January 2, 2004

New (year) Over Machine Groomed


It’s one of those nights where you feel hardwired into existence. You begin to sense things, like an evening sky the color of peaches, or your tongue clicking against your front teeth while mouthing words to a song you know. This kind of hyper-reality is inevitable after a long day at work, a late New Year’s Eve party at the Hoodoo ski resort, four hours of sleep, a groggy day at work, a self-inflicted 8:00 bedtime, and another day at work.

Simon, Neal and I spent New Year’s Eve at the slopes of Hoodoo, which is forty miles from Bend past the town of Sisters, on the other side of Santiam Pass. It’s a rockin’ little mom & pop hill that threw a New Year’s party complete with night-riding and booze and a vaguely Celtic/Bluegrass band. The night was a surreal atmosphere bathed in bright amber lights. They pumped the music from the live band out of huge speakers on the chairlift, an ethereal voice echoing through the valley. The runs were an island of amber light surrounded by a sea of darkness, broken only by the headlights of snowcats grooming the upper reaches of the mountain. There was also guy dressed in a cow costume.

Midnight struck while we were on the chairlift, and after dismounting we took the first run of 2004 through the terrain park. When we got down to the lodge we had time to take one more run, so we headed back up, veered into the trees and caught some fresh knee-deep powder through a steep grove.

The drive back to Bend required snow chains, one pee break and 1 1/2 hours. We got pulled over by a cop for failing to turn off our brights for oncoming traffic (which was previously a subject of intense conversation for Neal and Simon, and later me and Simon… as I was stuck with Lucy the dog in the back of Simon’s conversion van and couldn’t hear a thing over the roar of chains on packed snow). Simon explained that this was because he had one headlight out and couldn’t see very well at night. The officer suggested that someone else drive and bade us a good new year. At 2 AM we stopped at the 7-11 down the street from Lava House, and let me tell ya, there are some crazy people who hang out at the 7-11 at 2 AM on January 1st. Creepy people who drink Yoohoo out of paper bags and shout into pay phones.

After four hours of sleep I got up for another day of snowboard instruction at the Mountain. The weather was cold enough to crack your marrow, and the 50-60 mph gusts at the top of Skyliner lift made it a day of teaching survival snowboarding to 9-year-olds. Miraculously I made it through the entire day without falling asleep in a snowdrift or dying from frostbite or vomiting from exhaustion, and when we got back in Bend we were greeted by a foot of new snow in town.

Having only 6-8 inches of clearance I couldn’t get the Green Dragon in my driveway, so I stashed my car in the parking lot of the Catholic church down the street and hiked home. I grabbed my shovel, the last remaining shovel at Wal-Mart, a telescoping piece of junk that would have been better for shoveling the reveries off the sidewalks of Bourbon Street than the heaviest snowfall in Bend since the Blizzard of ’77, and went to work clearing enough of my driveway so I could park my car. Cranky and swearing from exhaustion, I channeled my anger into the snow and at the neighbor’s dog, who was darting back and forth in the street barking his fool head off at me. “Why don’t you get hit by a car or something?” I grumbled but he never listened and just kept darting and barking.

I went to bed at 8:00 and had a restless night of sleep. I kept dreaming that I was teaching snowboarding lessons, which was really frustrating because I just wanted to relax and sleep and not teach snowboarding lessons, for once. I found myself getting angry and yelling at my students. “I DON’T CARE IF YOU CAN’T SNOWBOARD! I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE NOT LEARNING! I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE NOT HAVING FUN! YOU’RE ALL A DREAM! YOU DON’T EVEN EXIST! LEAVE ME ALONE!”

I tried the same tactic on my classes today but it didn’t go over nearly as well.