Thursday, September 23, 2010

Complacency or True Happiness?

I think a lot of things depend on one's frame of reference.  Whenever a skier from out west comes to the east, everything is icy.  When someone switches to shaped skis (or fat skis, or rockered skis), they wonder how they could have gone so long without trying the new technology.  And the 60 or so days a year that I get are pittance to a 120 day skier, but enviable to a 20 day skier.  But really, is the guy who skis the east, on straight skinny skis, about 20 days a year that bad off?  He still has a pretty big smile on his face.

In that vein, I wonder if I am asking for too much.  I mean, shouldn’t I be happy with what I have going?  I have a house.  I have a great job, with plenty of vacation time, a decent salary, and great benefits.  I have a great wife who loves skiing (and biking) as much as I do.  We live in a great area.  Gore is an hour away, Whiteface is 2:15.  My parents’ lakehouse is 2:45 away, with a boat and a jet ski. Ace’s parents’ condo is 45 minutes away and 20 minutes from Gore.  Mountain Biking at SMBA is about 25 minutes away, at Luther Forest about 15 minutes away.  Any number of Road Bike Rides are available right out my front door.  We have a lot of friends in the area for the summer, and we have a lot of friends at the mountain for the winter.  Our families live close.  And I love Gore.  It’s definitely top 5 in the East for trees (Stowe, Smuggs, Jay, MRG), which is what I like to ski most.

Really, if I was to pick up and move west, it would be for the following reasons:
  1. Change of Scenery – I’ve lived in this area for (pretty much) my entire life.  I took 3.5 years off to go to school in Maine, and half a year to do a semester in New Zealand.  Other than that, I’ve lived in Upstate NY.
  2. Snow – As much as I like Gore (and most of the East), the lack of natural snowfall is a killer.  It’s great when we have it, but sometimes we seem to spend weeks waiting for it.  I don’t really know how much snow I want (I don’t necessarily need Alta’s 500 inches, but Crested Butte’s 240 inches doesn’t sound like enough)
  3. Terrain – As much as I like Gore, there’s no doubt that the terrain of a western resort is far superior in both acreage and variety.
  4. Ski Town Vibe – I hate to dis where I grew up (because it worked out well for me), but Clifton Park, NY is a suburban wasteland.  The town is overcome with raised ranches (one of which is mine) and contains every single fast food restaurant, Friday’s/Chili’s type joint, and big box store known to man.  A proper ski town isn’t like that.  I picture Victorian houses and quaint streets.  And for me, there’s a certain feel to a ski town, where everyone is on vacation, and you can’t help but have your mood lifted.
 And that’s about it.  Let’s look at the list, and see what would be different. 

#1 is a weak reason.  It doesn’t take too long to adapt to a new place, and once I settle in and find my favorite spots, would I move again just for a “change of scenery?” 
#2 is big, but how big?  We get about 3 to 5 Powder Days at Gore per year.  By driving around a little bit, I might be able to squeeze another 3 to 5 out of other parts of the East Coast.   That’s 6 to 10 pretty good (5-7” +) powder days.  Granted, we hardly ever get the 12-24 inches that pile up overnight at western resorts.  I’m thinking the average western resort gets more like 18-30 awesome powder days a year . . . 3 times as much.  But the other thing is that, with all the natural snow, even the “droughts” are really good.  20 day old natural snow is a lot better than 20 day old manmade snow (that’s why I like “natural” trails in the east – no ice pellets to screw up the consistency).  Finally, we almost never see the rare and fantastic blue sky powder day that you always see in ski pictures.  So that’s a really big driver.
#3 is pretty important, because even when we do get a big power day (Valentine’s Day storm a couple of years ago), you need a mountain that can deliver the goods.  Let’s face it, some of the runs on the lower mountain don’t have enough pitch to keep you going on a really deep day.  They’re great cruisers in a snow drought, but just not cutting it when there’s 36” of fresh on the ground.  The top of the mountain, however, rocked on that day (and the day after . . . and the day after that . . . and the following weekend).  A lot of mountains out west have serious vertical right down to the base (I would just have to be careful when I choose).
#4 is really more of an image, I think, than a want.  Life in a ski town, while it looks glamorous, is not as cool as I’m making it out to be.  Great Jobs are few and far between, and there’s probably not going to be any health insurance.  There’s not even any guarantee that I will get to ski on those epic blue sky powder days.  Everything is expensive, the paycheck probably won’t be consistent, and I’d have to hustle to make things happen for myself (which may cut into my ski time).

So, I have to decide if the good (all that stuff in #2 and #3) outweighs the bad (all that stuff I mentioned in #4).  And right now, I just don’t see it.  Better Snow and Better Terrain seem like a reason to vacation there, but the negatives I listed in #4 prevent me from moving there (at this point in my life).  Things will happen, though, over the next few years.  People will move away, global warming might destroy eastern snowfall totals, and I might win the lottery.  For now, I’m just going to keep on keepin’ on.  And hopefully, I’ll learn to appreciate the things that I do have . . . Right after I buy myself some sweet rockered skis.    


  1. 60 days a year.... mmm ... donuts. Don't move matt we need ya here.

  2. Yeah, how in the hell did you get 60 days? I did that once living in the East, but, I had a three day work week and maybe eight weeks off a year. Ah, the good old days. I was so bored I learned how to snowboard.

    Hey Matt, we're sorta simpatico, since I too desire to spend my winters out west, and lived close to you in Saratoga Springs from '04-'07. Road biked a whole lot up there, too. Wasn't much of a mountain biker - I hate bugs - another reason to live out west - no bugs. I agree that Gore is in the surprise mountain in the top ten of the East, but, don't discount Killington trees, either. They are pretty good, and necessary on a weekend.

    Here's my suggestion to you - spend a winter out west, or, at least three months, before you commit to any major life change. I had a sabbatical from work (lucky me) in '03, and I spent four months based in Summit County, Colorado, pretty much skiing every day, although I got picky towards the end. After a lot of research, i settled on the area for it's incredibly cheap skiing ($650 got me 8 mountains, and I should've spent another $150 for Loveland, but, live and learn), loooong season, other great mountains only requiring an overnight (Steamboat, Monarch, and Crested) and access to a big city (1.5 hours to Denver). I found a condo through which was pretty good, although a little more than I wanted to spend, and, I'm guessing the market is better these days. Tahoe is the second choice, because "ski leases" are common there, but the skiing is much more expensive. You have to pick one mountain and like it.

    I lived in Frisco, which is a perfect location to get to the mountains. The only town I found that fit your image of the cute little ski town is Crested Butte, but that place is isolated and lacking in variety, and, good snow at times. Otherwise, you may tire of living around people who are always on vacation - the culture is vacuous and alcohol soaked, and, well, expensive. As a matter of fact, I grew to dislike Breck and Vail and Steamboat (the towns) with their crowds and over the top assholes. And, let's face it, ski culture doesn't attract the type who can hold a conversation beyond "whoa, dude, righteous. etc.". Hey, if that's what you're into, fine, but I need something besides skiing. I also need green and water, which the arid mountain towns don't have much of.

    Anyway, you should try it out for a season. I found the experience invaluable, and, from it, I'm pretty sure I don't want to live out there full time. I'm very close to retirement, so I'm thinking two months minimum, and then back east. You'd be surprised how old skiing every day gets - I would go road biking down in Denver on warm days (there are plenty all winter) or hit Moab once or twice. Hey, if the condo market crashes out there and I can nail a two - three bedroom townhouse with an attached garage (the last is VERY important - it can snow all night, and you don't even have to put a coat on and brush your car off in the morning) for under 200000, all bets are off, and I'll be the old stoner dude at the coffee place in the morning talking about the righteous powder. Dude.

  3. Benny ... where have you been hidin' dude? TGR or something? Awesome comment. Puts mine to shame. Come to think of it STFU. ;0 Seriously though great comment. I refuse to believe I could get sick of skiing every day. It's a scary thought. I'd have to rework all my dreams. I'm too old for that crap. BTW I heard that swearing was ok over here. Don't try that bullshit on Harvey Road. It's a family place. :)

  4. Dude, watch your potty mouth.

    Seriously, a season out there will change your mind about a lot of things. I used to like Vail (the mountain), but, I wound up hating it after just one season out there. hey, it's great for tourists, but, downright hostile to locals. Beaver Creek, believe it or not, is a much better skiing mountain - less crowds, FREE parking.
    I wanted to experience a lot of powder, and the only way to do it is be there for a whole season. Unfortunately, by the end of the season (if it's a good year), you get picky about conditions. If i woke up and it was going to be kinda eh sunny weather and I knew I couldn't find powder anywhere because it was over a week since the last storm, I wasn't exactly inspired to rush out to the hill. There's only so much speed groomer flying you can do. And, I'm not much of a bump freak or park rat (they'll spend all day in the park if it's snowing hard - weird).

    The real downside of doing this is coming back east to ski, as you can imagine. Yeah, sure, we have some great stuff, but blower powder and the East Wall at ABasin or the North Face at Crested isn't one of them. Also, I can't spend a week out there anymore. it's frustrating if it doesn't snow and there's no powder in the trees. I sit there and think, man, I just dropped over a thousand bucks, went through air travel hell, can't breath, and I have a headache from the altitude, for groomers with nice scenery? No thanks.