Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bring on the Ides of March

Some of the best skiing of the year is contained in March. Yet it amazes me that more people don't take advantage of this time of the year to ski. They'll drive through blizzards in January and February, endure frostbite on the chairlifts, and fight the crowds at the restaurants--all for a few frozen runs in conditions that range from deadly to damn cold. March isn't like that.
The biggest difference is the sun. It shines. It's angled higher in the sky, and it lights many of the catacombs that have been dormant most of the winter. Bumps take form, soften, and invite. Steeps spread out and relax. And the snow changes, too. Under the watchful eye of the March sun, the snow begins to settle. It clings to the Mountain a little better. In the afternoons, pockets of mashed potatoes develop, offering places to make mouth watering turns loaded with butter.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing that happens in March is the level of your skiing. The combination of light and softness and relaxation all come together to change your skiing style. March is the time of the year for developmental leaps. You've skied all winter--and you've spent most of your time fighting the elements. But you've never had the chance to unwind. March offers that chance. Now's the time to take all that grittiness and determination and turn it loose on the Mountain. Now's the time to reach deep inside and bring out your confidence.
There's another benefit to March: big dumps. March competes with December for the title of Snowiest Month of the Year. Snowfall is generous. Snowfall is languid. Snowfall is constant. The snowfall carries us into mid-April.
So I'm asking myself: Why don't more people come up and ski in March? Why is the competition for room so keen? It can't be the conditions, because they're ripe. If you're a skier, come up and taste this fruit. Bite into it, let the juices run down your chin. Slobber a little. And enjoy the best skiing of the year. Hey, it's when I take my vacation. When do you take yours.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Innkeeper's Family

Funny things happen to you while you're innkeeping. Sometimes funny means "ha-ha." Sometimes funny means introspective. As the month of March roared in with blowing and drifting snows, my life as an innkeeper came to a screeching halt for a few days. My mother was unexpectedly hospitalized, and I had to rush down to Boston for a couple of days to be with her as she underwent open heart surgery.
My wife and I have worked hard to get here. We've set goals that included our whole family--we didn't just end up in Vermont for us. We considered how innkeeping would affect our children, our extended families, our friends. Sometimes this journey has felt like a hand over hand struggle. Sometimes it's been like a sweet run down Mt. Mansfield's Nosedive. But when your mother--otherwise perfectly healthy--becomes so ill so quickly, you're forced to pause, to reflect, to reorient yourself.
I drove down to Boston through a vicious snowstorm. Route 89 through New Hampshire resembled a nasty ski run more than an interstate highway. But I found comfort in the knowledge that I'd be with my mother through a difficult time. It was midweek, and we only had a few rooms out at the inn.
The good news is that everybody made it through just fine. Mom came through the surgery like a champ, and her prognosis is excellent. But the whole episode stopped me, forcing me to contemplate some things. We make choices in our lives that lead us down unexpected roads. We have to ask, What am I doing? Why am I here? Is this the right path? If we are unprepared to deal with these questions, we may find ourselves in a confusing place. As David Byrne once sang, "You may find yourself in a beautiful house/With a beautiful wife/And you may ask yourself/How did I get here?" If you can't answer that question, it might be time to reevaluate.
Our level of innkeeping at the Auberge de Stowe allows us to be a family. That was our driving force when considering places to buy. We are active parents, we get to spend lots of time with our sons. We're also blessed with an ability to see most of our extended family fairly often. That's the spirit we try to share with our guests. We try to involve them a little with the lives of their innkeepers. My mom may not know this, but there were lots of strangers praying for her. Strangers who became family for a few days at the Auberge.