This is the story of the Hurricane…

I’m going to sleep well TONIGHT!

That big storm you’ve been reading about, that fucked with Denver for the second time in a week, it didn’t hit Vail AT ALL!  Oh, we got a dusting overnight, but the only way you’d know is by looking at the few automobiles parked outside.  Dreams of powder snow?  Eviscerated.  But we decided to stick with our plan to visit Beaver Creek.

Beaver Creek was supposed to be the home of the 1976 Olympics, well, the skiing events.  But then Colorado residents punted.  Noting the poor planning, that had cross-country courses laid out in backyards, and the impact on the environment.  But Vail Associates went on to build Beaver Creek anyway, albeit a few years late.

But it was a failure.  Until Gerald Ford moved in.

Yes, that’s the only news that translates here in the mountains.  Because Gerry Ford is Vail’s patron saint.  The "Vail Daily News" attributed the success of the Valley to him.  Everybody just knew Aspen, but when the evening news went on about President Ford vacationing in Vail, the ski resort took off.

Gerry lived in the Lodge at first, actually right down the hall from Felice’s family.  But when he became President, it was an unwieldy residence for the Secret Service to protect.  So Gerry moved on.  Chris said President Ford had the first house in Beaver Creek.  Above the village.  We saw it today, with a bunkhouse behind for the Secret Service.  But that was late in the day, when we were riding the Strawberry Express.  We started off way down mountain, in Avon, at the Bear parking lot.

After buckling our boots, we walked to the bus stop and were ultimately escorted to Beaver Creek Landing, which is like parking in  Woodland Hills to attend the Hollywood Bowl and then taking a LIFT from Studio City to the Cahuenga Pass.  Yes, we got on an express quad right by the road, with nary a trail in sight, and then went up and down, over roads and ridges, until we were finally deposited at the base of Bachelor Gulch.  And even though we were seeming LIGHT YEARS from our ultimate destination, in Beaver Creek proper, we decided to make a run.

The line for the Bachelor Gulch Express was a clusterfuck, so we jumped to the singles line, where a woman on a cell phone let by empty chairs galore, but eventually I hitched a ride with some Texans.

We all hate Texans, right?  What makes them so proud, so ARROGANT?  What’s so great about Texas?  It’s flat and hot and ugly.  You’d think people would want to LEAVE!  But no, the state’s denizens believe they’re god’s gift to humanity.  And when the lift stopped and hung for seeming HOURS, I finally had to butt into the inanity, to try and get the dude talking about shopping in Silverthorne to STOP SWINGING THE CHAIR!  I was greeted with silence.  And then not even sixty seconds later, this asshole started up again.  I mean the chair is just SQUEEZED onto the cable, and we’re a good sixty or eighty feet in the air, do these Texans believe they’re immune to the laws of the nature?  Do they come with nine lives?

Finally we arrived at the top.  And skied down this run Gunder’s.  Which was akin to skiing in sno-cone shavings.  They’d groomed it, and seemingly had only excavated ice chips.  You could ski the slope, but you felt the best thing to do was lay down some syrup and EAT it.  Little did we know this was the best snow we’d hit all day.

We took the Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express to the top of Strawberry Park.  They said Stacker was groomed, but it was covered in bumps and rocks.

So we traversed over to Pitchfork, which was smooth, but had the gripability of a cue ball.  I hadn’t skied snow this slick since I lived in Vermont.  With the new equipment all you’re supposed to do is roll your ankles to turn, but if you didn’t STAND on your edge, you’d slide off into the trees.

And when we rode up the Strawberry Park Express we noticed the steep skiing at Beaver Creek, the legendary slopes surrounding the Birds Of Prey Express, were EMPTY!  Not a single soul graced ANY of the slopes.  Same deal with Grouse Mountain.  The snow was JUST THAT FIRM!

And eventually we made it to the Birds Of Prey Express.  But really, even though it cost me eighty five bucks for this ordeal, I wanted to call it a day.  I thought I was going to die.  Lose my edge and pull a Sonny Bono.

And the easiest skiing at Beaver Creek is at the very top.  But it was SO flat it just wasn’t interesting.  But the last face of Centennial, which brings you down to the Cinch Express, is black, and so was the ice.  This was even SLICKER than the surface over at Strawberry Park.  This wasn’t skiing, it was ICE SKATING!  I didn’t even bother to turn around and watch Felice.  I just prayed.

And on the way down from the absolute peak, we saw a parade of ten Pisten Bullies, and Chris suggested following them down the mountain, in their groomed wake.  But the sign had a black diamond.  I foresaw trouble.  I let him convince his sister.  And then we pushed off, past the point of no return.  Oh, it appeared there was an exit, a cut-off, that the Pisten Bully parade ultimately took, but that was gone in fifty feet, thereafter we were committed.

Not that it was so bad.  The snow was crusty, firm, but steepness wasn’t an issue.  Until we came over a roll and were confronted with a WALL!  Covered with BUMPS!  It was as if you punched dimples in linoleum and then tilted the results in excess of thirty degrees.  And it was too long to fake it down, you had to SKI IT!

And I was trepidatious, but FELICE?

I coached her halfway down.  But then the slope required my complete dedication, it was just that dicey.  I just took off and WENT!

Not another thought was in my brain.  I’m turning on the ice, jamming the edges of my new skis into the surface, and I’m linking turns, and I’ve got a rhythm going, and I don’t want to stop, I’m in the groove, and finally, I’m at the bottom.  And I feel so fucking GREAT!

And when I turn around to see the sister and brother team in action, I see Felice linking turns, setting her edges, and when she finally makes it to the bottom she’s STILL TURNING!

No one bitched, everybody was elated, INSPIRED!  We hadn’t only survived, we’d TRIUMPHED!

And then the whole day changed.  We skied the rock hard Cataract.  The Centennial face again.  Black diamond, icy, it didn’t matter.  We were no longer afraid of the mountain, we were BEATING IT!

We went up the Birds Of Prey Express again.  And turned right onto the double diamond Goshawk, and then cut over to Peregrine and ultimately the Birds Of Prey, home to the second most challenging downhill course in the WORLD!  Where Bode triumphed only WEEKS ago.

I let Felice go down first.  I ultimately complimented her on her turns.  Calling her Lindsey, as in "Kildow", the American downhill specialist presently on a tear.

But maybe Felice got too confident.  For when we hit the final face of Golden Eagle, Felice didn’t set her edges hard enough, her skis came out from under her, she hit the ice hard and started to SLIDE!

I figured she’d go all the way to the bottom, but she arrested her descent within fifteen feet or so.  But when I suggested riding the Grouse Mountain Express with our newfound confidence, she opted out.  I think her pride was hurt more than her butt, but we agreed to leave her at Red Tail Camp, as Chris and I rode the lift up.

I’d seen a groomed run exiting from Grouse Mountain.  But as we ascended, it was clear the only trail that had seen a Pisten Bully was not a trail at all, but a road, a catwalk, the chicken’s way out.  No, I was going to have to ski two thousand vertical feet of rock hard bumps, or be judged a wimp by Chris forever more.

Now I used to bang the bumps for a living.  A shitty one, but I lived in the moguls.  But we avoided these.  The ones like ice sculptures with rocks in between.  But the only way down was through them, so I pushed off, wondering if my back could handle the punishment, what would happen if I missed a turn.

But I found my rhythm.  Even though the salesman told me my new skis were too stiff for the moguls, I was turning them, setting an edge, gaining confidence with every face.  Then suddenly, we were at the bottom.  We’d WON!

And off in the distance sat Felice, at an outdoor table at Red Tail Camp.

We clicked out of our bindings and decided to finally take a break.

On the long wooden table was a splayed out "New York Times".  How it had gotten here baffled me.  But the section right in front of me was "Escapes", and that concept rang true.

And there was a row of smokers.  And they were roasting brisket and pulled pork.  And even though it was in the twenties, it seemed sacrilegious to eat indoors, so we picked up trays and got behind the two people in line, most of the tourists having already eaten, it being two o’clock already.

And that’s when I heard it.  Over the stereo system.  In between the classic rock blasting over the environs.

Oh, you know it if you’re a subscriber.  The XM audio LOGO!  Yes, they were tuned into TOP TRACKS!

And as I ate my brisket and pulled pork combo, every song rang true.  And then I heard that intro.  It was clear, this was "HURRICANE"!

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall.
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood,
Cries out, ‘My God, they killed them all!’
Here comes the story of the Hurricane,
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

Bob Dylan was nowhere.  But then he got back together with the Band and went on tour.  But it was about the old songs.  And then, completely unexpectedly, he released "Blood On The Tracks", a complete comeback, every bit as good as his classic sixties material.

And the follow-up, after the Rolling Thunder Review, was "Desire".  And the opening cut on "Desire" was "Hurricane".

All these years later, who knows if Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was guilty.  But in 1976, he was a cause celebre, even BOB DYLAN was a supporter.

And I’m sitting outside in Colorado.  And it’s been thirty years.  But I feel like exactly the same person!

And "Hurricane" is over eight minutes long.  I had quite a while to revel in the feeling.

And when it was all done, we threw our skis back on and ultimately edged our way down Half Hitch and lower Centennial, into Beaver Creek proper.  Hockey skates would have been a better tool.

And finally we boarded the Strawberry Park Express once more, to take us back to Bachelor Gulch.  And on the way down, we skied Gunder’s once again, ultimately all agreeing it was the best run of the day, the only one with any SNOW ON IT, even though it was really shaved ice crystals.

And at the bottom of Bachelor Gulch, we got on a road entitled Leav The Beav, and wound our way through snowmaking machines back to where we started from.

And after riding the bus back to our car, and taking off our ski boots, and throwing our boards in the back, as we were navigating the streets of Avon on our way to I-70, Chris said what a great day it had been, how it was the best of the season.

All I could say was I hadn’t set my edges like that since 1969!

Beaver Creek

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