PATRICK MCVAY

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My Musings

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Grassy

Picture of a chairlift at Sugarloaf Mountain with very little snow It's All Natural

My youth is pocked and peppered with tiny bits of memories of something called "grass skiing." Sometimes I wonder if grass skiing was really a thing at all, or if it was just a dream I once had, or maybe something I saw online. Except it was the 1970s and there was no "online." It might have been an ad in a newspaper, in the sports section or maybe metro, a small rectangle in the corner on the page otherwise devoted to department store bras. In my memory, there's a person in shorts and a t-shirt, holding ski poles and smiling on a mountain bluff, wearing bright green ski boots.

At the time, I was a young skier, willing to believe that I could extend the joys of winter by skiing in the summer. But this didn't look quite like the skiing I was used to, where your boots are strapped onto boards that slide along slippery, cold stuff. The grass skiing I imagined from the ad I saw was more like strapping skateboards to your feet and rolling in the weeds helmet-free, a recreational sport seemingly designed to wreck knees and cause heads to make contact with large rocks.

I didn't ever ski on grass. I just remember that you could do it at a mountain I frequented in winter, called Labrador.

A recent trip to Sugarbush mountain in Vermont reminded me of grass skiing because although I was there to ski, many of the slopes were covered in carpets of grass rather than snow. The northeast has never had as reliable snow as the Rockies, even when I was skiing in the 1970s, but snow guns help to fill in where mother nature hasn't. You can ski on this fake snow, though it's not quite the same as skiing on the packed powder that forms after white stuff falls from clouds. But one thing you can't do is make snow when the temps are in the 50s. I'll be honest: warm weather in wintertime depresses me, indicating that climatologists haven't been kidding, and that my favorite recreational activity may not survive in these parts past the mid-21st century.

There is still time for this winter to be rescued. Mother Nature could brew up a storm any day, dumping a foot or two of snow on the hills so that the February break isn't a bust. Two big storms is really all we need this year. But in the future, grass skiing may be our best bet. 

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