Wednesday, January 7, 2009

There's Snow Place Like Home

My two sons had been clamoring to 'go to the snow,' so the other day, to cork the clamoring, we finally went. After two hours of 'Are-we-there-yet' clamoring, we arrived, only to discover that the waiting lines for the ski slope were longer than the actual ski runs, the parking lots were overflowing, and I'm guessing the porta-potties were, too.

You know the feeling you get when you're poking around in the woods, and you flip over a rock just to see what's under it, and you uncover a huge swarm of ants milling about, climbing all over each other wondering what the hell is going on? That's what this town felt like. We had driven through the prettiest, most serene winter landscape to get there, only to arrive and discover a horde of swarming snow-tourists, choking the main road with their skiboots and clamoring.

"What are we gonna do?" my boys clamored, although by this time it was more of a whine than a clamor. It was then I remembered my snow training from my youth.

In upstate New York, snow was a way of life. It was handy to keep beer cold, and to put down your little sister's back. We did not drive two hours to see it. We were so spoiled, Mother Nature delivered it to our driveway. Many, many times. As a result, I was a snow ninja. I packed it, shovelled it, sledded in it, burrowed in it, and froze my butt off in it. And here I was, raising two boys who had barely even touched it.

Southern California is a wonderful place. Depending on your mood, you can choose your climate from a sort of weather menu - beach, mountains, movie set, ghetto, even snow. The problem is, you have ten million other people doing exactly the same thing. If they all feel like snow on the same day, there's gonna be some serious clamoring. But the difference between most SoCal clamorers and me is that they have little or no experience as a snow ninja.

When my boys finally paused their whining to catch their breath, I turned the car around and headed back into the quaint mountain town of Wrightwood. To be honest, I'm assuming the town was quaint once you peeled all the layers of tourists off of it. At that moment, though, it was under siege. It was like a beautiful winter scene, a picture postcard, only with metal fencing around everything. "No Snow Play" signs were everywhere, including the bathroom. Even the squirrels wore little "Don't touch!" vests.

Like everyone else, my kids were anxious to touch snow. So anxious, in fact, that when they got out of the car, they immediately got to touch ice, slipping and landing right on their keesters. They quickly recovered and followed me into the general store to buy toboggans.

There, on the shelf above the pinto beans and flashlights, was the toboggan of my youth - the red, plastic speed-demon, able to sustain a direct collision with a maple tree, bounce off and keep on skidding downhill sideways while you counted your teeth and fingers. I had assumed they were colored red to hide any blood. As a kid, we often wore slits right through them, snow would spraying up through the holes, hitting us in the face and further enhancing our winter experience.

They were low-budget enough to not worry about destroying them by hitting mailboxes and cars. For $4, we'd just get another one. Now, in this quaint, snowy SoCal town, they were charging $13, but they were still way cheaper than renting skis. We picked up a couple and headed out to find more snow and less people.

We escaped to a side road and eventually found serenity in the form of a quiet, steep, snowy hill. Our ears popped in the stillness. The kids quit clamoring. We each grabbed a toboggan. For a brief moment, my elder son stood up in his, before the icy snow smacked him down for that. He only did that once, but it was enough for me to realize that I would have to teach them the rules for sledding survival:
  • Trees are not your friends. They are especially hard when they are frozen solid.

  • Snow is cold. Don't let it get into your clothes.

  • Snow is often ice, which is really cold and sometimes sharp.

  • Don't pack bark in your snowballs. Mom will get you.

  • Don't forget to steer. Especially away from cliffs.

  • No, Mom won't carry you back up the hill. Deal with it.

To teach them how to steer, I took them down the slope in my toboggan a few times. Apparently I'm a speed demon.

Frightened Son: Mom, slow down!!!

Me: Come on, it's fun. The kind of fun we used to have, before video games and cable television ruined everything.

Frightened Son: Aaaaaaagh!!!

Me: Just steer with your hands and brake with your feet and you'll be fine.

Frightened Son: Aaaaaaagh!!!

Me: See, I knew you'd like it!

I'm apparently not as young as I used to be. After a few hours of being used as a steering and braking system, my knees clamored for a break. We were fresh out of dry clothes and knee cartilage, so we called it a day. A good day. Then I clamored for home.

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