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On The Hill, Not Over It

Scientists tell us that one septillion snow crystals drop down from the skies during an average winter.

There’s a group of skiers and riders here at the mountain who have probably gone down Buck at least that many times. I call them the Table People. In the Crystal Clipper, there’s been a table filled with midweek season passholders for decades now. They are the snowsports faithful, who venture forth onto our vertical and ski or ride without fail regardless (mostly) of the weather. They put as many downhill miles on their boards as they do uphill miles on their backsides, because Midwest altitude requires lots of chairlift fortitude. They provide valuable feedback to a snow reporter with all their slope expertise. They provide valuable assistance as photo models – at least, those who have the right color coat. (Black coats are frowned upon. Why can’t everyone adopt the bright, colorful attire of a six year old girl?)

These early morning midweek regulars hail each other in the lift line at the base of Buck as they arrive. You can almost set your clock by them: 9am, first chairs up Buck.  Chairlift chatter picks up from where it left off the day before. Snow conditions, life conditions, staying in condition – topics cover the map.  Now, weekend skiing often means sharing chair quarters with complete strangers, cheek to cheek. But midweek’s Table People ride with the same folks trip after trip, all morning long. They quickly learn to know each other on the hill by helmet, jacket color and skiing style.  Their morning’s syllabus always reads the same: first turns on Buck’s fresh corduroy, then crossing front facing slopes to link turns on Cheers, Main Street and Loki.  Next up –  coffee break in the Clipper Café at the Table. Fueled by conversation and coffee,  the Table crowd swaps ski tips and slope tales before traipsing outside to the backside of the mountain. This gang knows that the north-facing Ridge, Backyard and North Face slope complexes serve up colder corduroy and a chance for fresh tracks later in the morning. Carve it up, finish up, leave by noon – that’s the midweek hill drill.

The Table People are, for the most part, retired. Or they may have a seasonal business applicable to summers instead of winters. Regardless of the reason, they all share in common a passion for getting outside in the winter, for skiing, for staying active as long as possible. And it’s possible. We all proudly point to the late Lou Batori, skiing through age 106.  Louis Lidtke, who’s been at the Table for 20 years along with wife Carol, is past the 85 mark and one of the best skiers out there.  Over the years, I’ve observed who joins the Table, who leaves, who returns religiously year after year.  Their skiing signatures and coat color progressions are memorialized in dozens of photos over the years.  Week in and week out, the Table People are an upbeat group armed with enthusiasm and energy whose passion for winter exercise knows no age boundaries. They show us it’s possible to be on the hill, not over it.

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