Snowboarding in the New Year

IMG_3379As far as therapy goes, Vermont provides it – and in big, snowy doses. Waking up stiff and sore to a frosty sunrise, dime-sized flakes of snow spiraling lazily down outside your window, is a pleasant and peaceful feeling. By New Year’s Eve, though my body ached, my soul was feeling hearty and restored. Good company and healing scenery will do that to you.

We ditched Killington on Day 2 in favor of its smaller, friendlier cousin, Pico. It seemed a reasonable choice: lower elevation, fewer trails, smaller possibility of becoming hopelessly lost and faceplanting on a mogul. (One mogul faceplant is a fine quota I don’t want to exceed.)

Pico delivered. While Judson and Alana worked out their rental gear, I ventured up alone and chatted with a cheery couple about conditions and Vermont skiing options. The top of the mountain was not blustery; a slate gray sky sprawled out overhead, delivering a gentle dusting of snow on the treetops. I strapped on my board and went. It felt invigorating. There’s something about the combination of speed, control, and a blanched and tranquil backdrop that is unbeatable.

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We spent more time on Pico’s bunny hill, which we all found more favorable than Killington’s. Here, while Alana learned about toeside turns and stops, Judson attempted to teach me a 360. I was determined to do it for two reasons: first, despite the fact that I’ve gone snowboarding at least 9 times more than Judson, our skill levels are equal and I wanted to keep it that way and second, spinning down the mountain looks like fun. It took a while, but I eventually nailed it; the apex of this was when I performed three in a row, which no one witnessed. It was exhilarating – and dizzying – nonetheless.

Judson and I attempted some runs of our own again – much more successfully, I might add. After the second run, I felt flushed with adrenaline. There is nothing like getting the hang of things – and going fast.

We decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Long Trail Brewery, located just 8 miles down the road from Killington. Here, snug inside the cozy, wood-paneled walls, we sampled beers and slurped a toasty cheddar ale soup. At the bar, we chatted with a friendly local who recognized Judson from the trails. (I should have mentioned earlier: Judson was donning meticulously matched snow apparel in clashing khaki, bright blue, and vibrant red. To polish off the look, he was also sporting a neatly groomed ginger mustache. Alternately, he looked like a character from a “Welcome Back, Kotter” Christmas special or a pedophile.)

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In case you were wondering, it’s difficult to find work in Vermont, but life is good. If we’re being honest, who wouldn’t want to live in Vermont? Snowboarding in the winter, hiking through the other seasons, breweries by the county, and cheese. It’s hard to go wrong.

To top off the night, Judson splurged on a bottle of Whistle Pig, 100-proof rye whiskey. It happily carried us past midnight and into the wee hours of the morning of the first day in 2013. Before heading home, we stopped at Johnny’s Pancake House, a quaint little breakfast nook that epitomized all the comfy, homey vibes Vermont is famous for. We sat at the bar beneath the paralyzed gaze of a taxidermied bear cub and a mounted elk head, among other treasures. Dozens of retired frying pans lined the walls between the animal heads; all that was missing was a bit of bluegrass. (My pancakes were practically too rich to finish, and Judson’s maple sausage omelette was surprisingly delicious.)

Even New Jersey was beautiful upon our return. It was nippy outside with the wind picking up a bit, but Judson and I went to the Spy House to catch a glimpse of the New York skyline across the bay. The night was dark and still and starless overhead, the Spy House barely visible in the shadows. It really is a surprising building: erected in the 1600s, it underwent a series of alterations over the years, serving as a lookout point over the bay during the Revolutionary War and later becoming a tavern. Now, it’s said to be haunted by at least ten ghosts, and you can bet that was the point I emphasized. In many ways, it’s a shame I’m not keener on the history; it’s such an interesting structure, and most of the locals, including myself, continue to remain awed that it never seems to suffer damage during storms even despite the fact that the foundations are supposedly pretty weak. Driving to the Spy House, we passed dozens of boarded up homes and collapsed fences. And there was the Spy House, the closest home to the bay, stubbornly standing and undamaged.

Probably the ghosts.

As far as New Years go, this one may be my favorite. Since then, I have felt indomitably, wonderfully, and inexpressibly happy. The kind of happy that makes me want to grab a guitar and unabashedly belt out the entire Lumineers album. And tell the whole world.

Maybe there is something behind the Christmas pickle after all.

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