Zen and the Art of Southern Skiing 

The hand driers at Breckenwolf—AKA Wolf Ridge Ski Resort—are basically memorabilia at this point. They’re so old, I think the lodge was built around them. Technically they still work, but it’ll take a week to get your hands dry, rubbing them beneath the lukewarm air over and over. But I think they’re on the National Historic Register so legally, management can’t remove them. You gotta respect the historic significance. Honestly, I’d be disappointed if I walked into the bathroom of the ski lodge and there was a brand new Dyson hand dryer on the wall. It just wouldn’t feel right.

I’ve come to realize that the hand drier is a metaphor for Breckenwolf as a whole. It’s not the best, but it’s mine and I love it. Actually, that metaphor applies to skiing in the Southern Appalachians in general. Don’t get me wrong; we have some wonderful resorts that do the best they can with increasingly difficult conditions thanks to the Chinese global warming hoax (fake news!). And there are days when we can ski actual powder. But if you’re a skier in the South then you also know that you ski questionable conditions. Sometimes, you ski slush in the rain. Sometimes, you ski ice in the freezing rain. A lot of times, you ski okay groomed snow, but through a barrage of snow guns. That was the case this week during the inaugural Whiskey Wednesday for the 2017/2018 season. The temps were in the low 20s and Breckenwolf was making the most of the cold snap, blowing as much snow as they could. I understand: you gotta get while the gettin’s good. So they had every single gun on, from the top of the mountain to the base lodge. We skied through them, one right after the other until our pants and jackets were caked in ice. Sometimes, when the winds shifted, the guns would get us again while you were on the lift, making our way back to the top of the hill. For most of the night, we skied with a thick layer of ice over our clothes and helmets.

And I love it. I love it because it’s horrible, and incredible at the same time. I love it because it teaches me patience and perseverance. I love it because it makes me appreciate an inch of natural powder, cherishing it, the way people who grew up during the depression cherish canned goods.

And I love the fact that my kids are learning to ski here. I firmly believe that if you can ski in the Southern Appalachians on a bad day, you can ski anywhere. But it’s also true that skiing here, speeding through the snow guns over chunky ice, forces you to have a sense of appreciation for the good days. And eventually, if you ski consistently enough, you come to a Zen-like sense of understanding that there really aren’t any bad days on the hill, no matter what sort of conditions are underfoot. Or how much ice you have on your goggles from the snow guns. Because you’re skiing in the South. And that alone is kind of a miracle.

Places to Go, Things to See: