This is NJ’s most snowy winter since 1996. Today, I once again face the task of nailing up my mailbox, which Township of Mendham snow plows knocked down last night. It is the fourth time this winter they took it out. It would have been the fifth time, but on one occasion I didn’t re-erect the mailbox between snowfalls, which perhaps was unsporting of me.
As a kid, I loved the snow, as most kids do. One of my earliest recollections of cavorting in snow was playing with my sister in a makeshift snow house – not a snow-block igloo but a hollowed out snow pile complete with windows and a back door. This must have been 1956 or thereabouts. In later years, on schooldays, I enjoyed the excitement of listening early in the morning to WMTR, the nearby Morristown radio station, hoping to hear the name of my school in the list of school closings. Since then, I've grown almost as grumpy about snow as I recall my father having been when he went out to shovel walks and replace the mailbox.
I suppose I’d feel differently if I ever had taken to winter sports. I’ve always viewed such things as skiing and snowboarding to be unnecessarily roundabout ways to injure oneself. Other methods are more efficient and warmer. That doesn’t mean I’ve never allowed myself to be talked into doing these things, however. Not so very long ago friends urged me to join them on a jaunt to the ski slopes in Vernon.
Vernon is no Aspen, of course, but some of the slopes are more challenging than a non-native might expect to encounter in NJ. They are more challenging than anyone of my skill level sanely tries. That certainly was my thought when looking down from the top, even after two giggling children ignored the “Over 18 Only” sign and launched themselves down the trail ahead of me. I watched until they were out of sight. Pride alone induced me to give my poles a push. You know, if snow is icy enough, and if the skier is larger than properly can be called svelte, the snowplow method of braking doesn't really work. I continued to accelerate alarmingly. I switched to the horizontal turn method, only to find myself careening from one tree line to another at ever higher velocity. Soon, deliberately falling seemed a possibly lethal option; I nevertheless considered it rather than risk overtaking those kids and having to explain to someone, "Sorry, ma'am, I broke your child." I held the plan in reserve in case the kids came into sight. They never did. Perhaps they already were back on the lift by then. After what seemed a very long time, though it couldn't have been more than a few minutes, the bottom of the slope suddenly came into view. No one was on the trail ahead. The evergreens on each side of the trail at this point were dark green blurs. A painful spray of snow and ice pelted my face as my speed increased to something impossible. I had no idea how to stop at the bottom except by a spectacular wipeout or by shooting off into the parking lot and colliding with one of the SUVs. Then the green blur to the right turned white and I realized there was a clearcut hillside over there. I veered to the right and rapidly ascended the hill, slowing at long last. The braking techniques now were working, too. I stopped and fell. I took off the skis and walked the rest of the way back to the lodge. One of my friends was there.
"That was great, wasn't it?" she exclaimed.
"I'm going back up. Coming?"
"Maybe in a while. Go on without me. I'll meet you guys at the bar when you're done."
That “a while” has yet to pass.