Posted December 31, 2009
This winter marks my 10th winter living in Vermont. I’m originally from Maine, and I love the place dearly, but I don’t have any plans on moving back. Occasionally, I get a little homesick, and start dreaming of sitting on the porch of a harbor bar in Bar Harbor, washing down a clam cake with a pint of Geary’s, watching a lobster boat methodically make its way from one buoy to another, stopping briefly at each one before moving on, like a garbage truck on its Thursday morning route. But because my family and a lot of my best friends are still in Maine, I visit often enough to remind myself that clam cakes are actually really gross and Bar Harbor is overpriced and overrun with ice cream parlors and tacky T-shirt shops and tourists wearing tacky T-shirts and eating ice cream cones. After a few days my homesick feeling recedes with the tide, and I look forward to heading back home, to Vermont. My affection for Geary’s however, never wavers.
I moved to Vermont in November of 2000. That particular November was cold and rainy, the kind of November that Guns n’ Roses songs are made out of. Each day was darker and more dreary than the last, and bleaker and more raw, and then it started to snow, and by mid-January, we had the kind of snow I had only seen in the black and white photographs of my Grandmammy’s picture albums or in the vivid color photographs in the picture album of my wildest dreams. And the snow didn’t stop until May, six months after it had started and two months after I broke my collar bone in half while trying to do a routine frontside 180 flatspin on a groomer at Sugarbush North. I went from riding on buried treetops to riding in a rescue toboggan in just one run, and then I drove home with my arm in a sling, and the greatest winter ever, at least for me, was over. For those of you learning to snowboard, here is one thing to never forget: if you are going way too fast on a groomer and decide to bust out a frontside 180 flatspin, do not let your toe edge contact the snow mid spin.
This past November was like a warm, golden fall day plucked out of a travel brochure and stretched out for an entire month. It was nothing at all like November of 2000 or any of the following Novembers, and most likely, this coming winter, my 10th in Vermont, will be nothing like the nine that have preceded it. I just hope it shares one thing in common: lots and lots of snow. As far as an injury is concerned, I’ll pass.
I’m no stranger to injuries, and many of my last nine winters in Vermont have been defined by them. I will always remember the greatest winter ever as the winter that I broke my collar bone in half and more importantly the winter that I realized my bones were no longer made of indestructible rubber. I was reminded of this fact a few winters later, at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, when I lost control and slammed into a large frozen death cookie. It was the first run of my first day, and according to my self diagnosis, I had cracked a few ribs, and the six to eight weeks of pain I endured supported that diagnosis. For those of you heading to Oregon to go riding, here is one thing to never forget: in the springtime in Oregon, the snow turns to concrete at night and stays that way until the sun warms it up, so keep away from any snow that is in the shade.
A few winters after that, while on my first run of my first day in Brighton, UT, I was once again reminded that my bones are made of aging bone. I was cruising along on the runout when I darted off the trail and aimed for a beautiful little pillow of fresh snow just to the side of the trail, thinking it was perhaps a harmless buried rock or maybe a friendly log. Instead it was the top of an unmarked twelve foot drop-off and at the bottom was a landing as flat as a clam cake, or a cookie sheet. When my tele skis touched down, all of my momentum came to a bone crunching halt, and something had to give, and that was my L1 vertebrae. Of course, a few hours later, after a handful of Ibuprofen and a few beers, I was back on the hill, and it wasn’t until two weeks later, when I was back home in Vermont, when the pain in my back just wasn’t going away, that I got an x-ray. For those of you who hurt your backs while skiing in Utah or Oregon or Vermont or wherever, don’t keep skiing. You very well may have compressed L1 vertebrae, and you need to rest.
So, what kind of winter will my 10th winter in Vermont be? I’ll have to wait and see, but having learned some hard lessons, I do know that I will be keeping my downhill edge off the snow, I will avoid shady sections of trail, and I will use my acquired sense of premonition to avoid dangerous, unmarked hazards. For those of you like me, here is one thing to never forget: as you get older, eat all the cookies you want, just drink plenty of milk.
Ryan James Leclerc used to be single and used to work on the sales floor of Onion River Sports. He is now married and works in the office of Onion River Sports. The creative license he procured in a back alley allows him to occasionally narrate from the past as though it were the present.