Siri failed me this morning. She didn’t tell me last night that my 4:44 a.m. alarm was only for weekdays. I woke before I heard a sound, in the dark of early morning, wondering how in God’s name had my body managed to wake before such an insanely early Sunday alarm. I lay there for several minutes, listening for the cars on Jewell. But it’s Sunday, I told myself. At 4:23, I thought.
Finally I looked at my phone, irritated that I couldn’t sleep longer. 6:06??? FUCK!
I rushed to the bathroom, hurriedly raked through my tangles, and put on my four layers of clothes. I started tea water, fed the meowing kittens who waited screaming at me outside of the bathroom, scarfed a banana, and threw together a PB&J for the road.
The road: warning signs lit up 6th Avenue. “Slow and go traffic from Floyd Hill to Empire exit.” It was 6:46. And the whole world rainbowed the highway with a string of red lights in search of snow.
I pulled into the parking lot at 8:19 after the harrowing icy drive over Berthoud Pass and backed into one of the final ten spots. I ran to the bathroom, rushed back to the Pilot, and began the tedious process of slipping dress-socked feet into hard plastic ski boots. I carried my skis and poles the thirty feet to the slope, clicked in, and headed 300 yards to the singles line.
Before 11:00 a.m., I had skied ten runs, a near miracle on a crowded day. I had chosen my lifts wisely, and I had only the snow and my speed to wait for. In the singles line, you don’t have to wait on anyone. You slide up ahead of large groups, of brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, young children, lifelong friends.
All day long you hear or partake in snippets of conversations.
“Look at that little girl. Not more than six on the double black! I didn’t do that till high school. And look–her mom can’t even keep up with her.”
“I can’t wait till Maddie starts skiing next year. She’s such a spitfire. She has no fear. She’s nothing like Miles, afraid of everything.”
“Once they open Vasquez Circle, the whole winter world will change. Only half the mountain heads over there because there’s 300 yards of road, and snowboarders won’t go near it. It’s all natural snow and just skiers. You’ve gotta try it.”
“I just finished taking a class at UCD even though I’m from Illinois. Sadly, this is my last day on the slopes.”
“Dad, how many runs do you think we can do before lunch?” “I can ski all day without stopping.” “Maybe five?” (At 10:36).
“Is this the singles line?” “Yes.” Long pause. Red beard below black goggles. Giant grin that glances toward the huge crowd entangled in the group line. “Aren’t we lucky to be single?”
Yes, yes we are. Never mind that my father hurt his shoulder and not one of my three girls wanted to get up and ski today and my husband doesn’t ski.
Today, I could have given in as everyone I know always does and always would. But I said I was going skiing, and damnit, I was. I missed my alarm, crammed into the traffic, and by the end of the day was soaked down to my skin from so much snow. My legs ached. My fingers were numb. I was wholly alone and wholly together with strangers all in the course of a day.
I learned that groups who were smart split themselves to make a long singles line. That way they could get through lift lines faster.
That people don’t care who they ride with or what they say on the lift as long as there’s fresh powder to carve down on the other side.
That I can be free and happy even if I’m alone. And in fact, because of it. I could choose every run I wanted, when I wanted lunch, I could skip back and forth between Mary Jane and Winter Park, I could stop at the gas station and fill up on tea, I could listen to an audiobook instead of moaning over a traffic jam.
I could survive, at least for a day, in the singles line.