Tales from the Lift Line III: Expeditionary Forces

Expeditionary Forces

By Mary-Colleen Jenkins

“It takes us forever to get out of the house to do something as simple as cross-country skiing,” said my friend as we rode up the lift. “You probably get packed up and out the door in an hour at this point.”

Of course, he said this on a day that one of us had forgotten key safety equipment: helmet and goggles. But it’s true. After a decade of strategizing, with much trial and error, we have developed a system for the most dreaded chore of the weekend: packing.

The pile before.

Every week as I gather equipment, outerwear, food, and “just in case we need it” supplies, I feel like a junior base camp manager for an Everest expedition, only without the sherpas. It’s an effort that probably dissuades a lot of families from giving skiing a try. Honestly, it’s a pain.

Local mountaineering company, RMI Expeditions (www.rmiguides.com) provides an extensive list of required items to each of their aspiring Everest clients. This list, excluding food, utensils, and travel documents, has 89 items on it. Our family packs 32 of those 89 items for a day trip to the mountains.

The pile after.

How could we possibly need that much for just a day out? There’s the obvious stuff, of course: skis, boots, helmets, and outerwear. But then there are variations for the notoriously unpredictable mountain weather. Hard shell or soft shell? Thin underlayers or fleece? Glove liners or hand warmers? Conditions can go from freezing fog one day to a heavy storm the next (sometimes in the same day), and even careful weather watching doesn’t always match what we find when we step out of the car.

My mantra is “Be prepared.” I pack for the unexpected and assume much of what we take will be unnecessary. Will we need dry clothes? A rarely opened emergency clothes bag lives in the car. The day we leave it at home is the day Murphy’s Law and pouring rain descends and soaks the kids to the skin. Will the pass close for hours during avalanche control? Will we hit an elk on the way up and sit on the highway waiting for help? Sun? Rain? Blizzard? Dropped mitten off the lift?

We’re not ascending Everest or trekking across Antarctica on our winter weekends, but we’re still traveling into the unknown every time we head to the ski areas. And as much as our civilization can try tame nature with roadways, weather forecasts, ski lifts, and ski patrol, we cannot make it predictable.

I, for one, wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, teaches an editing class at UW, and is the writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads.

Other “Tales from the Lift Line”. . .

>> The Beginning

>> When Seeing is Believing

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