Last Friday Kyle and I went skiing. It was a pretty good day, considering the ridiculous weather we’ve had this season; the snow was crunchy in the morning but loosened up as the day went on, and the temperature topped out at only around 40 degrees. Not the best snow of the season, but it’s certainly been worse. Kyle thinks we’ve got another couple of days left in the season, but as I am
not delusional a realist I think we’ve seen the end. We got 22 good days of skiing out of the season, and I’m grateful as hell for every one of them.
It was also last Friday that Kyle and I met two interesting people on the lifts. We’ll call them The World’s Biggest Ass and The World’s Biggest Badass.
The World’s Biggest Ass rode up the Straight Brook chair with is. He seemed like a nice enough guy, at first. We talked about the conditions a bit, which runs were good and which ones to avoid. And then he revealed himself. He started complaining about how high taxes are in the upscale suburb of Long Island where he lives. About how despite the fact that he and his wife both have great jobs and are a few years from retiring, their money can’t buy them hardly anything. About how he hardly ever gets to use his townhouse in Aspen because he has to work so much to afford the taxes. And he could afford a really, Really, REally, REAlly, REALLY huge house if he lived anywhere else. And this state sucks, it’s just awful. And he can’t wait to move somewhere where his vast sums of money actually buys him the things he deserves. Kyle and I were struck dumb. As The World’s Biggest Ass moved the conversation to how much the mountain sucks, how they haven’t been blowing snow hardly at all and they’re doing a terrible job of taking care of it and he’s angry that the lack of snow is ruining his three-day skiing vacation, Kyle politely spoke up in defense of the Gore staff. He pointed out that they actually have been working their asses off to blow snow, that they’ve been doing the best they could but the day before it had been 50 degrees and raining. You can blow all the snow you want, but when three inches of rain falls on the mountain you’re going to lose a lot of snow. But The World’s Biggest Ass wouldn’t accept that as someone who skis the mountain two-three times a week Kyle would have any clue what he was talking about and instead argued vehemently against him. By the time the lift dropped us at the peak, I was gritting my teeth and I’m vaguely surprised that Kyle didn’t reach across me to take a swing.
Long after we’d skied away as fast as we could, the anger still pulsed in my cheeks. First off, no one, Kyle and myself included, gets to complain about how broke you are while you’re skiing. It’s an expensive hobby and requires expensive gear, so if you can afford to ski you can’t be too bad off. But if you’re going to complain about how poor you are while participating in an expensive hobby, Kyle and I are the wrong-ass people to complain to. We’re not sympathetic to his plight. Not even a little. We’ve struggled in this shit economy, working shit jobs and moving frequently in an attempt to stay employed in a job that won’t kill us. We’re tickled fucking pink just to have jobs that we love and pay enough money to afford to a few luxuries like skiing. So when that ungrateful ass started bitching about how much the taxes on his fancy Long Island house cost, it just made us both crazy. He was, in ever sense of the word, The World’s Biggest Ass.
It was later in the afternoon, and we had just skied down Uncas, a black diamond. We were jumping on the Topridge chair to go back up and do it again, and that’s when we met The World’s Biggest Badass.
He wore a navy blue jacket and worn black pants. His skis were older, and the tips were more pointed than our newer skis. He sat next to Kyle and spoke in such a soft voice that I could hardly hear him on Kyle’s other side. And plastered to the front of his helmet was a bright white sticker that read “80+ Ski Club.” He was skiing his last day of three at Gore Mountain, and on Saturday was leaving for a week of skiing in Colorado. As the three of us slid off our chair, Kyle and I paused just off the lift and watched him fly away with the kind of easy grace and perfect technique that makes a skier’s chest burn with admiration and jealousy.
As we tackled our own runs, I couldn’t stop thinking about the old man who’d ridden up with us. Eighty fucking years old. My Grandma Dietrich is 85 years old. She makes exquisite hand-stitched quilts and can still cook a holiday meal that you’ll embarrass yourself over, but she’s not exactly hitting the slopes anytime soon. Hell, we’re proud as shit because she still mows her own lawn! And that motherfucker is skiing. He is over three times my age, but you strap him to a pair of skis and he will shame my ass. That man, ladies and gentlemen, was a bonafide badass.
Both of those men, The Ass and The Badass, left a strong impression on me. In both cases, they reminded me to be grateful for what I have. The Ass has so much to be happy about and all he could do was bitch and moan about how he doesn’t have more. And The Badass, at 80-something years old, didn’t have the newest or fanciest gear and couldn’t give two shits; he was just geeked as shit to be out there still skiing when so many of his peers have been confined to a creaky chair. As I look around our shabby apartment at our abused, second-hand furniture and our cheap appliances, I can’t help but look at them a little more fondly. Sure, we live in a tiny apartment with hardly any closet space. We work hours that verge on suicidal and aren’t paid half what we’re worth. But we have great jobs in our chosen field that challenge us. We live in a fantastic town that places us close to all the activities that we love. And we have a happy, (mostly) healthy marriage that stays strong even though we work together. The reality is that life’s been pretty fucking good to us over the last couple of years, and all it took was meeting an Ass and a Badass to remind me how lucky we’ve been.