Tom Clyde: Happy Thanksgiving
Opening day at Park City Mountain Resort begins a ski season like no other. Conditions on the mountain are pretty normal. Lots of machine-made snow on limited terrain. But that’s where normal ends. Trying to figure out how to operate during the plague seemed daunting enough in the summer when it looked more or less under control. Now, opening at all seems like a stretch. They have limited the number of skiers on the hill, which is a good thing with the limited terrain, and the limit will presumably change as the season progresses and more lifts are open.
To make it work, there is a reservation system. I tried it out, booking a random Tuesday in December. Other than having to navigate through eight or nine screens to get the job done, it seemed to work. It’s company wide, so you have to select which Vail Resorts mountain you are reserving, then the date, then the family members under your account who will be skiing that day. A friend reported logging on to find there were 35,000 people in line ahead of him. I didn’t have that problem. It’s easy to click on the wrong resort. I booked a spot at Paoli Peaks by mistake. I don’t even know where that is, but they didn’t seem too busy.
The system should work well for the destination market, if there is one this year. It will be an annoyance to us spoiled locals who are accustomed to deciding whether to ski or not on a moment’s notice. It never took planning before. My guess is that once the season is really opened up, there will be plenty of capacity, and we can make a same-day booking from the parking lot.
Like everything else since that day last March when the world fell apart, it’s a compromise. For most of us, this past eight months (it feels like years) has been inconvenient, a bit lonely and missing important experiences. Things as simple as lunch with friends to monumental events like graduations and funerals have all been upended. School is confusing. For a lot of our community, the economic toll has been terrible. Jobs disappeared, businesses folded and others held on by a fingernail hoping that ski season would turn it around.
So here we are, the start of ski season. The health experts are saying don’t come out of the house until there is a vaccine next summer. The business community is saying to go out carefully and spend. Hotel bookings are cautious, at best. Deer Valley without Deer Valley lunch will be a different experience.
I’m at a point where I really need some skiing. I need to be out with friends playing in the snow. Socially distanced, reservation-based, closed-lodges, no-lunch skiing might work, but it surely isn’t the same. Somebody needs to buy a motorhome so we can set up our own lodge in the parking lot. Three months ago, I felt like the odds of having something approximating a normal ski season were pretty good. Now? Who knows.
Thanksgiving is coming up this week. If ever there were a year when the big family gathering seems essential, this is it. Joining my recently widowed sister and her kids and grandkids for a traditional dinner would feel great. But then you start adding up the exposure from that many people, in that many work places and that many schools, and all the other contacts in any functioning life, and it suddenly doesn’t seem like a reasonable idea. Clorox gravy, anyone? Under the most normal circumstances, it’s a viral smorgasbord. This year? Much as we all want it, and need it, Thanksgiving will be small groups, mostly limited to people in our own household, and lots of phone calls.
We’re still negotiating the compromise over the traditional family Christmas party. Can we do it outside? Would the barn be too cold? There are a zillion little kids. Can we pack some in the house for a while? I don’t know if there is a way to do it over Zoom, or a way to feel OK about not doing it at all. Nothing works anymore.
In the midst of the plague, the weirdness in Washington and general chaos, there is still a lot to be thankful for. If I were with my large family, sharing a traditional meal together, I would say I’m thankful for them and a lifetime of memories together, and for friends and our silly Wednesday night Zoom cocktail-and-sanity hour. There’s health, and security and this beautiful place we call home. There’s a heated tractor cab and a dog who sneaks into my bed at night. We have scientists who have developed a vaccine in record time, creating a sense that if we can hang on for a few more months, things will be OK again. And there are reservations for skiing available.
Happy Thanksgiving. It feels more important than ever this year.
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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