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December 9, 2011
It’s good to be back on the snow. The ski season is underway and, despite what the snow snobs say, it’s been really good. This is a pretty typical opening that kind of rolling start on machine-made snow. Last year was the aberration, with the instant winter and deep snow everywhere for opening day. And, of course, because it happened that way once, we all have come to expect that all the time. Life here is all about unreasonable expectations.
Years ago, I seldom skied before Christmas at all. In the days before snowmaking, it just wasn’t that good. There were early season protocols that called for using your "rock skis" because coverage would be so thin. Park City used to run everybody up to the top on the old gondola the first part of the mountain to open was the top (which actually makes a lot of sense). You could ski up top, then ski down to the angle station (near the Silver King Mine) and download to portage over the bare ground at the bottom. Now, the best run on the mountain is Payday.
This year I’ve been using an old pair of skis, but wonder why. Coverage on the open runs is more than adequate, and the only thing missing is sharpened edges. It might be time to switch over to the good skis until the top of the mountain opens up and there the natural snow cover might be a little thin.
If you haven’t been out, you’re missing some fun skiing. I’m not sure I would pay retail day-pass rates for it because there isn’t enough variety to make a full day of it yet. But for a few hours the skiing is really nice. That’s the luxury of a season pass. Where they have milled it, the surface is firm but carvable, and there are so few people on the mountain that you can show up at 11 and still get fresh corduroy.
I’ve been skiing for long enough, and know some of the management people at all three local resorts well enough, so that I can’t help looking at skiing with a little bit of an eye to the operational side of things. It has to be very complicated to completely shut down and restart every year, often with new employees doing it. Even with their summer operations, things are different enough that shifting from summer to winter operations has to be a very difficult process. The process of restarting the lifts, the lodges, restocking the kitchens, firing up the snowmaking, the groomers, and hiring all the people necessary to make it even possible seems almost incomprehensible. If a couple of things don’t fall into place, everything gets messed up. So congratulations to all three resorts for pulling it off, even with a couple of lift problems here and there. Everybody involved has to be relieved when the first day has passed and everything mostly worked according to plan.
The snow will come, and I’m still sticking with my hornet-nest theory that says it will be a better-than-average winter. In the meantime, you have to love these bright blue-sky days, even if it is cold out.
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It’s been most entertaining watching the Republican candidates this year. Each one seems to rise to the top long enough to actually attract some adult scrutiny, and then promptly implodes. This week’s winner is Newt Gingrich, who has taken a strong position on child-labor laws: Children should be put to work as janitors in their schools. The primary advantage of that plan is that a union janitor could be fired, and there is nothing that excites the GOP more than the idea of firing a union janitor. The fact that the replacement is a 10-year-old kid is just icing on the cake. The only way that could be better is if we quit wasting money educating the kid at all and just consigned him to a lifetime of menial labor early on.
This seems to be playing well with the Republican primary voters who, like the Democrats’ primary voters, tend to be the lunatic fringe of the party. Newt’s biggest weakness seems to be his shocking position that it is a bad idea to rip families apart to deport a mother who is undocumented while her citizen children can stay behind. The Republican base just hates that. So the assumption is that Newt will implode before Christmas.
What’s next? A Bachman bounce? Will Santorum shine for a couple of weeks? Ron Paul is extreme even in this field. Huntsman is too reasonable. The Donald might come back from the dead, demanding to see Mitt’s birth certificate. It’s great entertainment. The only problem is that it is deadly serious business.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.