There is a black cloud hanging overhead, literally and figuratively. It’s raining today. It might not qualify as pouring and no one is snoring but it is cold, just teetering above freezing and the rain is slow and steady. It is in fact relentless and I don’t want to imagine the damage the rain is doing to the ski slopes. And spring skiing.
After freezing cold and biting winds, New England skiers deserve a little spring skiing. It’s time to stop looking like the Michelin man, put away big, bulky parkas and heavy fleece. It’s time to dig out a comfortable, old sweatshirt or windbreaker, trade in goggles for sunglasses and bare our heads to the sun. The air is not just warmer; it is more festive. Up and down the mountain, there is a general feeling of; well there is no easy way to express it, except to yell Yahooooo!
Warmer weather brings out a whole new crop of skiers. We used to call them the snow bunnies. They are dressed to the nines. No, you won’t find them in old sweatshirts or ancient windbreakers from LL Bean. Their outfits are perfect, never outdated or faded by years of winter sun, and color coordinated to match their skis, boots and poles. They bask in the sunshine, holding court on the terrace in front of the lodge. Some days these beauties even take a run, maybe two.
When we were little we were always under pressure to make sure our season pass paid for itself. I think the fathers in the neighborhood had a little competition going; who could get the most runs out of their season pass. We skied at King Ridge. If we bought the pass before Thanksgiving, our family skied for $108. That’s all five of us for the entire season. In a good year, between weekends and Christmas and February vacations, we got about thirty days of skiing.
We were expected to ski hard, no matter how cold or icy, from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. Breaks were to be kept at a minimum and runs to a maximum. The dads would quiz us at lunch time and again on the way home, “how many runs had we taken?” An on-going tally was kept throughout the winter. I think their goal was to bring the cost per run down to a penny. A goal I’m sure we never met, although our friends, the Pevears, might have come close.
On freezing days in January, Dad or one of his friends often caught us huddled around the fireplace. No pity was taken. Frigid temperatures or not, we were invariably sent back out into the torturous cold. My Dad’s favorite trick was to put us in ski school on the coldest days. It was his way of ensuring that we stayed outside for at least an hour.
But in March the weather was warm, the sun high in the sky and no tricks were necessary. Spring skiing was the treat we could only dream of during the dark days of December and the arctic cold of January. Before snowmaking, spring skiing was a dream that didn’t always come true. Ski resorts didn’t boast of deep bases of fifty, sixty or more inches and had trouble recovering from early spring rain showers. King Ridge was usually washed out by St. Paddy’s Day.
Some habits not only die hard, they are passed on. With the first day of spring rapidly approaching, a friend (and a dad) recently asked me how many days I’d managed to ski this winter. A quick and dirty calculation and I figure I’m looking at about 800 runs, probably more. Enjoy the rest of the ski season,
Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce
Makes about 2 quarts of sauce (freeze the extra sauce)
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound Italian sausage; hot, sweet or a mix, casings removed
1/2 pound ground beef
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 2 ounces fettuccine per person
Heat a heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and ground beef to the pot, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, cook until brown about 5 minutes.
Remove from the pan. Drain the fat and reserve.
Add a little olive oil in the pot and heat over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and garlic, sprinkle with Italian herbs, red pepper, salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender.
Return the meat to the pot. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the chopped basil.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rigorous boil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to package directions.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add about 1/2 cup of sauce per person to the pasta, toss to combine and let sit over low heat for about a minute. Serve the pasta with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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