Get Out: Welcome snow-deprived refugees

By on February 10, 2015

021115getout.leadJackson Hole, Wyoming – It seems like Jackson is one of the few places in North America that has enjoyed a healthy snowpack this year. Some may attribute the constant rain and lack of snow in other mountain towns to climate change, cloud seeding or just plain bad luck. I’m not going to get into the reasons I think the snow season sucks around the West, for you may ultimately deem me a conspiracy theorist.

The plain facts are that hoards of people from neighboring states are flowing into the little nook people call Jackson Hole. They come seeking powder turns. They come seeking solace from their crappy winters. They come with stoke.

On powder days, I notice locals complaining that the snow is too heavy, that the air is too warm, and life is just so hard in these days of global warming. I was talking to an acquaintance on a powder day and he informed me of his woes. His legs were sore from the heavy snow, and it was taking a lot of effort in his tiny stabilizer muscles to keep his feet together. “Why can’t it just be light powder like it used to be? This takes so much effort!”

Just then, a man smiling in a happy-colored purple jacket piped in. “I’m used to this, this is Sierra Snow! At least you guys have something to ski.”

021115getout.garydiscMy new friend’s name was Gary. He had driven all the way from Tahoe just to get a few days of skiing in. Gary was happy. He was excited to be here, he was excited to make more than eight turns without having to avoid dirt, but most of all, he was excited that he finally got the chance to ski this year.

I saw Gary everywhere that day. He was on the shuttle; he was in the tram line; he was snacking by the picnic tables. By the afternoon, the Village was tracked and covered with heavy roller balls, but Gary was just as happy to ski as he was earlier that trackless morning.

Some people complain about the influx of refugees from ski towns of neighboring states. They say they crowd the lines; they say they clog the toilets; they say they leave trash. I have yet to witness any of these accusations.

The only shockingly different thing I notice about these people is that they are consistently psyched to be skiing no matter what. Their intrinsic love for the winter is evident, and when they are here, they don’t complain. They left the puddle of their own melted ski towns, filled with people who are paddleboarding, mountain biking and disc golfing because it’s February and they want to get some turns in.

021115getout.dirtyI can always tell a refugee from a hundred yards away. Their hands are often pounding the air on a 3:30 tracked Hoback run. They initiate conversation like a normal human, make eye contact, and ask about life. They don’t have the ability to “spray” about the runs they just skied because they had no idea what it was called, but they sure as hell enjoyed it.

These people have made my winter experience a much more grateful one. They always have something positive to say and generally exude good energy. They make me realize that no matter the conditions, our town has snow, which is something to be inherently grateful for. I would be happy to welcome more people like this into my life.

There may come a time when our very own ski town will be plagued by a season without snow. I’m not sure when this era will arrive, but it feels imminent with the influx of warm weather and the February rain line creeping higher and higher. I often think about what I would want from the locals if I ventured to another mountain town.

If I asked them what they had skied, would they blow me off and snobbily exclaim, “My secret powder stash you will never find!” Or, would they welcome me into their bubble, show me around their special place of life, and invite me to come back? I’m a firm believer in karma and its general ripple effects throughout the world.

If you stumble across a Tahoe, or Mammoth refugee, what harm is there in exploring a positive interaction? Smile, share some refreshments, ask about their journey! If you are lucky, they may even share some delicious Trader Joes snacks from far away lands.

About Elizabeth Koutrelakos

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