Today started out like any other beautiful, flawless i.e. cloudless day in the mountains. I’d moved my bed back near the window last night, after trying to rearrange the furniture and create a new vantage point from which to awaken each day. Feng shui or hogwash, my bed intimidates me when it faces east; it’s only dream-worthy when I awake to the sun shining through the Northern window.
This morning, the sterling blue sky inspired to me to exit the covers, as did the beep of the text from my friend, Greg: “Riding the rails, you and me.” I’d convinced Greg, one of my more open-minded friends, to accompany me to Buttermilk; I’d own the groomers on my teles and he could ride the rails without losing interest in the whole lackadaisical affair.
So, like any other day, I made coffee, got my gear together but then, for some reason, I digressed. I was strangely drawn towards the bottom drawer in the corner of the kitchen, home to my neon green gloves. They’re Thriller meets snowboard punk and really ugly yet strangely cool, having been acquired at the Shwag-fest that is X-Games. Sure, it was warm out and the day called for something lighter on the hands; certainly, the spring conditions were perfect for the Green Machines but still - deep down, some instinctual, greeting-card part of me that I didn’t quite recognize before that first cup of coffee, knew that it was St. Patrick’s Day.
I got to Buttermilk before it fully registered: green velour top hats, gold and green medallions, shamrock tattoos and green tutus and you name it; if it was green, it was there. What is it about St. Patrick’s Day that makes us all look and act ridiculous? According to Wikipedia (the World Book Encyclopedia of the new millennium):
Saint Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a yearly holiday celebrated on 17 March.
It is named after Saint Patrick (circa AD 387–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints
of Ireland. It began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s.
However, it has gradually become more of a secular celebration of Ireland's culture.
Secular, indeed. It’s the secular part which gives these interpretive religious holidays their mass appeal. But Ireland’s culture? Are we to believe that Ireland’s culture consists of dyeing things green and wandering bleary-eyed, anywhere from 2 in the afternoon to 4 in the morning? Do Irish men ski down Buttermilk in green tutus with surf shorts underneath?
Having never been to Ireland, I cannot attest. But it sure is easy being green on a 40-degree day of spring skiing.
“Sorry, I thought your were my mom,“ said Sam, aged 9, getting on the chair with Greg and me. Once we’d determined that I wasn’t and that he wasn’t going to jump from the chair, conversation turned to other things. Sam wore a green jacket which could have been coincidence but I had to ask.
“So, what holiday is it today, Sam?”
“It’s Spring Break!”
Oh, of course. Today was Spring Break eve, meaning a short day before the official start of local kids’ multi-day hiatus. That explained the gaggle of gangstas in the Small Terrain Park, which Greg had been hammering all morning. He and Sam talked shop.
“I do rails, grabs, and half-pipe. That’s my favorite,” said Sam. He meant the gargantuan Superpipe at the base of Buttermilk, still dominating the mountain since X-Games, the one that makes grown men cry for their mamas. Sam was saving it till the end of the day. I asked him it he cleared the top of it.
“Oh, yeah.” He nodded. “I get about three feet of air.”
“Wow. How tall are you, Sam?”
“Eh, 4 somethin’.”
Next run, Greg finally found his inner 360; he’s been living in Hawaii for the past 8 months, kite-surfing, so he’s a little out of practice on the rails. My friend Suzanne skied up beside us in the lift-line and pinched me, hard.
“Oh, wait, you have green gloves on,” she said, laughing. So, Irish people walk around pinching each other for not wearing green? That’s what it means to be Irish?
“Thank goodness you have new goggles.” She turned to her 10-year old son, Logan, a rippin’ little skier who’d joined his mom on the hill for Spring Break Eve. “Logan, Jamie had these crazy goggles a couple of weeks ago, super big and all scratched; you would have been totally embarrassed to ski with her!”
I didn’t notice Logan was wearing any green but I figured Suzanne had already pinched him, so I let it slide.
“Cool gloves,” said Logan.
“Yeah, kind of like the Green Hornet,” said Suzanne.
She and Logan were headed to the Big Park; he was working on his 720 and she was hoping to pull of the 180 today; “I’ve got the 125 down,” she said, laughing.
It’s hard not to be a ripping little skier if you grow up around Aspen and Greg and I soon joined Brittany, a very talkative 11-year old who got separated from her friends.
“Why do I always ride the chair alone?” she lamented. I told her she wasn’t alone, she was with us but that’s not what she meant.
“I waited for them and then they waited for someone else and then I lost them all. They just can’t keep up!”
“They boys?” asked Greg.’
“Yeah, a couple.”
“Well that’s the problem,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Gotta stick with the girls.”
We learned that Brittany cooks really good pasta but we should never, ever try her cookies. “Sometimes I put too much flour, and they’re dry, sometimes I put too much butter and they’re sticky and – hey, where’s your green?”
Greg started feeling patting his pockets, unzipping his jacket, then hung his head. I told him to tell her his Underoos were green.
“Doesn’t count, “ said Brittany. “Can’t see ‘em.
Heading to the bus a few hours later I passed a mound of green snow and a gaggle of shirtless young men, chests white and pants black walking in sync like, well, In Sync. The world could see their Underoos peering out from their waistbands and wouldn’t you know it, they were green.
To truly celebrate the Irish Culture today, try the Annual St Patrick’s Day Dinner at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Basalt from 4-8 p.m. and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Aspen from 5-8 p.m. (possibly non-secular but certainly quite delicious) and anywhere around Aspen, you’re sure to find corned beef and cabbage and green beer. That’s the luck of the Irish.