Air travel is disorienting. This is why, given the chance like the one that the Mountain Collective pass offers, I’ll drive anywhere.
After our last day at Alta, Sesko dropped me off at SLC International Airport, and as he drove into the salt flats of western Utah, I slung my boots over my shoulder and headed for the plane. As I took off my shoes and emptied my pockets for the friendly folks at the Transportation Security Administration, the Subaru headed for the Sierras and Squaw Valley and California’s golden light beyond. I waited to board my flight, and I imagined Sesko picking random CDs from that absurd stack of unmarked mixes that I complained about in northwest Colorado (and southern Wyoming, and northern Utah). When I walked down the aisle of Frontier Airlines Flight 570, business travelers in suits and gold watches eyed me and my ski boots warily. I dropped my duct-taped Solomon’s into the overhead storage unit like a colorful set of leg shackles.
“Are those ice skates?” one woman asked me.
“Ski boots,” I replied, smiling at this alien.
“Oh, I hate the cold,” she said shaking her head and returned to her Sudoku.
(Next season, when the Mountain Collective adds Mammoth, Snowbird and Whistler, the chance for greater and wider adventures will call again.) Maybe there are two kinds of people in the world, I thought as I brushed the pretzel crumbs off the seat and sank into the wrinkled blue pleather and looked out my little window at the Wasatch Range. There are people who choose comfort and ease, and there are those who choose uncertainty and adventure. But every one of us is inevitably both kinds of people. For every triathlete whose diet is a strict rotation of oatmeal and beans and who is afraid of flying, there is a tax accountant somewhere who travels solo to Burkina Faso with no guidebook and eats live grasshoppers. For a moment, I felt good about choosing an adventure.
I landed at JFK, waited in line for a cab, and angled my skis into the back of a taxi. The driver called me “Boss” and asked me if in this big heavy bag were my “golfing sticks.” The sky above Brooklyn was its usual pale orange glow and thousands of miles away, past the krab salads of Meeker, Colorado, beyond the dirty shot-ski in the rafters of the Village Cafe in Jackson Hole and the quiet solace of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Subaru was still driving.
Where can I get one of those blue winter liftopia hats?