Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Looking forward into the grey area.

"Leaving the City" - by John Rowe
When Newport-based artist John Rowe sat at a traffic light in his adopted Vermont town and imagined the image above, I wonder if he considered what effect it would have on skiers like me. Maybe, maybe not. Artists, of course, make art for a wide range of reasons, and are probably pleased when their work creates unexpected reactions from viewers. Perhaps it is my love of post-apocalyptic themes, exemplified by movies such as Blade Runner, Mad Max and Waterworld, but when I saw John's painting, two things popped into my brain: 1) I had to get a copy (which I did), and, 2) is this the Jay Peak of the future?

Yes, what will Jay Peak become in the grey area of the future? A maze of traffic lights on the 242, elevated parking, synthetic snow in a warmed world, waterparks everywhere and golfer-filled condos aplenty? Probably. With any luck, they'll throw in some mountain biking, because you could do that year-round when the snow stops falling.

Hopefully, that particular future is beyond my lifetime. The immediate future is easier to grasp and still snow-filled. Despite a lingering love for the old Stateside Lodge, our crew has pretty much accepted the fact that the new edition will be an improvement. We like the Taxi Chair and the Sky Haus Deli. Jonny Jay and I had lunch at The Foundry last spring and agreed that it wasn't so bad after all (and quite affordable, compared to regular cafeteria prices). A few of us have even dipped their toes into into the Lazy River and come out alive.

How do we deal with this? How do we go from bitching about development to quietly acquiescing and actually enjoying the results?  We go skiing. We find the chutes, the shots and the not-so-secret stashes, and sometimes, we just cruise the groomers. We take the long view. We appreciate that local businesses like Firsttrax, Sylvester's Market and all the others will thrive with a more year-round attraction. We look back to the Jay Peak of old, the slow double chairs, the Jet T-Bar, the 20 minute lift lines and wonder: was that better? Not really. Though I have to admit, I do cherish the memory of skiing certain untracked runs in "the woods" before they became "glades" and were given names. We will never get that back but it will always be with us. As Utah Phillips said, "Now the past didn't go anywhere, did it? It's right here, right now." As summer wanes and fall creeps in, I have to admit, that right here, right now, I am really looking forward to another winter of skiing at Jay. That is my past and that is my future.

And as for development? All we can hope for is that the powers that be at JPR don't lose sight of the "long memory," a concept that is another gem from Utah Phillips: "...the long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we're going, but where we want to go." - U. Utah Phillips

Where do you want to go, Jay Peak?