Good morning, County of Ulster,
The temperature is currently 29° this December 18. Here in the Rondout, there is very little wind to speak of, no rain, no snow, no lightning and no hope at all for any of those things clear through Wednesday night. Things are very different at Belleayre Mountain, where I’m told that 25 inches of snow have fallen in the past seven days and 91 percent of the terrain is open for skiing.
With a high of 37° anticipated by 4 p.m, whatever jacket-and-scarf combination works for you in the morning will work the whole day through. Boats moored out on the river or creeks float now on a rising tide. The peak is at 8:40 a.m., three feet and four inches higher than its nadir.
Between clouds and earth, an orange sunrise builds brighter towards 7:19 a.m. When the day officially begins, only nine hours and eight minutes will separate dawn from dusk. The light begins to fail at 4:27 p.m., and behind it the night will fall dark and moonless this evening, providing for hours of stargazing until 2:26 a.m. For those so motivated, the Ashokan Reservoir is not a bad place to do it.
According to the enigmatic fur trapper Dionizas, there remain 83 more days of winter temperatures ahead.
Now for the snow forecast, we go out to Bjorn Jorgensen on Belleayre Mountain..What news from the mountain, Bjorn?
Bjorn: Good morning, Johannes. Things on the mountain are steady. The snow is around 300 millimeters deep in every direction. Having heard of the snow, a good deal of skiers have found their way out here, arriving via Route 28. One can only pity them, for unless they’ve taken a hotel for the night, when the runs are closed shortly thereafter so the lodges will be.
Johannes: Oh, I see. Then they’re sent out packing back on Route 28 all at once.
Bjorn: Well, yes, this is also true. But what is truly lacking is the après-ski. When the slopes close, one has built up a thirst throughout the day and in civilized operations the bar remains open for some hours.
Keep in mind the thirst is for more than what there is to drink. One may sit with one’s boots loosened and recall the day’s excitements and trade stories with a sea of others. For it is a triumph to have survived when one thinks about it, having tested fate, luck and physics for hours at high speeds on two long, skinny boards. So there you are. Here, though, the lodge closes, and everyone shuffles out to the parking lot, separates from the crowd, each behind their windshield glass, and drives off into the natural state of life here, which is called independence and self-sufficiency, but is actually loneliness and separation.
Maybe they will turn the radio on. Maybe place a cell phone call. If they’re lucky, they have come with friends. I leave families out of this equation, for they are trapped with one another in a very old arrangement indeed, and loneliness might be a sort of aspiration for them. The après-ski plays an important function. Everyone present has shared something in common; and like after a sports game or church service, tornado or earthquake, all are permitted to speak to one another in this temporary illusion of familiarity.
Johannes: I believe that’s called the convivial atmosphere.
Bjorn: That’s a wonderful kind of atmosphere. It’s hard to see how those with chemical dependency issues get by without it. This is where love and disputes and many other inspirations are formed.
Johannes: Tightrope walkers, Bjorn. Water drinkers, walking heel-to-toe while all around them a very noisy, very long, very strange trapeze act is taking place. The temptation to jump must be awful.
Bjorn: Ah, here is the sun! Shining orange rays on my face.
Johannes: Into your eyes from 93 million miles away, Bjorn. Did you see the summit this morning?
Bjorn: So I have! The ankle has improved quite nicely, and I have brought the skis I have carved, my poles and my axe. The weather at the summit is -7° Celsius. The snowfall is accumulating. There is hope in every direction.
Johannes: You take your axe with you when you ski?
Bjorn: This wards away any trees that would get in my way.
Johannes: Ah, sending a message.
Bjorn: Yes. This is correct. When we are done here, I will plunge down the hill, Johannes, and I will sing the song of Jorgensen.
Johannes: I’d like to hear that, Bjorn. You’ll have to write the sheet music out for me.
All eight lifts are operating at Belleayre. After the noon hour, the day will run downhill like a wild horse. Moonset is at 1:13 p.m., low tide at 3:34 p.m. Darkness thereafter.