Open Mic is the series on BLISTER where we invite various people in the outdoor industry to say what they have to say, and share whatever it is they feel like sharing at this particular point in time.
Today, we hear from our editor-in-chief, Jonathan Ellsworth:
Closing Day. At many ski areas, it’s a party, a day to enjoy with friends, to rip around and express gratitude for the season.
This year in Crested Butte, it was definitely all of the above. But it was also combined with a sadness, a confusion, and for some, an anger that one of the best seasons in recent memory was coming to a close when the ski area was still in all-time shape. But right now, I’m not going to focus on that part.
Instead, I want to document the fact that April 2nd, 2023, closing day in CB, felt absolutely magical. Because even if closing days are supposed to serve as a day to rip around with friends and be grateful for the season, not all closing days are created equal (in my experience), and last Sunday was special.
The mountain was skiing mind-blowingly well, on pretty much all aspects. The sun was out, the folks were out in costumes, and it was a day filled with high fives and the repeated question, “Can you believe it??”, as our shorthand way to say, “Can you believe exactly how good this season has been??”
Now, of course, these things are relative. Other areas received far greater snowfalls than we did. And I couldn’t be happier for those places. But when our ski area sets up like it did this season, well, there’s no place some of us would rather be.
That said, there’s a funny thing around here where, even in the low-tide seasons — here and at my previous home mountain, Taos — less snow just makes the mountain even spicier and more technical, and some of us have developed quite a taste for (varying degrees of) spiciness.
By definition, where we ski will never always be all-time. And the “best” skiers and riders don’t need the mountain to be all-time to have a great time, because the “best” skiers and riders are the people with the best attitudes, period.
And turns out, when you bring that good attitude to the ski hill on days when the conditions are decidedly not all-time … well, that makes you more technically proficient. There’s a beautiful reality here:
You get good when the conditions aren’t. Technical proficiency isn’t cultivated in perfect powder.
So develop a genuine appreciation of it all. That’s one of the secrets, I think, of lasting happiness in the mountains.
And working to cultivate a greater appreciation of the people and things and opportunities in your everyday life is one of the best recipes for happiness in general.
But then, every so often …
We do catch an all-time day or an all-time season. And given what I’ve just said above, I do not think it’s wise to say that those are the days or seasons we live for.
But I also think we’d better be able to recognize when all the stars align and allow those muscles of appreciation and gratitude to flex real hard.
That’s exactly what I saw our community doing on closing day, altogether.
Luke Koppa and his friends wore pink vests and snowblades. I had a chairlift conversation with his friend Alec about philosophical theology … while Alec was in a raccoon costume.
I skied “Baby Pool” with my friends Rob and Sydney and Nick, while our friend — and legend — Wendy Fisher was right there with us, fresh off her repeat victory of the Pain McShlonkey comp at Palisades, dressed in gold and ripping around CB on Moment snowblades.
In general, I want to continue to cultivate a baseline of appreciation of the ordinary, the everyday.
But I also hope to always stop, recognize it, appreciate it, and allow myself to burst at the seams with appreciation when the situation calls for it.
The Good Old Days
There’s a song I used to listen to a lot — that I loved — called, The Good Old Days, by EELS.
I have absolutely no idea why, but I hadn’t listened to that song in over a decade.
(And this fact — how certain books or songs or movies fade from the front of our minds — as well as the fact that this EELS’ song isn’t about the appreciation of peak experiences, but rather, the opposite — are topics for another day.)
On Sunday, however, I couldn’t get it out of my head, and particularly, the repeated line, “These could be the good old days.”
Sunday certainly was. I hope I remember it on my deathbed. And if there’s a single thing that I’d most like to say in this piece, it’s simply, Thank you to everyone who made Sunday — and this season — this special. I won’t forget it.
Just because our home hill is now closed certainly doesn’t mean that I’m done skiing. In fact, shockingly, I’m writing this on my way to Alaska for the first time in my life. I’ll hit Girdwood in just a few hours, and yet, it still hasn’t sunk in.
I have no idea how the trip will go, or what the conditions will be like. Perhaps this will end up being an exercise in “baseline appreciation,” or maybe it will be an exercise in allowing my appreciation to burst at the seams. I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t care. I get to spend time with some old friends and some new, I get to spend more time in the mountains with Paul Forward — on his home turf, for the first time — and I get to visit a magnificent place. It’s already way more than enough.
3 comments on “Jonathan Ellsworth: The Good Old Days”
Very well articulated Jonathan and appreciate the emotion behind the piece. Think the social media age heightens this desire for the claim of all time experiences and the fear of missing them.
Am excited for you for your trip to AK with Paul, hard to believe it has taken until now. Have an amazing time and stay safe.
About ten years ago on a beautiful spring day I was riding up the old Snowden lift at Killington with my wife; we’d just poached some sketchy, low cover woods and were on our way to do it again. As we got to the top we saw a fellow making slow, focused snowplow turns coming down.
The guy was 75, maybe 80, in a pom-pom beanie; it might have been his first time on the hill on 50 years or it might have been his third time ever, maybe skiing was on his bucket list. But the smile he had on his face as he made those awkward turns was ear to ear brilliance.
I watched him, started to smile myself, sharing his joy, and said to my wife, “Look at how much fun that guy is having – today, that dude is the best skier on the hill.”
It’s become a personal mantra of sorts, and I share it with everyone at my home hill – “The best skier (or rider) on the hill is the one who’s having the most fun!”
Some days it’s me. Last weekend, at his first time on Mt. Washington, it was my son. I hope it’s you at Girdwood.
I’ve stood in that CPG hanger on my way to epic powder turns. I was a snowboarder then. I hope to return with my sticks for a new perspective. I’m assuming you had an epic trip!!
The last day of the year is emotional for me. Especially the last few years. Each closing day is one less closing day I’ll ski with my boys. I savor every moment of it.
This year was spectacular (IS spectacular). Today at Palisades OV was nothing short of magical. Great snow, friends and sunshine.
The only reason I’m OK with closing day is the excitement brought by knowing that there will be another opening day around the corner.
See you guys on the other side!! Thanks for the great reviews this year.