It’s my Black Friday.
Every year it is the same. Wake up early the day after Thanksgiving, pack the skis, helmet, poles and whatever else I can think of and head up to Red Lodge Mountain. The thirty-minute drive gives me time to mentally strap on the boots. But as I get closer, as I wind around the gravel mountain road, the doubts start.
“Will there be any snow?”
“Is the report that says there are 12 open runs right?”
“Will this ski season be awesome or a disaster?”
This year, there were two full runs open. Miami Beach (intended for beginning skiers, which I am not) and Turnpike. Turnpike being the next step up from Miami Beach: a motivational run that the newbs prepare themselves for as a last run, and last case scenario. The resort claims five trails open, but for us grizzled Red Lodge veterans, we know that is always a stretch. This year their total included part of the terrain park and “Ladies Aid” — essentially an extension of the beginners’ run.
For my dad and I this year, it was an easy choice of runs, but that was the only easy part. See, it is not just my Black Friday tradition. With only two full runs open (and only one of those not for the newbies), it is like Target at midnight out here. Rocks jut out of the thin snow layer, bare ground peeks through.
And then there are the Black Friday mobs.
This is a game I like to call Gaper Dodger. In Gaper Dodger, the goal is to swiftly ski around those who are tree-to-tree turning as they ski, the ones who hog the entire run — the ones who ruin all my fun.
The strategic part, like thinking through the department of Wal-Mart you want to hit, is to map out the preferred route before the skiing even starts. Standing at the top of the Willow Creek chair, I was preparing to speed down Turnpike in a controlled but quick fashion. Once I found my line, I took off, leaving my dad to fend for himself.
Halfway down the run, my line failed as I barely missed a 30-year-old beginning skier. The best part of Gaper Dodger is speeding by a ski patrol in a slow skiing zone. Nothing like the adrenaline of losing skiing privileges for the day just because of negligence of noticing a ski patrol. They hardly give out tickets, just a quick wag of their finger and an attempt to yell “SLOW DOWN” as I dart past them.
Like they could catch me anyway.
Rounding the last corner to the bottom is like rounding the corner with a full grocery cart full of savings from Black Friday findings, and racing towards the checkout line, or the bottom lodge. As I wait for my dad to carefully make his way down, which is probably the smarter idea, I daydream about the powder that could soon envelop these currently bare slopes.
Deeper into the season, I hope that Red Lodge will start to get some real snow, because powder skiing at this mountain could possibly be the best in the state. Their websites snow report currently says that there is a 12 to 24- inch base on prepared runs, with the same open runs as opening weekend. I have gotten back out there to start a new season, but my hope is before Christmas break kicks in it will begin to puke snow and prepare for me to rip down double black diamond run Drainage five times in an hour.
In the meantime, pray for snow.