By Mary-Colleen Jenkins
“What’s up with all the kids?” asked the man. “Is school cancelled? Because we usually have this place to ourselves on Thursdays.”
He and his friend were basking in the sun at the table next to us. We’d stopped at the Midway Cafe at Mission Ridge for a late-morning snack. They were lounging in their chairs, beers on the table in front of them, silver hair lit up by the sun.
If this guy thinks it’s crowded today, I thought, then he’s definitely spoiled.
We had left dark, wet Seattle in the early morning and driven over the Cascades to Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort in Wenatchee, arriving shortly after the lifts opened. It was so warm and so clear that our sleepiness was quickly forgotten.
As we walked across the parking lot to the ski area, a large tour bus pulled up and passengers disembarked in twos and threes. This was not your typical ski bus filled with loud kids fresh from a long day at school. This was a ski bus filled with well-behaved skiers who all looked 60+ years old.
A friend cautioned her teenage son, “Keep an eye out for the older skiers; don’t cut them off!” But as I watched them gather their gear, it was very clear that these older skiers could handle being cut off just fine, thank you very much.
Sometimes going to a new ski area is like going to a new city — unfamiliar territory with a different culture, different expectations. Our family had been to Mission Ridge once before, on a freezing, cloudy, uncomfortable day. Our friends had never been there and assumed it would be an underwhelming local hill. Their first surprise was free lift tickets. This year Mission Ridge has a reciprocal deal with Snoqualmie: season ticket holders can ski free mid-week at the other resort. Their second surprise was the terrain.
There are days that you feel like you can ski forever, only hunger distracts from taking run after run. Our day at Mission Ridge was like that. The conditions were perfect, the views spectacular, and the long, groomed runs let us fly down the mountain over and over again. Everyone found a challenge: off-piste moguls, the terrain park, a beautifully sculpted freestyle park, chutes, high rates of speed.
At the top we could see half the state: Mount Rainier, Mt. Adams and Glacier Peak all looked like we could reach out and touch them. We often took the run by the Bomber Cliffs and stopped to pay our respects to the flight crew of a B-24 Bomber that crashed against the cliffs in 1944. And, from lift ride to lift ride, we watched the clouds gradually gathering in the Cascade foothills and slowly rising to obscure landscape and the lowering sun.
When the day faded and the lift stopped, we finally headed back to the car. Our friend admitted how Mission Ridge had defied all of his assumptions. “I had very low expectations when I came here today. I’ll definitely be back.”
We will, too. Word on the street is that Thursdays are the best days to have it all to yourself.
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, writing coach, and 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”. . .
>> I. The Beginning
>> II. When Seeing is Believing
>> III. Expeditionary Forces
>> IV. Velocity
>> V. Pack Rat
>> VI. Dude