We're here dozens of miles from civilization, at a bankrupt ski area somewhere in New England. No lifts, no chili, no T-shirt shops, not a single luxury. The 16 dedicated skiers, gathered to test their strength, their skills, and their guile¿against nature and each other¿are...cue theme music...
The rules are easy; the game is not. There'll be a pow wow¿get it?¿in which the competitors vote to clip one member's ticket and force him or her out of the base lodge. The last one standing wins one million dollars. The only ways to survive? Be indispensable, be cunning, or capture the coveted Immunity Baseball Cap in one of our winner-take-all challenges.
After last week's crucial Donner Party Immunity Challenge, only four Snowbound contestants remain.
Let's meet our final four:
First up is Buddy, a curmudgeonly 84-year-old veteran of the 10th Mountain Division who traveled by dogsled with Admiral Byrd to the Antarctic.
So Buddy, what do you think of your fellow exiles?
"Buncha fiberglass-ski-skiing, earring-wearing, got tattoos-that-say-something-besides-Mother freaks, if ya ask me. Not that I got anything against 'em."
Now meet Dean, a Manhattan investment banker turned ski bum.
So, Dean, why did you decide to compete on Snowbound?
"I could bullshit you, but I won't. I wannabe famous. Dead straight. I mean, I rated Excite a strong buy at $10, but did I get to schmooze with Louis Ruykeyser on Wall Street Week?Noooo. I won the Crested Butte birthday-suit slalom two years running. Did I get my 15 minutes? Noooo.The producers from Bob Beattie's Ski World wouldn't even call me back. But if I win this thing, it's Letterman, Leno, Ricki Lake. My agent's gonna be one busy dude, dude."
Next up is Shelly, a flirtatious, 23-year-old college student from the University of Colorado and a reformed snowboarder who's wanted in 17 states for embezzlement, armed robbery, racketeering, and indecent exposure. Her 11-day-long marriage to Dean¿they wed on episode two and had a quickie divorce in episode five¿appeared to set up a formidable two-person voting alliance, but now it seems that anything goes.
Let's listen in on a tête-à-tête:
"Let's see him do that on a pair of long thongs," says Buddy, watching Dean do a 360 mute grab off a hand-built jump.
"Did someone say thong?" asks Shelly coyly. "Remember who won the hot-tub tapioca-wrestling luxury challenge. And I got the room with the queen-size bed tonight, big guy."
And finally there's Dick, a shirtless, morbidly obese, and gay-not-that-it-matters corporate recruiter, who in a recent People magazine poll topped Charles Manson, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Carrot Top as the most despised person in America. Until his stunning Donner Party victory last week, Dick had been best known for mapping strategy and stealing condiments from the cafeteria. His catsup-mayonnaise-ferret mousse with a relish relish was a culinary hit, a welcome change for hungry skiers who have been subsisting on nothing besides Ramen noodles and stale energy bars¿a hit with everyone except Buddy, that is: "Tastes like Siberian husky to me," he muttered to no one in particular. "And I should know."
So, what's been the best part of Snowbound for you, Dick?"
"I just like people. Medium rare, preferably."
As we near the final vote, politics have reared their dirty head. After losing the crucial snowcat-demolition-derby challenge to Buddy, Dean scrambles to avoid banishment.
Dean (whispering to Buddy): "C'mon, man. I'm beggin'. Don't clip my ticket. Keep me around, and I'll give you my car. BMW. Convertible."
Buddy: "Fuggedaboudit. Shelly already gave me the key to her safe-deposit box and five Matlock episodes she taped. You're outta here. But just for curiosity, how the hell did you expect me to get a ski rack on that Hermann Göring mobile, anyhow?"
Dean, bring your ski pole over...the, um, tribe has spoken. Okay, Buddy, Shelly, and Dick. You've made it to the final Snowbound pow wow. One of you will ski out of here with a million dollars. The other two¿have you checked the batteries in your transceivers lately?
We've armed each of the surviving castoffs¿the very people whose tickets you conspired to clip¿with an avalanche-control cannon, two mortars, and five minutes to deliberate. When I give the signal, ski as if your life depends on it¿because it does!
Skiers ready? Jurors ready? On your mark¿get set¿ready¿aim¿and tune in next week for the exciting two-hour conclusion of¿Snowbound!