A well-muscled young man skis across a long, thin puddle of water in what may be a red Speedo but is more likely his underpants. He is soon followed by Duff Man, a Homer Simpson superhero complete with cape, rubber biceps, and utility belt stocked with cans of Duff beer. It is not Halloween.
To celebrate Memorial Day, crowds of young partiers and families alike have come to Arapahoe Basin. Jeff and I have made the trip with our two sons, who are doing a ski-racing camp for the weekend. The parking lot (aka, The Beach) starts to fill early with camp chairs, grills, and giant sun shades. As we walk to the lift at 8:30, we pass a guy flipping pancakes and fried eggs while sipping champagne from a small plastic cup.
We board the lift to the strains of Run-DMC thumping from a boom box. The lifties are grooving. Throughout the day, we see a girl in a red Bay Watch swim suit and ski boots (no sign of The Hoff), Darth Vader and his hippie girlfriend (both on snowboards), a police officer, Captain America, Batman, Superman, half a dozen otherwise caped crusaders, a woman in a sequenced bikini top and fuchsia hotpants, a grumpy lady with a leopard miniskirt and a mustache, and bunch of bananas.
“People are skiing in their underwear, Mom,” says my son Quinn, his brows knitted in incomprehension. “Why are they skiing in their underwear?” That I cannot explain. It is not wise, as is evidenced by the enormous raspberry on Mr. Red Speedo’s right butt cheek. Nevertheless, it’s fabulous entertainment and it feels like a carnival.
I’ve heard tell the fun can quickly degrade beyond the arena family fun. My friend Bill reported he and his kids once saw a man in nothing but his ski boots and back hair walking from the slopes to A-Basin’s parking lot. That’s bad naked, people.
The boys spend the morning running slalom gates with their Team Summit coaches. In the afternoon, they rove around the mountain looking for giant puddles of water to skim across. It’s an unexpected boon. Where water pools naturally on the mountain as the snow begins to melt, skiers and snowboarders have created long thin troughs filled with water. The more traffic the puddles see, the deeper they get.
In case you’ve never experienced this rite of spring skiing, the idea with pond skimming is that you get as much speed as you can straightlining downhill, then you glide across the surface of the water like a water skier. If you don’t carry enough speed, you’ll sink halfway.
My kids can’t get enough of this impromptu pond skimming. At mid mountain, a giant 30-foot puddle has accumulated. The kids call it “The Lake.” Mostly they make it across, but all it takes is one breach of momentum to land knee high, or worse, in the drink.
Which is precisely what Quinn does. To get out of the water, he has to reach down into the frigid slushy water to click out of his bindings. Lower down on the mountain, it’s less pond skimming and more skiing down a river.
When the kids’ camp is over, we go for a few runs as a family. More pond skimming, of course. Jeff skims across easily on his snowboard. I decide it’s unwise to pond skim on telemark skis with an expensive camera on my back, so I beg off.
Aidan slips and falls in one of the stream-like troughs and water splashes him right in the face. I anticipate tears. Instead, he stands up, shakes off like a dog, and says, “That was awesome!!”
On the chairlift: “I saw a skier pond skimming in a pink bikini…and it was a dude!!! I am not kidding,” says Aidan, who is incredulous to the point of hysterics. Even better, the Mankini crashed and fully submerged himself. “That guy was definitely going home after that,” Aidan says with authority.
At 3:30 p.m., we head back to the car, past tailgaters drinking beer and grilling burgers. “Why are people sitting in chairs in the parking lot, Mom?” Quinn asks. That I can explain. Tailgating on a sunny day at A-Basin after skiing mashed potatoes is one for every skier’s bucket list.
When we get home, we pull out the kids’ boot liners and literally pour water out of their shells. It will take three days for Quinn’s gloves to dry out.
Tips (from my kids) for Pond Skimming at A-Basin
1. Keep your mouth shut. The water tastes gross.
2. Bring extra socks and shoes for the ride home. You’re feet will get soaked.
3. Don’t wear leather gloves.
4. Pond skim on a sunny day, so you don’t get cold when you’re soaked.
5. Tuck the inrun. If you don’t have enough speed, you’ll sink halfway across.
6. Don’t wear a Red Speedo.
7. Don’t wear a pink bikini (men, especially).