Saturday, January 07, 2012


Sundays are so tedious they've started to slop over into Saturday.

Sundays have their own time warp. On a Sunday afternoon, a flurry of activity that would eat up an hour or two on another day will prove to have expended about 10 minutes at best when you check the clock after it ends. This extended boredom has started to attack Saturday as well.

The ground is bare. Hardly any cross-country ski areas have any open trails. The next storm is shaping up to be warm and wet, not deep and white. We lost Christmas week. Now we're fixing to lose Martin Luther King weekend. Our big winter earning periods are getting hammered.

Aside from a bit of maintenance on rental skates and one or two out-of-season bike repairs, we have little to do but brainstorm new directions for this business or new businesses in case this one is too damaged to survive.

If I had known that winter was going to die out in my lifetime, I would not have wasted time learning to ski. I enjoyed cross-country and backcountry skiing skiing immensely, but I would have put the time into bicycle-related skills and boating. I might not even have moved to New Hampshire, although I have enjoyed mountain hiking and rock climbing. For all that I get to do THAT I might as well have stayed on the immediate coast and stuck to maritime pursuits.

Chaos being chaos, you can't change one variable without affecting a whole slew of other ones. Parallel universes are fun to imagine sometimes, but I happen to be aware of only this one. So I chart my course from this point on.

One thing's for sure: this is a great year not to be at Jackson Ski Touring. While that's true of any year, it is particularly true in a year like this, that far exceeds even the disastrous season of 2005-'06. It was a major financial burden to maintain the inventory and staff that Jackson required on the off chance that we might get snow. Fortunately, that bad winter afflicted enough of the country to make the ski industry lenient about credit terms. Even so, the scars have lasted long enough to be considered permanent. This hideous winter only gouges deeper at the same injuries. The devastation of the ski business is once again widespread enough to keep our creditors from sending the leg-breakers after us, but that indulgence is little help when the changing climate seems well on the way to destroying our whole sport.

Cross-country skiing was a beautiful experience. I can't say that any of the memories make me feel like I'm back there doing it, but I can appreciate how much fun it was while it lasted. No single activity can equal it for full-body and full-mind exercise. Because of that, nothing can replace it and its skills cannot be applied to anything else. Parts can be applied to many things, but, without skiing to reinforce them, they will have to be maintained piecemeal.

In 2005-'06, bitter, paranoid and angry after the cowardly treachery of persons still unidentified in Jackson, I enjoyed the winter without skiing. I rode my bike while I watched the addicted skiers curdle with frustration. I felt as if nature itself had jumped in on my side. Now, as cross-country skiing seems to be lurching toward extinction, the fact that I don't get to do it simply merges with the way all cross-country skiers are having it stripped from their lives.

From a business standpoint it's a bitch that we're stuck with all the ski gear in our inventory. There's an investment we will never recoup if snow has really gone the way of the passenger pigeon and the dodo bird. If winter really is just another casualty of human folly, all business related to it will suffer.

I can build and repair bicycles. I can get used to having slow, quiet winters in which to prepare for busy, active summers, at least for as long as I am able to be active at all. I decided in 2005 that I could live without skiing. I still skied as much as I could, because it's fun and good for you, but I knew I could let it go when the time came. Has the time come? We shall see. It seems to have come for me, anyway, given the needs of the business and the rest of my life. Whatever I do with myself after whatever happens to the business where I currently work, I will not invest anything in the future of cross-country skiing. I don't think it has one. Not until the collapse of industrial society allows the climate to rebalance itself in however many hundreds or thousands of years that will take.

Mind you I will be content to let the winter make a fool of me by delivering commercial quantities of snow to save us. I still advise against investing heavily in cross-country skiing, though. I'm afraid it's really finished, for the most part.

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