I could tell from a distance that these were the guys. They walked along the brick base area toward the gondola with insouciance. I stalled my own entrance through the carousel--fumbled with a couple boot buckles, let a few skiers go ahead of me--so that I could share the gondola ride with them. It was like I was 12 again, finagling my way onto the chairlift with the best skier on the mountain, or the cute, older girl I was crushing on at the time. Maybe I wouldn't even talk to them, but I would listen to their conversations, my character enriched through osmosis.
The only difference was that these guys probably weren't the best skiers on the mountain. They were in their '70s, with impressive, gray facial hair, and they carried long, skinny skis and wore one piece ski suits faded five shades shy of their original color. Not because it was ironic, because that's just what the fuck they wear while skiing.
On the gondola, my colleagues and I passed each other knowing holy shit these guys are amazing! looks as we listened to them bust each other's balls like only the oldest of friends and the best of ski partners can.
Eventually, they engaged us in the conversation. They told us this was their home hill, but that they take ski trips together every year. Last winter they drove to Alta. The year before, the Kootenays. "We come home when the money or underwear run out," said one guy with a hearty laugh.
On the shoulder of one of the skier's ski suits, a bulgy, fist-sized zippered pocket protruded like a sore thumb. Curious, I asked what was inside. "Two blankets and a condom," said the guy. "Safety first." Then: "And Viagra. Without it, it's like shooting pool with a rope." Well okay.
Later that night, some locals confirmed that yes, these were the guys. They told us the group goes by the moniker, The Beaver Patrol, and that their slogan is "No Muff Is Too Tough."
Inspired, I emailed my group of ski buddies. I told them about the Beaver Patrol and how I yearned for that long-term ski-centric camaraderie, and that they were my best hope for a similar annual ski trip. Careers, wives, and babies had entered our picture, all things that were inconceivable five years ago, the last time we had all taken a run together.
Later that winter, we ditched those responsibilities, spent money we didn't really have on flights, gas, lift tickets, a condo, and a keg, and had the most fun week of skiing of our lives. We don’t necessarily need to take Viagra yet, but like the Beaver Patrol, we are getting old. If we have half as much fun each winter as those old farts though, we'll be doing just fine.