The Northwest is tired of talking about how bad last year was. This is the 2015-16 season, and boy was it a good one in the Upper Left, from the December to Remember, to the late January powder push, to the March that refused to say 'Uncle.'
The PNDubs capped it all off this weekend at Stevens Pass with their annual Springfest, a full day party culminating in the area's largest pond skim. After a year hiatus, the event carried a little more clout in 2016, as the winner(s) of qualifier number two of the Pond Skimming World Cup would grab an automatic berth into the first-ever Pond Skimming World Cup at Sunshine Village, Alberta on May 23.
We decided to follow longtime Stevens telemarker and RV Lot local Buck Cobb on his quest to secure a spot in the championship. Welcome to a day in the life of a Stevens Pass pond scummer.
7:17 a.m. Wake up in the back of my Subaru to the sound of Buck greeting his neighbors from his trailer door. He's clearly a morning person. I guess we won't be agreeing on everything.
7:35 a.m. Trailer breakfast. I heat up yesterday's Little Caesar's in the toaster oven. Buck graciously skips judging my culinary display, opting for cinammon apple Pop-tarts and some French Press.
8:05 a.m. Buck confirms that his plan to run his tandem telemark skis will not be happening this year. In 2014 he and skim partner Adam went across as bride and groom, but Adam's knee isn't cooperating this go around, leaving Buck alone at the altar.
8:17 a.m. Buck pieces together his skimming attire. He's decided to go as the "Super Buzzed Bee," which entails a slip-on bumblebee suit, antennae popping out from his helmet, and a glittery super hero cape. Rounding out the number is a pocket trumpet, which he is surprisingly adept at playing.
8:46 a.m. Suited and booted. Buck throws on a pair of insulated rubber gloves labeled "FUN" because, "It's a FUN kind of day." His identical pairs that say "NOW" and "POW" will have to wait for their day in the sun.
8:55 a.m. Internal debate over rocking goggles or pulling the ultimate dad move and wearing sunglasses with my helmet. Dad wins. Pit Vipers it is.
9:18 a.m. Drop Pit Vipers in lodge urinal. Reassess strategy.
9:20 a.m. Buck buys his $20 entry to the pond skim, with all proceeds going to the local adaptive ski program, Outdoors For All.
9:25 a.m. Load Skyliner Chair in bright sun and wonder if my SPF50 is up for the task. After 100+ days on the hill, Buck isn't in a hurry today—neither am I.
10:14 a.m. Big Chief double strategy meeting. "I just need to remember not to drop the knee before I hit the water. That didn't work out so well in Squaw Valley. Now that was a highlight reel crash," says Buck.
10:30 a.m. Head back to the RV lot for a quick sunscreen re-up. "If you're skiing Stevens right, you'll need a break after a couple hours," according to Buck.
11:09 a.m. Find Buck's buddy, Lenin, celebrating his 42nd birthday at Springfest. Interrupted by guy in a two-tone onesie asking if they drug test in jail…
11:37 a.m. The debut of the Super Buzzed Bee.
Buck the “Super Buzzed Bee” does Stevens Pass Springfest 2016. pic.twitter.com/cz8slouhy8
— Kade Krichko (@caskade88) April 19, 2016
12:00 p.m. Dummy Downhill takes off. Marvel at how aerodynamic a dorm room couch can be when weighted properly.
1:00 p.m. Break for backflips. Even with slow-riding snow, the Stevens terrain park is popping.
1:47 p.m. Score a free hot dog in the parking lot ahead of the 2 p.m. skim start. Mustard. Cheese. Sustenance. Check.
2:10 p.m. Buck and I ski down to the growing skimming line midway down Big Chief. Line must be 300 people long. Buck imparts the crowd with a little late wisdom, "To finish first, you must first finish." Touché, Buck, touché.
2:15 p.m. Action is in full swing below the Tye Creek Lodge, as a double mounted snowboard hits the pond at Mach speed and blows up upon entry. And the crowd goes wild.
2:34 p.m. Live band playing Prince covers has the crowd grooving, including one lady in a spacesuit onesie that doesn't seem to have an "off" switch.
2:44 p.m. An unmarked ski patrol trio makes it across the pond with a lead skier, tail skier, and rescue sled rider. The early favorite has emerged.
2:57 p.m. Records are made to be broken, as a guy in a Dumb and Dumber blue tuxedo front flips into the pond and skis away with the judges hearts. The bar has been raised.
3:05 p.m. First pee break. No Buck, yet.
3:14 p.m. A zebra mankini makes its way across the pond and sears a lasting visual into the brains of far too many young children.
3:30 p.m. Best use of safety equipment goes to the guy who pulls his avy airbag mid-skim and proceeds to tomahawk into the pond. Luckily for him, now he's wearing a life preserver.
3:45 p.m. Second pee break. Still, no Buck and now a certain sunburn.
4:00 p.m. Lifts shut down with people still waiting to go. This pond skim is massive, but it looks like Buck has abandoned ship.
4:21 p.m. Still no Buck, but Mr. Dumb and Dumber, Don Brockett, has taken the Pond Skimming World Cup Qualifier crown, as his lady counterpart, Brandy Lipscomb, a Rainbow Brite-clad telemark skier. Cue the Duckboats, this pair is headed to Alberta.
4:35 p.m. Find Buck back at the RV lot. "I'm sorry man," he starts. "That line. I just couldn't stand around anymore and not be skiing."
So, alas, Buck won't be heading to the Pond Skimming World Championships in Alberta this May. In the end, the game of pond skimming is a fickle one, full of twists and turns that would have even the most seasoned winter sports bookie pulling his or her hair out. At the end of the day, I may not have won the office pond skimming pool, but I can't really fault Buck for jumping the shark. After all, sometimes you just need to ski.
One more pond skimming event will take place before the grand finale:
- Qualifier Number Four: Cushing Crossing, April 23, Squaw Valley, CA
For more info on how to punch your ticket to the World Cup May 23 at Sunshine Village, Alberta, click here.