by Kate Howe
I was talking with my friend (I’ll call him Birdman), who asked to remain nameless because he knows he really only telemarks for the chicks. This time, he was lamenting the difficulty of growing the requisite Tele-man beard for the upcoming ski season.
“I can’t do it. It itches. I’m shavin’.”
“Sack up, Birdie. A little itch is no price for truly tremendous winter growth. Shave it now and you’ll be nothing but scruffy at the beginning of the season. All your fellow knee-dropping, duct-tape-wearing free-heelers will look at you with disdain.”
“Yeah. And they’ll get all the chicks. What is it with that!?” Suddenly, Birdman is bristling angry. “Why do chicks dig dirty hippies?”
I thought for a second. He had something here.
“You aren’t a dirty hippie Birdie.”
“No, but I play one in the winter, dammit!”
This man (who is getting some sort of advanced degree in statistics; is very well respected in the marketing world and known to indulge in the occasional trip to the spa for massage and steam room treatment) was trying to grow a beard to get chicks.
I thought for a moment about the allure of the knuckle dragging, beard wearing, duct-tape-using, shovel-for-a-backpack, fullbearded man of the wild; heels free, bombing through the pow…. I must have gotten a dreamy, far off look in my eyes, because The Bird caught it immediately.
“Yes, Kate. THAT. What the f@$k is that?”
“I think, Birdman, it must be a women’s draw to the competent man. The real “mountain man,” the McGyver of the ridge, the man who can fix a binding with duct tape and some cordolette he has tied on his avy pack; this same man with the luscious long beard frozen together from face shots, this is the man that will not let you go hungry or freeze to death. It appeals to our inner need for survival. I mean, you can’t be a total dip-s@$t and get this stuff done.”
He eyeballed me skeptically. “Chicks dig dirty hippies because they keep you warm? But they smell bad.”
I pondered this. Is it smell? Or musk?
“Yeah, they are on the musky side, but the competence, the power, the surety, the confidence…the bucking of the trend, ditching alpine skiing for living free in spite of it all…. Tele skiers are that wonderful rare breed, like Aid or Trad climbers, they are a do-it-yourself, like…I don’t know…no one has to hold their hands. They get out there and figure S%$t out. The man that comes into the Griz (our local watering hole for dirty hippies in Bozeman, MT) with his face sealed shut with ice. He spent a hard day taming the mountains….”
“Oh, please, he did not. He rode the chair-lift and probably went straight, dropping his knee all the way to the freakin’ ground,” The Bird shot back.
“Yes, that’s just what he did. But in the Griz, we don’t know that. We look at him and think, O’ wild man, lead me into the mountains and let me be your squaw….”
Birdman stopped. “You don’t really think that, do you?”
I smiled. “No, not really. And the beard juice that drips off y’alls face as you are thawing is pretty disgusting. But that’s not the point, Birdie. For the day, just for this day, you’ll be a dirt bag knee dropper, sporting requisite full beard, and let some chick fantasize that you could drop a moose with your bare hands and never get lost hiking through miles of backcountry, and you’ll probably have a pretty good winter!”
“Just the winter?”
“It depends. You gotta shave if you are going to hang out with her on the river in the summer. Different kind of dirty hippie there.”
Birdman pulled out a notebook and started writing. “Okay, lets go through this again….”