Ode to the White Ribbon of Death

Andy Hays | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
White Ribbon of Death
White Ribbon of Death

It’s early season and I’m thinking of the last day of last season.  It was sunnier and warmer.  The snow was better and there was more of it.  It wasn’t this crowded either.  Nor did it get dark at 3 o’clock.  Not to create the impression that this isn’t fun.  It’s fun alright.  Skiing will always win out over not skiing.  That said, it’s time for some snow and an end to this white ribbon of death as the people like to call it.

    It’s narrow, it’s scraped off, it’s crowded, and if you are back east there is probably a snow gun blasting every ten yards or so.  It’s also all that’s open.  Lap after lap.  Lap… after…lap…  My more youthful days were spent busting the mogul line that would inevitably form along the edge of the tree line early season at Killington.  For the true definition of white ribbon of death see the Great Northern trail on a Thanksgiving weekend.  It’s like skiing in some kind of original Atari game.  Obstacles from all sides.

White Ribbon of Death
White Ribbon of Death. Boreal, CA.

    Nowadays skiing at Squaw more or less involves a rush.  Rush to the front of the line.  Rush down the trail.  Rush to do it again.  I’m still not precisely sure what everyone is rushing for, but hey it’s Squaw, and if that guy is in a rush I probably should be too.

    The white ribbon of death does not exist in a static form.  It changes as the hours go by, as the days go by.  Snow is made, snow melts and then it rains.  By mid day the middle has been scraped of snow, but then in the last hour becomes the one consistent path.  The snow guns blow snow, ice, straight water, and then a kind of sticky glaze that renders all senses useless.  You’d attempt to knock the icy crust off your face, but then again it’s the only thing protecting you from the harsh penetrating force of the shrieking guns.

White Ribbon of Death
White Ribbon of Death

    The ribbon would be a great deal more fun if you in the back of your mind weren’t thinking of the fact that you’ll be skiing the same thing tomorrow.  Tomorrow, and the next day, and possibly into next week.  Damn this white ribbon of death.  Lap after lap.  Lap… after… lap…  Day after day.  Some day this won’t be the only trail.  Some day it will be a forgotten memory.  Someday…

 

    The key to the white ribbon of death is speed.  Speed and a general lack of control.  It would just be a white ribbon if everyone stayed in control, and really what fun is that?  White ribbon of death means speed and a general lack of control and a little imagination.  If you pretend that the family to the left is the rock wall of a narrowing chute and the out of control foreign guy over to the right is a huge slide charging down and you’ve got to shoot the hole before it closes out, you might find yourself actually in AK.  Although it might become tempting it is best not to make helicopter noises on the way up the chairlift.

White Ribbon of Death
White Ribbon of Death

  I’d like to ultimately believe that later on these days will help me more fully appreciate the good ones.  Whether or not that actually manifests itself remains to be seen.  Limited skiing is considerably more preferable to the alternative of no skiing.  Someday it will snow, someday this won’t be the only trail open, but until that day comes, you’ll know where to find me.

White Ribbon of Death
White Ribbon of Death. Sunday River, ME.

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