Morpheme: Without This Mountain
That thing – the place that made you who you are – isn’t what it seems
This is where I learned to ski. It’s not much, but this mountain is everything. Without it, I would’ve never made a turn or lifelong friends. I never would’ve night skied. I wouldn’t have learned a 360. I wouldn’t have those memories of teaching a girl from another school how to ski, and learning that one thing you should never do is teach any girl from any school how to ski.
If this place weren’t around, I wouldn’t have wanted a car, so I could drive here as soon as I got out of class. I wouldn’t have worked as hard in school so I could get an early dismissal my senior year and then have the mountain to myself midweek. I wouldn’t have learned that cheeseburgers taste better at picnic tables by the window in the lodge. I wouldn’t have quit playing baseball because the snow was really good that spring or known that bringing your dad’s old VHS-fed camera to the mountain and building a jump makes people try crazy shit. Like backscratchers.
Without these three chairlifts and two rope tows, which used to be three chairlifts, two rope tows, and a J-bar before they added the tubing park, I wouldn’t have forged a better relationship with my father. We like to go night skiing together on $15 nights from 5 till 10 p.m., which used to be $10 nights when I was a teenager. Dad used to be a liftie here back in the day, so I suppose things in his life wouldn’t be the same either. He wouldn’t have taught me to ski, that’s for sure.
If the mountain bar wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have learned that the “s” in après is silent, or that when a band plays in the bar after a good day, it’s loud. And fun. And beer tastes better. I wouldn’t have had a place to mourn the loss of a friend killed during the war in Afghanistan.
If the mountain didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have taught my four-year-old nephew to ski last winter. We loved watching him yell, “Again! Again!” as he slid down the slope and marked three generations of a family being shaped by this one small ski area.
Without the mountain, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave home, and see other mountains. This place inspired me to enjoy the outdoors and care about the environment. Without it, I would not be one iota of the person I am today. I wouldn’t have a foundation for my writing. I wouldn’t have traveled the world or fallen in love. I wouldn’t have learned how to curse ski resort ownership for opening a restaurant instead of updating the chairlifts.
This place is everything and it’s worth much more than the $1.8 million the bank says it’s worth. It is worth the billion memories that shaped the lives of the people that spent their time here. What monetary value that legacy is worth, I do not know. This mountain is not Whistler or Jackson or Squaw. It’s not even Gore Mountain or Whiteface. It’s West Mountain, or The Dump, as we used to call it. It’s a community’s mountain, our mountain. Without, we wouldn’t be much of anything.
Mike Rogge is writing about West Mountain, a small Upstate New York ski area that filed for bankruptcy protection in June. He lives in Truckee, California, and skis Squaw Valley.
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