Tom Clyde: Powder days and powdered doughnuts
Christmas is upon us.
It’s a season rich with hope and thoroughly marinated in nostalgia. My car radio blasts the sappiest Christmas music, and otherwise normal people show up in stores wearing Santa hats or reindeer headbands. It’s crazy, but I love it.
It’s a great time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Or if you are here for a year of adventure working at the ski areas, it can be a time to enjoy new friends and experience their Christmas traditions, however odd they may seem.
We have a huge family party on the Saturday before Christmas, and then everybody does their own thing on Christmas itself. It’s a tradition that goes back to my earliest childhood memories when we celebrated with our cousins. As the families expanded, and my parents’ generation passed on, the party moved to the ranch house. That was partly because it was bigger than anybody’s house in town, and partly because no place feels more like home for Christmas than the old family house in Woodland.
My twelve nieces and nephews are all adults, most with kids and even grandkids of their own. A new great-grand niece arrived last week. There are 4 generations’ of us now, and around 40 of us crowd into what was my parents’ house at the ranch. A niece bought it from her cousins a few years ago, but we slipped some kind of easement in the deed that requires her to host the party whether she wants 20 toddlers loaded with mugs of hot chocolate jumping on her new furniture or not.
It’s more people than comfortably fit, maybe by a factor of 3, and there are quiet prayers offered on behalf of the ancient plumbing. There’s broom hockey on the pond, snowshoe hikes, and potluck dinner with a menu that hasn’t changed in 50 years. Heaven help anybody who tries something different. We open silly presents, catch up on each other’s lives, and remember Christmases from childhood.
We all see each other fairly often, in smaller, more manageable groups throughout the year. We try to get the whole tribe together once during the summer, when there is plenty of space outside to accommodate everybody, and a have party in the loft of the old dairy barn. But there are always vacations or other summer plans. Somebody is always missing. Nobody misses the Christmas party except a few who live out of state. It’s become so complicated that there are spreadsheets for food and gifts. Every year there are additions from new relationships or babies born, and sadly, my generation has started passing on. It’s a great time.
The ski season is off to a spectacular start. There has been lots of snow, and the mountain is mostly open. Until this week, there hasn’t been anybody else here. It’s been years since you could ski right into the Jupiter chair on a powder day, or find powder left over a couple of days after the storm. Parking has been easy and traffic only mildly messed up. It was like the old days. Of course that all changes this week, and from now until April, it’s game on. These past few weeks of great skiing, and having it all to ourselves, is a rare gift.
The other morning, putting my skis on at the base of Park City, I remembered doing the same thing, in exactly the same spot, the year Treasure Mountain opened. Santa Claus brought us all skis for Christmas and Saturday lessons that started in January. A lot has changed in that time, and the place is hardly recognizable compared to that 1963 version. What a joy it’s been through all those years, living in these mountains, playing in the snow, and sharing it with friends.
Life is complicated, and nothing happens on our own. In addition to appreciating family and friends, there are all the people out there who keep things going. There’s a lot of grunt work that goes into making those ski days as fun as they are. I’ve never met the people who make the doughnuts at the Chevron in Kamas. They have gone home by the time I get there, but any day that starts with a pair of Chevron doughnuts is off to a good start. In fact, one of the great powder days last week included counting several bald eagles along the river, a wild turkey traffic jam in downtown Woodland, and finding doughnuts still warm from the fryer with a glob of chocolate frosting melting on them. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks to everybody who makes it all happen.
Take some time to look around this magical place we all call home. Whether you call it blessing or luck, we’ve got it good around here.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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