I did not go West to ski last year. I did not go West to ski the year before that, nor the one before that, nor… You get the picture.
It is true that a handful of times over the past half decade, I've skied west of the Mississippi. But on all four occasions it was a few hours of skiing tacked onto a trip made for a different purpose. On all four occasions, the conditions were marginal, and I was smugly pleased that the skiing back home was superior.
About a decade ago, I went to Whistler. I spent three days at the resort, and two days deep in the backcountry at the end of an hourlong snowmobile shuttle. It was good. Really good. But I haven't gone back.
Most of my Eastern ski friends head west on a regular basis for a proper ski trip — four or five days in the mountains. Sometimes they hire a cat or a helicopter, but mostly they do it the old-fashioned way, with a friendly couch for a bed and discounted lift tickets from the local Safeway. Some do it every year, some every other year, some twice a year. I don't really care much to hear about their trips, except when they go to Alta and it doesn't snow, or when they go to BC and it rains, or when they go to Crested Butte and there is nothing but hot, high sun and well-manicured groomers.
I have a litany of excuses at the ready for why I don't travel to ski. I'm busy. I've got young kids. We have a farm. Work. It's expensive. Fact is, I choose not to travel to ski.
I'm happy skiing here. Sure, I get crotchety and bitter during the January thaw; the housecats scamper at my presence, the boys flinch when I walk into the room, and their mother says to them, "It's OK. Daddy's just in a bad mood. And to me, "Get your shit together.
Still, January thaw or no, sleet or lean skim of granular, this is my home. Yes, it sometimes wrongs me. But like a man in a dysfunctional relationship, I can't bring myself to abandon its icy clutches. Something in me needs the cruelty of it.
So this winter, like every winter, I will watch my Eastern ski friends jet west, fleeing like cowards at the first hint of hardship. And then I'll throw a log on the fire, kick back, and wait for the goddamn rain to stop.