GRAPE! I’m gonna get grape, or cherry. They’re both… favorites, so either one is good, but if they have both, I’ll get grape, because grape is a little more favorite. But if they don’t have grape, it’s like, alright, it’s fine, cause cherry’s (my) favorite anyway. It’s like another favorite, but not as much. Not as much favorite. But they’re both good. They’re both good.
That’s Brian Regan, talking about his favorite snow-cone flavor. Or favorites. You know him as a comedian, a comic prominent in ski towns; he’s performed in recent years in Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Aspen, where he has appeared since 1989, making him more reliable than a late November snowfall. Two years ago, he was the featured guest at the Aspen Laugh festival. Three decades ago, he had the brilliant insight — followed religiously by me in years, like this year, when the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t measure up to their customary excellence — that if you ski on Super Bowl Sunday “you have the whole mountain to yourself.”
I would add: Brian, try out first tracks on New Year’s Day. Same principle. Another favorite time — another favorite, as you might say, but not as much. Not as much favorite.
But that Super Bowl insight alone renders Brian Regan one of the Great Philosophers of Skiing. Now adapt his riff about snow cones — grape is his favorite, and cherry is his favorite, too — to skiing and he is kind of the Descartes of the Decade. The Aristotle of our Age. The Hume of Humor.
Thus: Brian Regan, the Socrates of the Slopes.
Here’s why: When it comes to skiing, Black Mountain in New Hampshire is my favorite. (It’s where I learned to ski, and where the modern age has not impinged on the beauty of the ski experience. Also, the hot dogs are excellent.) But if there’s little snow over in Jackson, it’s like, alright, it’s fine, ’cause Mount Cranmore Resort is my favorite anyway. (There, in North Conway, I came of age as a skier.) It’s like another favorite, but not as much. Not as much favorite. But they’re both good. They’re both good.
That’s the way it is with us skiers. We have more than one favorite. Maybe it comes out of the old chestnut that no snowflake is like another. No ski area is like another, so if you’re not at Attitash, you can find great enjoyment at Killington. If you’re not at Snowbird, then Park City will do. So will Sun Peaks, when you’re not at Fernie.
When you’re not at the ski area you love — your favorite — then you love the ski area you’re at.
There was a time, long ago, when I loved Mount Snow. There you could ski all day and then — this après-ski adventure was brand-new then but common now — you could jump into a heated pool outdoors. It was my favorite. There was a time, long ago, when I loved the Dartmouth Skiway. There you could take a class in 19th century American politics taught by the history professor who later would become president of the college and then jump onto the bus parked right outside Webster Hall and zoom over to the slopes. (Bonus in Election Years when William Loeb was publisher of the Manchester Union Leader: You could read the most remarkable front-page editorials in the paper the bus driver had folded in quarters around a metal bar near his seat.) It, too, was my favorite.
There was a time, more recently, when I loved Loveland, in Colorado. There you could ski cheaply and have the best chocolate chip cookies of any ski area ever. It was my favorite. There was also the time, not so long ago, when Lake Louise was my favorite (actually in this case, referring to a Canadian ski resort, the word is spelled favourite). There you could ski all day, devour one of those lemon-and-cinnamon fried dough masterpieces called BeaverTails and then repair to your room in the Château Lake Louise with perhaps the very best view of any ski hostelry. It was absolutely my favourite.
These days my favourite is Cannan Valley, in West Virginia, where the runs are nice and easy and the memories flow — of my own skiing children, off on their own for the first time, thinking they were free of their overcautious parents’ eyes, not knowing that we had spies around the mountain telling us of their passage. It was my favorite. So, too, as one of my favourites, is Mont Habitant, in the Laurentian ski village of St. Sauveur des Monts, Québec. There you can ski the beautifully manicured slopes and then go off with my longtime buddy Jim Stein, who would take an enormous ice saw, cut a hole in the frozen lake, and dunk my daughters, then under 10 years of age, into the shivery water below the surface. That was my favourite.
And so when, in this COVID winter, my Québec ski friend Brian Puddington — a familiar figure in these pages — and I ventured up Autoroute 15 from Montréal for our first ski outing together in two years, I was reminded why Mont Habitant is my favourite. Sunny day. Empty slopes. A few lovely runs down the Grande-allée and Le p’tit vin. My favourite, I have to say, of all time.
David Shribman can be reached at d[email protected]