By John Clary Davies
The dreams start in early August. A couple weeks later, the September issue of Powder shows up in my mailbox. By the time I start attending ski movie premieres, I'm about to blow. There's so much powder in my life, but there's not actually any powder. And there won't be for several months. It's like blue balls of the mind. Or something. I'm like a Labrador whose owner just asked if I wanted to go for a walk, then gets out my favorite ball, except we don't go anywhere so I can chase it. This can't be healthy.
So it's a good thing Mount Hood Timberline reopens regular chairlift operations in late September. Friday's opening marked the beginning of the 2011-2012 ski season in North America. Sixty miles down the road in Portland, it was 75 degrees. Hipsters rode fixed-gears in jorts and tanks, but up on the glacier, we were reminded what skiing was like. The feeling of flying down a mountainside? It's as good as I remember it.
I haven't missed an opening day in years. The skiing is never that great, but that's hardly the point. It's about the little things, like digging out your gear and packing your ski bag again, or putting your skis on the roof rack. It's about the drive to the mountain with your buddy, where you start brainstorming nominations for the year's ski anthem—the song you blast while you put your boots on and annoy everybody in the parking lot. It's the “click” when you press your heel into your binding, the camaraderie we share with a stranger on the chairlift, and the beer (oh, the beer!) we share with burning legs hanging off the tailgate. Everybody is just happy to be skiing again. That's what opening day is about.
On Friday it didn't matter that we were skiing last season's snow, or that we were limited to a couple of lanes on a melting glacier. The important part was that four dudes on mono skis came down from Seattle to be a part of it, as did a guy in a Panama hat, the girls in low-cut t-shirts and a University of Utah business student named Tom Wallisch, who also happens to be one of the best slopestyle skiers in the world. And it didn't matter who you were today. We were all there for the same reason. We were all chasing our ball. Thanks God it's almost winter again.