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Worldwide Ace » Unknown Precipice

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Unknown Precipice

13 April, 2011 (10:53) | Skiing

We found out from facebook.

The announcement was less of a shock than the means, the reverberation of anger and disappointment spreading further and faster than anyone could’ve anticipated.

Please join us for closing day April 10th, the banner on the facebook page read.

Under other circumstances, it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. Instead, it came across as a slap to the face of employees counting on another week of work, customers saving their vouchers for those last few ski days, and season pass holders promised a closing date of April 17 when they purchased their pass late season.

The snow wasn’t great. The mountain wasn’t making enough money to cover expenses on a weekday. The employees were regularly outnumbering the guests. All these provided good reason to shut down early, but reason was never the issue.

There was a sense of disturbed unease in the locker room the following morning. Smiles, though occasionally genuine, were often forced. Fear and uncertainty hung hidden beneath the professional demeanors, caked and apparent in the wry epithets muttered in the shadows.

“I know,” we’d respond in certainty when guests expressed their own disappointment and surprise. It was more than simply empathy, though none of us could take any semblance of action to change it.

Along with the official close, a slew of other events and dates suddenly shifted. The end of year party, always held the weekend before close, jumped up a day so that the locker room shindigs complete with grills and adult beverages wouldn’t conflict. The hallowed underwear run, saved for the last runs of the last day, not only shifted a week, but suddenly found itself scheduled for the non-close day as the originator and many of the staff couldn’t make it.

The weekend blurred, a strange and melancholy ending to a phenomenal season. While some were able to launch themselves wholeheartedly into the premature festivities, others stumbled through the motions robotically. Classes went out, tickets were sold, and the entire mountain seemed to scramble to readjust. Employees showed up unaware that their regularly scheduled shift had suddenly become their last.

On Saturday, in the same manner we had done for years, more than a dozen instructors dropped trou and arrived at the base of the challenge lift in our skivvies. Though only a recent tradition, merely several seasons old, the Underwear Run had already landed Eldora on the front page of the local paper and had become a legend among employees and locals.

“There’s a man in the lift line with no pants on,” crackled the radios. We were blissfully unaware of calls being made and how swiftly our tradition was being hamstrung. As we congregated at the lift, waiting for the remainder of the crew, wheels were turning and the hammer of authority was poising itself to strike.

Unlike previous years, we were met by local law enforcement, quickly threatening to arrest us and remove us from the premises. The call, we were told, came from one of Eldora’s managers.

“There will be no underwear on this lift,” the sheriff stated.

“So we’re not allowed to wear underwear on this lift?” one of the instructors snarked.

“No.”

The temptation was there to simply strip completely, taking the instruction literally, but the risk and the reward were not equivalent. I turned and looked at Larry, our fearless leader, his leopard print thong painfully obvious in the chill afternoon.

“Sorry, man. We tried. I’m not risking my job for the underwear run,” I told him as I turned and headed back.

There was no pushing, no fighting, no protest, just a resigned anger and disappointment that added to our already bleak perception of management and ownership. For such a great season, the end was both infuriating and anticlimactic.

In the evening, at the employee party, we laughed and danced and ate and played. We acted as though everything were alright, but many of us still fumed.

As the sun faded over the mountains and the chill clouds descended, we watched as a few snowflakes began to fall, the promise of another week floating gently down from the heavens unheeded. Outside, beneath the still lifts and beside the muddied lot, Larry began his hike.

“Dude, look!” The whisper careened through the crowd, drawing our antsy attention to the man in shorts with a snowboard slowly ascending the terrain park.

Larry Post Underwear Run 2011.

The dozen smokers on the porch were soon joined by a throng, the cafeteria emptying outside to watch. Murmurs of approval, of fear for Larry’s job, of excited titillation ran through the crowd.

Earlier, Larry had confronted management, receiving an unwelcome response claiming “family establishment” as the reason our annual ride had been blocked with such verve. We had been informed by our own department after our earlier try that should we attempt an underwear run and be caught, we would not be returning the following year.

A cheer went up as Larry dropped his shorts to reveal his thong once more, his shorts and t-shirt bundled in his outstretched hands. We laughed, our eyes glued to the distant pink figure as he slid down toward the first jump and launched into the air, landing less than gracefully. He tumbled, perhaps purposefully or perhaps on accident as he crested the second kicker, his bare buttocks scraping along the icy snow. Laughter and cheers, whistles and applause rained from the porch, echoing, the staff the only audience for his possibly pyrrhic victory.

Larry gave a row of high fives as he skidded down to the bottom, spinning away from the crowd to a halt. In a finale that said in one motion what everyone there wanted to but couldn’t, he bent to unfasten his board, his cold red butt glowering at the lodge, a bitter salute of righteousness.

With that cheeky goodbye, much of the tensions of the day felt released, the well of emotions suddenly less important thanks to one brilliant moment of buffoonery.

There are films about the apocalypse that show people crowding together and becoming more human and caring than ever in their final moments; random strangers loving, caring, and acting with utter compassion since there’s nothing left to do. By the time the last beer was cracked and the last car had pulled out of the parking lot, darkness and an eerie quiet had descended upon the mountain. Every one of us could only respond with a trite combination of resignation and dignity.

It was the end of the world as we knew it. And it was a week early.

 

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