I took my last downhill runs of the ski season Sunday. The experience was depressing. I was disgusted.
I didn’t plan to ski, as my email inbox was flooded with resort coronavirus closures, suspensions, cancellations and updates but when I saw the one from Cranmore telling it would close for at least a week later that day, I selfishly figured it might be the last chance to ski for the season.
I should have stayed home.
I adhered to suggestions from the barrage of emails — boot up in the parking lot, avoid the lodge, and head straight to lifts. Automatically, I entered the singles line at the quad and into the small mass of humanity with some covered head to toe, others not.
Social distancing be damned.
I figured skiers and riders could figure that six feet away is about the average length of a ski, a clever factoid Colorado is using in its public campaign to ward off COVID-19. Wrong.
I rode up with two adults who cracked open the concealed beers from their pockets and chugged them before deplaning the open-air sardine can, at least placing the spent containers in those pockets.
So, I thought, these are the people I’m supposed to depend on to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines since all our health is at stake.
If so, we’re screwed.
The next ride, I automatically returned to the singles line and stupidly didn’t ask to fly solo.
I was paired with tweens, one with a slightly runny rose. Though almost fully covered, all I could imagine was an in-flight sneeze and particles finding an exposed section of me. That’s it, I thought, we’re dead.
My second run was then my last, a series of turns in the face of stoic Mount Washington.
March with its spring conditions is typically a road trip month for many skiers, but this is an atypical March and times.
It was during a two-night March 10-12 road trip to Lincoln with its inexpensive motels that the reality of the pandemic started to percolate with me. While skiing Loon, we got into what I now see as an enclosed sky-high petri dish called a gondola with strangers. I had a cough that day that I soothed with a lozenge but saw the fear in our neighbors’ eyes as I barked into my puffy jacketed elbow.
A few days later, Loon grounded the gondola.
Before we left for the trip, store shelves were filled with toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer. When we returned, they were bare.
We were then scheduled to fly to visit my elderly parents but received word no visitors were allowed where they lived.
So, we decided to use some of that time and made reservations for a two-night stay in western Maine.
Jay Peak and Burke soon shuttered to start the cavalcade of closures and curtailed services.
What should we do?
It wasn’t so much the lodges I was concerned about but the lodging. Staying out or keeping time in lodges to a minimum is easy, but not the hotel, as even with extra cleaning, who knows what microbes don’t check out.
We also talked about bringing food and refraining from bars, restaurants and hot tubs. But that’s why we go. Plus, it was over St. Patrick’s Day with its apres appeal.
I was on the fence until the schools started to close. I canceled the trip. Four hours later, Boyne Resorts in New Hampshire and Maine emailed of their impending closures.
Social media exploded last weekend. Praise came from closure supporters as a prudent measure to flatten the curve. Others argued for staying open. It’s outdoors; let skiers decide.
Social distancing is tough in the grocery line and a lift line, but it’s time we do what we need to do versus what we should do.
Given the coronavirus chaos, skiing and snowboarding is insignificant.
It is a time for common sense, which is not distributed evenly throughout society, and simplicity. Heed Thoreau if you decide to play outside. Keep your distance while woods walking. Run. Snowshoe. Skin the backcountry. Donate to cross-country centers offering limited grooming for a spell after closing. Hike. Bike.
Get creative. If not for the closures I wouldn’t have enjoyed a self-sequestered St. Patrick’s Day around our kitchen table clad in green boxers with my wife streaming a live Dropkick Murphys concert while quaffing adult refreshment — for the greater good.