“According to the map, we’ve only gone four inches.” PHOTO: Ron Reiring

Introducing The Odds Are Good, a semi-regular column by Heather Hansman about real life stories in the ski world and things like beards, living in shacks, and getting into Canada. In her first installment, Hansman writes her version of the moving West story.

If you start on the right side of the country, like I did, the highways branch out like veins, jamming out of the arteries of Philly and New York. By the time you get to Utah or Montana, they’ve mostly winnowed down to one skinny strip. When you’ve finally made it to Telluride, or Alta, you’re not just stopping through on your way to somewhere better. There’s only one road that could have brought you here.

For me, Colorado was an accident. I might have done it differently if I’d actually thought about it, but I jumped without much consideration. “I’m going to move to a ski town,” I’d said that summer, passing whiskey around a Maine campfire with a group of guys I didn’t know very well. I had an English degree, my first cell phone, and no plan after August, when the rivers would be dried up and I couldn’t claim to be a raft guide anymore. “Oh yeah?” one of them said. “I can get you work in Avon.” By the time my hangover dissolved, I had a job scanning lift tickets and a place to live in a town I’d never seen.

PQ_West

I don’t know much about salmon or geese, and what kind of biological force trips up inside of them when the weather changes, pushing them upstream or downwind, but I wonder if it’s kind of the same for us. Logic doesn’t really play a factor, so it must be something more than just adventure with a side of powder days. We turn down stability for skiing. There are a million different reasons why people move to the mountains and some of them aren’t good. Maybe those people who wear crystals around their necks are right about geology—the mountains have some kind of specific gravity that pulls you in.

I left Boston in the end of October, caravanning with two of my friends from school, jacked up on our version of the livin’ the dream. We drank cruddy coffee from gas stations we’d never seen before (Kum & Go… Get it?!?), and slept on the floor of my brother’s college dorm room in Chicago, already willing to embrace the dirtbaggyness we knew was coming. Across Nebraska and Indiana we’d spot other cars loaded up like ours were, headed toward the foothills somewhere beyond the horizon, skinny East Coast skis in the racks.

I know people who grew up in the mountains, who have never had to make that move, to pack up their 10-year-old Jetta with everything they might need for the winter—or forever—and head West or North, chasing snow. I know that something flips in them, too, when fall hits, but I’m not sure if it’s the same.

I moved to the mountains because I wanted to ski, but now, after that drive West has shaped everything from my job to the people I love, that reasoning feels a little thin. Skiing was the beginning, the baseline, but there’s a whole lot more involved in rooting yourself in a ski town. They never could have made Aspen Extreme if there wasn’t.

Somewhere in the middle of Ohio we switched CD books, and I slipped Katie’s copy of The Best of Talking Heads into the Discman in the passenger seat. I-90 stretched out into I-80, and I cranked up David Byrne and sang along.

The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s OK I know nothing’s wrong