Smile and Say Midwest Hosefest - Ski Mag

Smile and Say Midwest Hosefest

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Midwest 1204

It's Saturday night, the climax of the weekend-long Ski Like You Drive party, the biggest ski bash in the Midwest, and up on stage the contestants-two inebriated couples in vaguely Polynesian attire-await instructions from the soft-spoken, flannel-shirted, charisma-deficient emcee. A nice guy, no doubt, but utterly lacking the brash obnoxiousness of a good strip-show barker. Still, in keeping with tonight's "Voodoo Luau" theme, he has gamely given each of the guys a voodoo doll.

"Whatever you make the dolls do, the ladies have to do," he tells the grinning men. Dolls are obscenely manipulated, but, alas, not much imitated by the giggling babes. A rather lengthy off-mic discussion follows, and boos ensue from the beery crowd of about 750, who've paid $265 bucks apiece for a bottomless keg of a beer, two nights of live music, and two lift tickets to Devil's Head Resort, a pipsqueak hill outside Merrimac, Wisconsin. The crowd has grasped the gist of this entertainment, and can see the problem: The dolls aren't wearing tops, and so getting the chicks to flash their breasts is going to require some pretty advanced voodoo.

Visibly sweating now, his act in bomb trajectory, the emcee interposes: "You do what the dolls do!" Geez! What's so complicated? Finally, a beefy, bare-chested guy in a grass skirt speaks out for the crowd. "Why don't you just take off your clothes and f--k each other so we can move on?!"

That's the very question I'd been asking since about five in the morning, in the bleary aftermath of yesterday's festivities. My head buried under hotel pillows, I'd just drifted into a fitful doze despite the bovine pounding of footsteps in the hall, the nonstop slamming of doors, the woofer-thump of boom boxes rattling the walls-when someone set off the fire alarm. "BRRAAAT!!! BRRAAAT!! BRAATT!!" There went my simple plan for Ski Like You Drive, which was to party some, sleep some-and actually ski, for chrissakes!

True, this was Wisconsin, land of fish frys and dairy cows, not powder and steeps. The skiing would probably suck, but I meant to get on it-all 500 vertical feet of Devil's Head. But with the rosy nose of dawn about to poke up over the corn-stubble hills, I resigned myself to all-nighter number one. I was finding out that the M.O. of SLYD is to drink all night, then drink all day, and all the next night, too.

Which raised certain questions: Just how much partying is conducive to a good ski party? If this Heartland ski weekend was intended as a raunchy form of foreplay between faux ski bums and ersatz ski bunnies, then, as my grass-skirted compadre so boldly articulated, WHY DON'T YOU JUST GET YOUR NUT, YOU FRIGGING MANIACS, AND THEN GET SOME SLEEP?

OK, full disclosure: I'm a faithful married man and not much of a beer drinker (give me wine for social lubrication, whiskey for the odd out-of-body experience). But I'd seen a couple of videos of past Ski Like You Drives and was intrigued by the combination of normalcy and debauchery. Here were regular working folks-secretaries, accountants, stockbrokers-getting stupid and getting naked. It was spring break for adults, or, as one SLYD veteran, a cop from Racine, put it, "kindergarten with alcohol." There would be Twister. There would be Chuck E. Cheese inflatables, Moon Walks, and the like, only topless. If girls were going to go wild, I would happily dance and glance the nights away. And ski, too, like I drive, which, frankly, is with caution and respect for the consequences.

Doubts, however, crept in from the start as I stood in the registration line with about a hundred other guys, most of whom were mysteriously without skis. Instead of "Girls Gone Wild" this looked more like "When Men Work Out and Women Don't Show Up." Alright, there were a few girls, some in ski attire-fuzzy headbands and puffy down jackets and such-but men dominated. They were not your typical skiers either, but rather your typical genetically selected beer drinkers: big, barl-chested, thick-necked mensches, most of them from Chicago (180 miles away), Madison (37 miles), or Milwaukee (111 miles). Who else can drink 200 bucks' worth of keg beer in a weekend anyway? These brawny motherf--kers, that's who.

But that was just me feeling insub- stantial at a slight 185 pounds. I waited my turn and got my goody bag of Mardi Gras beads, synthetic grass skirt, leis, custom whiskey flask-tool kit for the high life. Behind the registration table, facilitating at a furious pace, was Stephen O'Connor, the creator of Ski Like You Drive. A Chicago ad-man by profession, Steve-O (as he's known in SLYD circles) is a whip-thin towhead who vibrates with kinetic energy. His partner in crime, entrepreneur-promoter Jay Moore, whom I soon met at dinner in the Cornucopia Room, favors a look that's part Billy Idol, part Elvis Costello-"our representative metrosexual," a friend said of him. Moore designed most of the party favors; Kid Rock takes his nips from a Jay Moore flask, he told me. Excellent.

In an earlier phone interview, Steve-O (Stevie-O to lady friends) gave me the SLYD story, how 16 years ago he and some buds at Chicago's Ogilvy & Mather ad firm made their first road trip to Devil's Head, the best slopes within a three-hour drive of the Windy City. Bantering at a bar après ski, a friend who's a notoriously bad driver said to O'Connor, "You ski like I drive," and something immediately clicked in the ad-man's mind. "We advertisers like to brand things, and Ski Like You Drive seemed perfect," O'Connor told me. It proved to be a brand with legs, growing steadily each year by word of mouth, and later word of Web. Over the last few years, cumulative attendance has neared 2,500, with more than 200 kegs consumed.

Still, since Steve-O admitted that some years his "labor of love" loses money, I couldn't figure what inspires him to turn a private party into a public one, unless, of course, it's the only other motives behind everything men do: power and women. I'd heard rumors of an après-party party in the sixth floor "Summit Room," and imagined Steve-O and Moore in that Devil's Head penthouse sipping Cristal and fondling topless SLYD groupies in rump-huggin' Bogner stretch pants. And if not, why not?

I planned to top off my SLYD experience scoping out the Summit Room action after Saturday night's party. Friday night, however, I meant to retire early, say, about 3 a.m.- which would give me about six hours of drinking. I followed the signs down a subterranean passageway, decorated with the obligatory 1960s-era ski photos, to the Cliffhaus, where the first band was setting up. Horizontal snow flurries whipped past the picture windows. It was chilly out, but not cold enough to firm up the slush. Still, I looked forward to ripping-insofar as I'm capable-the lone double-black at Devil's Head (yes, they have one: on the map, at least).

At about ten o'clock the chick rockers "Catfight" hit the boards and began fiercely channeling Pat Benatar. Steve-O and company put a lot of effort into signing up crowd-pleasing acts, and they'd found winners in the sexy Cats as well as the second band, "Hairbanger's Ball," a sextet of big-haired, Spandex-panted, bling-bling-plated giants who, of course, promised to "Rock 'n' roll all day, and party ev-er-y night!" Now, I've heard loud before, but these guys were synchronize-your-heartbeat-with-the-bass-or-drop-like-a-felled-steer loud.

Strangely, the crowd remained fairly subdued. There was steady drinking, and happy swaying, but no real dancing. The night's theme was Mardi Gras and there were beads aplenty to barter, but there was minimal boobage. That is, until a saucy blonde wench strolled by topless, rings in both pert nipples.

Her name was Sharon, I think (terrible environment for interviews), and no, they weren't real: They were a kind of flesh-tone cloth applique sewn on a T-shirt. "I'm here with my husband," she said. "But I want to be a part of the Mardi Gras thing. This way he doesn't mind." Besides Sharon in her mock half-nudity, the rest of the SLYD ladies were fully clothed.

I discussed this matter of modesty with the event's videographer, and he theorized that the numbers were off this year-both for total attendance and the male-female ratio. The chicks, it seemed, could sense the tidal swell of testosterone and were keeping covered out of basic survival instincts. But wait until tomorrow night. Everybody said that. They weren't prepping for a day on the mountain or praying for a monster storm. They were saving themselves for the big Saturday- night blowout.

With that in mind, I snuck off to my room and watched a movie about these white sharks that become superintelligent. Have you seen it? It's pretty good. Then back to the Cliffhaus, where it seemed nobody had moved, except in peristalsis around the kegs. One change for the better, however, was the sudden appearance of a silicone-enhanced goddess, about as tall (hair included) as Yao Ming, in red leather pants and straining halter top. She was with the band, naturally, but that didn't stop one shirtless Hercules from dropping to his knees and worshipfully kissing her hand. Mother of all bimbos!

If you ski out of bounds off the top of Devil's Head you'll find yourself slaloming through a cornfield-which is comforting, and not just for the future of America's farms. Rest assured, if you can drive a tractor on top of the mountain, you probably won't break your neck skiing down it-no matter how drunk or hungover you are. But even by mid Saturday, under sunny skies, the slopes in respectable corn-snow condition, only a mere handful of us SLYD daredevils were taking that chance. I watched a threesome of guys try to herringbone up a 10-foot hill, and they had to stop halfway. "Man, I'm winded! No way I'm running in that race," said one 20-something, referring to an upcoming, up-mountain foot competition. He looked perfectly fit, but then, these Midwesterners smoke like East Londoners, and they don't sleep-not at SLYD.

During a break at the bottom of the hill, I met Tim and Jonas, who weren't skiing at all."We're saving our strength for drinking," said Jonas, a private investigator from a little town outside of Chicago.

Cool job? "Not really. I spend all day in the back of a van. It kinda sucks."I asked if they'd heard the fire alarm last night.

"Dude, we know the guy who pulled it. He's in jail in Madison. Nobody's sober enough to go bail him out," said Tim, a part-time student from the same town.

"And we won't be till Sunday," Jonas added, in case I was wondering.

Meanwhile, the big race was on; at stake was a chance to win back your admission fee. Predictably, the bodybuilders faded at the three-quarter mark while the ectomorphs surged to the fore. The winner was a young commodities trader, who I would later watch drink a phenomenal amount of beer during a four-hour co-ed game of flipping cups. The girls, he later told me in a whispered aside, were all gay-which I didn't entirely believe. I think they were just hedging their bets. Then the video dude showed up, and the ringleader gay chick hoisted her blouse. Coaxed, she teasingly peeled back one bra cup and pointed to her nipple with her middle finger.

By now it was midnight, and the party was rocketing toward escape velocity. You had sumo wrestling in fat-suits; you had Too White Crew rapping on the stage. The biggest of the brawny boys were all outfitted in grass skirts and accessorized with oversize sock-puppet genitalia. Out in the hallway I encountered King Voodoo, who wore a skull mask and a wicked plastic dildo with his grass skirt. He carried a seven-foot beer bong, lovingly decorated, Hawaiian-style, with variously colored pinto beans standing in for puka shells. After explaining the workings of the bong (an ounce of Old Mil an inch), King V told me the score, which was that if I wasn't getting laid, then I just wasn't t thing. This way he doesn't mind." Besides Sharon in her mock half-nudity, the rest of the SLYD ladies were fully clothed.

I discussed this matter of modesty with the event's videographer, and he theorized that the numbers were off this year-both for total attendance and the male-female ratio. The chicks, it seemed, could sense the tidal swell of testosterone and were keeping covered out of basic survival instincts. But wait until tomorrow night. Everybody said that. They weren't prepping for a day on the mountain or praying for a monster storm. They were saving themselves for the big Saturday- night blowout.

With that in mind, I snuck off to my room and watched a movie about these white sharks that become superintelligent. Have you seen it? It's pretty good. Then back to the Cliffhaus, where it seemed nobody had moved, except in peristalsis around the kegs. One change for the better, however, was the sudden appearance of a silicone-enhanced goddess, about as tall (hair included) as Yao Ming, in red leather pants and straining halter top. She was with the band, naturally, but that didn't stop one shirtless Hercules from dropping to his knees and worshipfully kissing her hand. Mother of all bimbos!

If you ski out of bounds off the top of Devil's Head you'll find yourself slaloming through a cornfield-which is comforting, and not just for the future of America's farms. Rest assured, if you can drive a tractor on top of the mountain, you probably won't break your neck skiing down it-no matter how drunk or hungover you are. But even by mid Saturday, under sunny skies, the slopes in respectable corn-snow condition, only a mere handful of us SLYD daredevils were taking that chance. I watched a threesome of guys try to herringbone up a 10-foot hill, and they had to stop halfway. "Man, I'm winded! No way I'm running in that race," said one 20-something, referring to an upcoming, up-mountain foot competition. He looked perfectly fit, but then, these Midwesterners smoke like East Londoners, and they don't sleep-not at SLYD.

During a break at the bottom of the hill, I met Tim and Jonas, who weren't skiing at all."We're saving our strength for drinking," said Jonas, a private investigator from a little town outside of Chicago.

Cool job? "Not really. I spend all day in the back of a van. It kinda sucks."I asked if they'd heard the fire alarm last night.

"Dude, we know the guy who pulled it. He's in jail in Madison. Nobody's sober enough to go bail him out," said Tim, a part-time student from the same town.

"And we won't be till Sunday," Jonas added, in case I was wondering.

Meanwhile, the big race was on; at stake was a chance to win back your admission fee. Predictably, the bodybuilders faded at the three-quarter mark while the ectomorphs surged to the fore. The winner was a young commodities trader, who I would later watch drink a phenomenal amount of beer during a four-hour co-ed game of flipping cups. The girls, he later told me in a whispered aside, were all gay-which I didn't entirely believe. I think they were just hedging their bets. Then the video dude showed up, and the ringleader gay chick hoisted her blouse. Coaxed, she teasingly peeled back one bra cup and pointed to her nipple with her middle finger.

By now it was midnight, and the party was rocketing toward escape velocity. You had sumo wrestling in fat-suits; you had Too White Crew rapping on the stage. The biggest of the brawny boys were all outfitted in grass skirts and accessorized with oversize sock-puppet genitalia. Out in the hallway I encountered King Voodoo, who wore a skull mask and a wicked plastic dildo with his grass skirt. He carried a seven-foot beer bong, lovingly decorated, Hawaiian-style, with variously colored pinto beans standing in for puka shells. After explaining the workings of the bong (an ounce of Old Mil an inch), King V told me the score, which was that if I wasn't getting laid, then I just wasn't trying.

"I'll bet you five bucks," he said, pointing, "that if you go up to that chick and just pull up her skirt and start humping her she won't even look over her shoulder to see who you are."

Now, I'd seen such behavior in "Quest for Fire," but those were early hominids. And the troglodyte on the receiving end just looked like she couldn't do anything about it. Seriously, he said, the girls were taking on the guys two and three at a time. (Well, they'd have to, wouldn't they?) "All you have to do is ask," King Voodoo assured me. I don't know what world he was seeing through his beer goggles, but I'd mostly seen nice girls, like the one who'd helped her friend climb out of the sumo fat-suit, holding up a towel for cover.

Anyway, I was glad to hear that love was all around. The dance floor was rocking, the hot tubs were frothing. But the real parties were in the rooms, and who knew what-or, by some accounts, who-was going down. Not me: I crashed at 4 a.m., without making it to the Summit Room. I did, however, listen in on a party in the hallway. It commenced with the galumphing of many footsteps, and an insensible bellowing. "Hey, man, don't shout! There might be people trying to sleep," said the voice of reason. "F--k that," rejoined the voice of John Barleycorn. "What kind of asshole would come here and sleep?"

Later Sunday morning, I snuck up to the Summit Room for a peak at the aftermath. It was in shambles: the furniture overturned, a blizzard of empty plastic cups, a hundred cigarettes stomped out on the carpet. One window was open to the cruel Wisconsin wind. At some point in the course of nearly unimaginable hedonistic frenzy, somebody had stuck his butt out that window, attempted to take a flying dump-and missed. The evidence was lumped on the windowsill. He-we may suppose it was a he-had then extinguished his cigarette in it. Personally, I had no problem with the butt-stubbed twist of poo. As a statement declaring "Check out how freakin' high I am," it was quite eloquent. Could I go there? Brother, I have been there-or nearly. Alas, there is no way back.'t trying.

"I'll bet you five bucks," he said, pointing, "that if you go up to that chick and just pull up her skirt and start humping her she won't even look over her shoulder to see who you are."

Now, I'd seen such behavior in "Quest for Fire," but those were early hominids. And the troglodyte on the receiving end just looked like she couldn't do anything about it. Seriously, he said, the girls were taking on the guys two and three at a time. (Well, they'd have to, wouldn't they?) "All you have to do is ask," King Voodoo assured me. I don't know what world he was seeing through his beer goggles, but I'd mostly seen nice girls, like the one who'd helped her friend climb out of the sumo fat-suit, holding up a towel for cover.

Anyway, I was glad to hear that love was all around. The dance floor was rocking, the hot tubs were frothing. But the real parties were in the rooms, and who knew what-or, by some accounts, who-was going down. Not me: I crashed at 4 a.m., without making it to the Summit Room. I did, however, listen in on a party in the hallway. It commenced with the galumphing of many footsteps, and an insensible bellowing. "Hey, man, don't shout! There might be people trying to sleep," said the voice of reason. "F--k that," rejoined the voice of John Barleycorn. "What kind of asshole would come here and sleep?"

Later Sunday morning, I snuck up to the Summit Room for a peak at the aftermath. It was in shambles: the furniture overturned, a blizzard of empty plastic cups, a hundred cigarettes stomped out on the carpet. One window was open to the cruel Wisconsin wind. At some point in the course of nearly unimaginable hedonistic frenzy, somebody had stuck his butt out that window, attempted to take a flying dump-and missed. The evidence was lumped on the windowsill. He-we may suppose it was a he-had then extinguished his cigarette in it. PPersonally, I had no problem with the butt-stubbed twist of poo. As a statement declaring "Check out how freakin' high I am," it was quite eloquent. Could I go there? Brother, I have been there-or nearly. Alas, there is no way back.

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