The Uphill Battle

theuphillbattle
Crescent moon rising. | photo: Brian Mohr

How a Suburban Couple Relaxes on the Weekend

by Alessandra Bianchi

It is 10 degrees and blowing a 30-mile per-hour northeast gale and I am staring at my husband’s butt. Not a full moon, just a discreet sliver of cheek on his upper right thigh—where his Calvin Klein tightie whities peek out ever so sexily from the unzipped side vent of his ski pants. Eying that little peek-a-boo of private flesh has become a weekly ritual this winter, and it’s just one of the many kicks I get from skinning: going up, in other words, where others go down.

Like legions of skiers who hit the slopes in New England each weekend, we are more or less your average suburban couple. We have jobs, kids, a house in a nice neighborhood with good schools. We’ve been teleing exclusively throughout our 16-year marriage, which used to make us stand out from the alpine masses. But over time, as pinheads have crept into the mainstream (especially in Vermont, where we ski), is not such a differentiator anymore.

Then, just when the crush of normalcy was becoming uncomfortable to bear, a 30-millimeter wide strip of material, resembling hyper-sticky duct tape on one side and very low-pile shag carpet on the other, saved us from our prosaic, conventional lives. Like Superman in the phone booth, when we stick our G3 skins to the bottom of our skis (Atomic TMEXs for him, and Atomic Pumoris for me), my husband and I shed our regular identities and each becomes someone else. Not quite superhero-like, but close enough.

When we’re skinning, we feel special. Cool. Different. Younger. Peaceful. Exhilarated. Carefree. Sweating buckets. Romantic. Existing in our own private snow kingdom. All of these emotions are rare in our normal, weekday lives. So I am extremely grateful for my sticky skins.

Who would have thought that a little strip of fabric can transform a nightmare situation into a magical one? This past President’s Day weekend, for example, conditions were so severe that our mountain lifts shut down on wind hold. Thousands of skiers were bummed out, griping that their long holiday weekend was ruined. But my husband and I were smiling. We strapped on our skins, and began walking on our skis up a run. By the time we reached the top, there wasn’t a soul in sight, and we seemingly had the entire mountain to ourselves. On one of the busiest days of the year!

Another crowd-avoidance technique we enjoy is to head into a vast tree skiing area that tends to attract fewer skiers because it’s thickly wooded, but mostly because its only exit strategy is a steamy bus ride. Rather than being at the mercy of the aptly named Mad Bus, whose waits range from 20 minutes to a record two hours, we strap on our skins, head back up a logging road, and do several laps in what feels like our own private woods.

Another routine has us hiking along the Long Trail, which, depending upon conditions, can feel like we’re on the spine at the top of the world with sweeping views, or alternatively, like we’re trekking through our own secret snow tunnel. Between steady plodding steps, I amuse myself by counting all the similes for snow. Two new ones this season: like dusty white starfish lying on pine boughs, and like crackly spun sugar cages in which fancy desserts are served.

Skinning along the LT enables us to walk Spiderman-like up its inclines, and, without even removing our magic carpets, ski down its descents. When we really find what we’re looking for—a rare open shoot accessible after much bushwhacking—then we strip off our G3s and drop into the good stuff. Then it’s skins on again and back to my favorite views, my husband from behind.

Southern California native Alessandra Bianchi married a Vermonter who brainwashed her into believing that skiing on blue ice is fun.

One thought on “The Uphill Battle

  1. Great article. VT has a lot to offer tele skiers. I have family in Woodstock and occasionally we’ll spend New Year’s with them. On those occasions, I leave the Woodstock house on New Year’s day around 3:30am and drive to Killington. I skin up to one of the easier trails watching the sun rise with each step. At the top, I have a short dram to ring in the new year and ski down. While I am taking off my gear in the lodge, folks are just getting ready for their holiday fun. Great memories and more New Year’s days to come!

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