England tradition is a favorite of many who have grown up skiing the East, as it blends skiing, nature and culture into delicious celebrations of winter goodness. Whether your memories involve scooping the candied syrup from troughs of fresh snow outside the base lodge or watching Mom boil it on the stove before pouring over a bowl of chipped ice, this is an experience that brings East coasters back to our New England roots.
5” of fresh is a powder day. Fresh snowfall always seemed like a bonus when I was growing up: and 5 in or more meant skipping race training for an hour to hit the “powder” in the woods. Because these days come so few and far between, I find it easier for us East Coasters to appreciate them – no matter how dense that powder happens to be.
You got hand warmers in your Christmas stocking each year. Before battery-heated gloves and the popularization of electronic foot warmers we had good old-fashioned, shake-‘em-‘til-they’re-hot warmers to stuff into glove or stick on feet before heading out into those frigid February mornings. And yes, they made the perfect stocking stuffer – especially when we knew there were back-ups in the whole-sale sized box from Costco stashed in the boot room.
Sleet never stopped you. Be it rain, wind, sleet, snow, or a combination of the four throughout the day, weather never stopped you from making it out onto the slopes: at least for a few turns. Before everyone got geared up in gore-text outerwear, you did what was needed to stay warm and dry – even if it meant wearing a trash bag as a skirt (hey – it worked!) New Englanders are known to take on their favorite sport in any weather, and this reputation will thankfully follow you wherever you go.
Nastar pins were the coolest thing ever. Okay, Nastar pins are still pretty cool. But who can forget the thrill of pinning bronze, silver, and gold flair to their retro Spyder jackets throughout the season, and perhaps even seeing one’s name on the end-of-season results and rankings poster? Thanks to the time handicaps, eventually everyone got a pin…the thrill of dual ski racing itself, though, was enough to get any of us skiing our best.
You had a walkie-talkie pocket in your parka. Was this a West Coast thing, too? I certainly remember this trend dominating on the East: cruising around the mountain with a chunky walkie-talkie poking out of the chest pocket. Connecting for a hot chocolate or bumps run was a bit more complex without the tracking apps we now have on our smartphones, but oh how I loved that radio talk. Over.
You still have an affinity for 19th century farmhouses and extra sharp cheddar cheese. The landscapes, the food, the craft beer and the historic ski slopes: it’s impossible not to have nostalgia for everything that comes with being an East Coast skier. Even when we grow up and move on – whether to bigger mountains or responsibilities that take us away from a life on the slopes – certain memories always bring us back to the halcyon days of growing up skiing the East.