November 7, 2012

One Saturday afternoon in February 1987, I sluiced down the left side of Lift Line at Mad River Glen, spraying

One Saturday afternoon in February 1987, I sluiced down the left side of Lift Line at Mad River Glen, spraying chunks and granules and nubbins and death cookies at each short-radius turn with my KVCs. Clyde, on the other hand, skied in the middle of the trail, which was smoother and still had a bit of mojo.

“Why are skiing in the crap snow over there?” he asked. “It’s stupid.”

Or maybe he called me an idiot. I can’t rightly remember the pejorative. But I remember well how much fun I was having. It was junk snow, firm and reefy and a challenge for me, but there was so much more texture and context than what I saw in the middle of the trails. Ski runs are often the opposite of sandwiches — the white bread is in the middle, the meat on the outside — and I learned early on that the margins were, for me, a much more interesting place to be.

Clyde was just giving me shit, as bros do. But what struck me at the time and stayed with me all these many years later is that when boiled down to its binary essence, there are just two types of skiers: those who are happy skiing no matter what the conditions and those who are not.

Nine years ago at a telemark festival, photographer Peter Wadsworth met a crew of rippers from Whitegrass, West Virginia, and he was so impressed by their pure, raw stoke for the slidey sport of skiing that he vowed some day to come visit them. To see what was in the water, as it were, that filled them with such delight.

So he did. Last week. In the middle of Hurricane Sandy, he drove from Vermont to West Virginia to catch the predicted bounty. Now, where I come from, which is where Peter comes from, that’s called a reverse migration. You don’t drive from VT to WVa, it’s the other way around. But.

“Jake bent over the steering wheel and raced us towards NJ like a ski-obsessed Dean Moriarty. Somewhere along I-87 we were low on gas, and started to realize there was no power anywhere. Any gas stations that were open had no power to run the pumps. On the horizon to the east, the huge red light dome of the Jersey Shore was conspicuously absent. We knew the storm was raging, but were really unable to comprehend just how bad conditions were just a few miles away.

“With less than 1/4 of a gallon left in the tank, Jake glided us into a truck stop that had working pumps on the PA border. He tossed me the keys and said to wake him up for snow. A little after dawn on Halloween Day we pulled to the side of the road to inspect a suspicious white substance.”

Theirs was the third car at Whitegrass, which had no power, no lifts running, no water, no phone. But Whitegrass had snow, so they slapped on skins and proceeded to hike. And what they got is what you see above: Jake, getting after it, on October 31, 2012.

Peter and his crew hooked up with Chip from Whitegrass and hit it until they ran out of daylight. Then, with a couple of jelly jars of moonshine to see them home, they got back in the Subaru and pointed north. At 6:30 a.m., they rolled into Burlington, just in time to get to work.

There are two kinds of skiers in the world. I know what kind Peter is, and the kids from Whitegrass, too. Which are you?

Photos by Peter Wadsworth. Jake, above, and Chip, below. Read a full trip report and see more photos at Famous Internet Skiers

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
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Showing 2 comments
  • Rob

    I’ve got an answering machine full of messages from a similar psychotic skier like that here in Durango. From the first flake on the ground until the last glacier is brown and covered in rocks I get non stop reports and invitations to join his “anywhere anytime” ski life. And, I got to tell you, while he seems mostly insane to me, I’m not completely immune from getting the itch and when I do, I know someone’s already going. So, if you’re not one, it’s always good to know one.

  • MadPatSki

    October 31 was definitely eerie feeling about it, dark, snowing and quiet on abandon ski slopes of Canaan Valley. Chip (seen on bottom pic), co-owner of Whitegrass still had a large grin on his face the next day (after the FIS gang left) with many more skiers from the North showed up. Vermont, Massachusetts, New York and Ontario plates where not something you see often in WV ski areas.

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