You know what sucks more than riding a chair lift by yourself? Riding a chair lift with four foul-mouthed, flatulent 'tweens who want nothing more than for you to take your pathetic ass and hurl it to the snowy depth below. But this is my life. Or at least my life for the next two weeks, until I wrap up my 20/20 Challenge. Yes, I'm nearly finished. Thank the sweet bearded Lord in heaven for that.
Throughout this project, I'd had to deal with a number of hiccups — broken bindings, no one to ride with, scheduling snags, ski areas that were closed, ski areas that are now private and won't let me in. But none was more aggravating than my recent oversight at Stratton.
I went down to Stratton over the weekend to watch the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships and to check the resort off my list. I had never seen any sort of snowboarding competition live, so I figured it would be fun to check out the scene.
After parking about a half a day's walk from the venue, I hiked up to the media room to get my credentials. When I checked in, I was handed a Burton backpack full of goodies — Anon goggles, Paul Mitchell hair detangler (essential when you're on the mountain), fancy sunscreen and some sort of nuclear orange juice (it had about as much caffeine as a double red eye). It was like getting an Oscar gift bag, only without the African safari or the Bulgari watch.
I slipped on my press pass and headed up to the halfpipe — a 22-foot behemoth that was about as long as two football fields. Because I left my snowboard in the car back in Parking Lot Far Away, I had to hike up the slope to get to the pipe. This was a bit precarious, since most of the herd of spectators was not wearing proper footwear. If I am a proponent of anything in this life, it's proper footwear. That and television shows featuring people with bigger problems than my own.
Because every third girl trudging up the snowy goat path was wearing Uggs or some knock-off iteration, I found myself dodging them as they tumbled back down the hill. I saw more than a few folks in floppy skateboard sneakers, which are not known for their Alpine traction.
Most of the prime viewing spots were taken by die-hard fans eager to catch a glimpse of the carrot-topped one, Shaun White, or at least the flaxen-tressed Vermonter Hannah Teter. Lucky for me, there was a sliver of a spot against one of the guard rails and I shoehorned myself in, elbowing a few small children out of the way. What? I have credentials. What did they have? Runny noses? An autograph book?
Soon, the contest started. There were McTwists and Chicken Wings and Cabs and Corks. Not that I could recognize any of those. I just know that the riders were soaring right over my head. I know this because I could feel their shadows sweep across my face. I couldn't actually see any of the riding, thanks to a gargantuan security guard who wouldn't move out of the way.
After the competition ended at 3:30 p.m., I realized I only had 30 minutes to actually ride the mountain. Since my car was basically in Delaware and my board was in my car, there was no way I'd be hoofing it back to get it. So I swallowed my pride and did the only thing I could think of: I stole a board. No, just kidding. I actually went to the rental shop and begged them to let me borrow one.
The rental shop manager was disinclined to let me take a board for just one run, but when I told him I'd take off my top, his whole attitude changed. He handed me a Burton Cruzer that looked like a cat had mistaken it for a scratching pad. I cringed, but I had to suck it up.
I skated over to the six-person lift and positioned myself at the gate. I thought I would be riding by myself until four 'tweens in various shades of neon slid next to me. Awesome. They were hollering at their friends in front of them. You know, niceties like "Fuck you, Adam," and "You're a little bitch, Tyler."
I listened to them shout and hoped they wouldn't notice I was on the lift. I didn't want them lashing me with their prepubescent acid tongues. Quietly, I pulled my hood over my head to camouflage myself. Then, out of nowhere, a snowball sailed up from the trail below and pelted me in the chest. I envision myself looking like a gunshot victim on TV, my right shoulder flung backwards from the force.
Snow splattered in my face and fell down my jacket. I glanced over to see if my liftmates had seen the attack. They were ignoring me. "I suppose that was meant for one of you," I said, nonplussed. They snickered. One glanced down at my cheap rental board with derision. The lone girl of the 'tween posse — a model, according to one of the boys — took a long swill from her colossal can of energy drink. Immediately, I was transported back the time when I fell down the steps in seventh grade and the cheerleaders stood and watched as I picked up the Capri Sun and Fruit Roll-Up that had dropped from my lunch sack and rolled by their feet. I have never been so happy to disembark from a lift as I was then.
I took one run and fell twice, thanks to an ill-fitting rental board that cut through the spring corn snow like a spoon cuts through a steak. When I got to the bottom, I ran into Shaun White, challenged him to a halfpipe duel, crushed him on my rental board and then took the shuttle bus to my car. The snow can't melt soon enough.