Notes from Quarantine

I am writing this column about two weeks before it will be published. So in these quickly changing times, I am trying to think of what might be of the utmost importance to us 14 days in the future. Maybe it is exactly the same as what I would say right now:

#1) I hope you, your family, and your friends are healthy and well.

#2) I want you to know that you belong to a community that cares for you, and one of the most rewarding things you can do right now (and always) is give that community the same care in return.

#3) This event is a reset. It is a chance for us to decide what matters most to us in this world, and make sure that decision informs our next steps.

The community thing is 100-percent true. We all have a series of meaningful, ever-altering relationships built around our neighborhoods, our childhoods, the jobs we’ve had, best friends and best enemies, sports we love, food we cook, and music we listen to. It is what shapes the stories of who we are.

For a lot of my friends, that community is skiing. So much so that even in the summer it’s the second—if not first!—thing we talk about. “How’s your dog? Are you skiing anywhere?”

It’s a pale lament alongside the crushing human tragedy occurring around us, but the ski community’s regret was our collective missed opportunity to enjoy one more season-ending run together.  A “closing day,” filled with good friends, blue skies, corn snow, and cold beer.

When Governor Jared Polis correctly closed down Colorado lift-service, most areas still had six weeks of skiing, and in some cases maybe another three months of lift-served access to go. In our unfulfilled future, there were still days of turns ahead, each filled with the possibility of spring bliss, or late pow.

That’s one of the main things we talk about, us ski geeks: all of the mystifying untracked lines still out there, looming in our minds like pictures of untouched, in-bounds favorite front-country spots that have been left un-groomed, and which successive spring storms have now made as variable and dangerous as the backcountry. 

Then in the same next sweet breath we’ll say, “Hey, we’ll ski them all next year.”

We’re lucky that way, us quarantiners, with our Internet and our refrigerators, and all of the dogs and cats happy to have us home. I am lucky to have a friend in Golden who sends me pictures of how she is practicing her climbing moves on a nearby brick wall. We’re lucky that a ski bum buddy in Palisade has been sharing black-and-white photos of the peach trees in blossom, empty skies, majestic mountains, and the aerial grace of the local hawks and crows. 

I am lucky that each day I can call my mother in Tacoma, Washington. The same with one of my truest friends, who is holed up by himself in Jackson Hole, face-timing with his daughters in Connecticut and identifying the variety of avian wildlife visiting the bird-feeders in his backyard that he fills every afternoon.

I called my college roommate. I called my cousin in the Bronx where he is a school teacher. I called my best high school buddy in Capitol Hill. We talked for hours, about everything and nothing at all. If I had your number, I probably would have called you, too. It feels good to be together, even while we are all alone.

The truth is none of us know what the future will hold. We don’t know when this fever will break and we can have a beer again at The Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace, a deliciously spicy plate of costillas at Efrain’s II in Boulder, or pull off the highway in Idaho Springs for a pizza at Beau Jo’s.

Worse, we don’t know how many of our fellow citizens this pandemic will claim, when we might have an effective vaccine, or if this might be something that re-erupts every year.

What we do know is that our nation’s first responders, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, grocery store checkout clerks, long haul truckers, and produce pickers are some of the finest, bravest people in the world. They have all stayed on the job, putting themselves at risk so that the rest could stay safe—and fed—at home. And local companies, like Hestra and Phunkshun, have generously donated to them, with much-needed gloves and stylized personal face masks so they can stay safe as well.

We know that nature got a much-needed break from human meddling—with foxes, bears, deer, and elk roaming the prairies and mountains more freely than normal for a few free weeks since we’d vacated their range.For the first time in decades, pollution is so low from India to Salt Lake City that residents have clear views of the Himalayas and the Wasatch. And instead of sitting in gridlocked traffic right now, most of us are with the people and creatures that matter most to us.

I appreciate what I have more than ever, and can only hope that this list will still be relevant to your life when you pick this issue this May. 

—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of the God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? Buy and read it here: amzn.to/2lmzpvn

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