Winter doesnt close the mountains, it opens them | SierraSun.com

Winter doesnt close the mountains, it opens them

Bob SweigertGrasshopper Soup

It looks like winter is here. And it feels like February already. Nothing like a real cold snow storm to snap us out of the blues and return us to reality. If life isnt all about winter you may as well live in Brownsville, Texas. Give me Whitesville, Tahoe anytime. I dont want to put a jinx on our bottom line the white gold that we all live for around here by prematurely predicting a great winter, but were off to a pretty good start. As the purists among us like to say, usually with a solemn air of concern and a little disdain, its not the kind of base we want for skiing and good snow adhesion, but well take whatever we can get.It was enough of a storm to give us hope, and Im not talking about business either. We all like to make money. But there are more important things to make, like downhill turns. Im talking about fulfilling a passion. Im talking about living the dream.For those of us who are here for the snow and really know how to tear it up, winter doesnt close the mountains, it opens them. The toughest decisions we ever have to make on any given day is which means of transportation are we going to attach to our feet and which chairlift are we going to take next.The worst snow storms are the best ski days, but when the white gold hits the fan and the going gets tough, my favorite foot attachment is a car. When it comes to real winter entertainment, you can hardly beat it, especially when its really cold and dumping.Going out for a drive in a blizzard is one of my favorite winter activities, second only to downhill skiing, of course. Most of the time I am getting paid for either one, so it isnt like I go out driving just for the fun of it. I like the danger too. I dont get my kicks watching people losing control of their vehicles and crashing. But you have to admit, theres something aesthetically pleasing about watching a car spinning in circles down a hill or through an intersection. It makes you appreciate the finer points of the complex laws of physics involved anytime rubber meets ice and rookie meets brakes.One of the most amusing sights on the road during a blizzard is a car so covered with snow that it looks like a giant snowball rolling down the road except for one little peep hole about the size of a hand that has been cleared like a tunnel through a foot of snow on the windshield. These ingenious peep holes are designed to improve visibility for the vehicle operator just in case he has to take a look outside the snowball, negotiate any movement it may require and avoid any physical objects that could appear suddenly out of nowhere and destroy it. These little peep holes are the sign of a very optimistic driver. When the visibility on the road drops to zero what color do you see? White. Which cars driving in a blizzard are most likely to have their headlights off? Have you noticed? Its true. Most, but by no means all, of the cars driving in white-out conditions with headlights off are, you guessed it the white cars.It is an indication that the driver has a very high level of confidence and skill or he is completely color blind. After all, how cool is it to be able to find a white car in the snow in the first place, get in it without thinking, and be so perfectly camouflaged you may as well be invisible? Such people do not require goggles while skiing in such conditions either. Theyre not going to let a little snow get in the way.It has taken me all summer and fall just to feel like I can actually walk again. Finally its back to skiing, a much more natural and familiar set of movement patterns. Walking is for common people. Avoid it at all costs during the winter. You never know when someone will come barreling down on you making radical turns through the snow with a white car attached to his feet, looking for a garage sale through his little peep hole.Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, experienced ski instructor and commercial driver. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 25 years.