Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Worst Ski Hill in the 25th Flattest State

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for February is called, "Mud Between My Toes." I'm going to give you the same advice that the old singing tree gave Pocahontas: listen with your heart. Of course, Pocahontas didn't have headphones, so you have more choices.

Wisconsin is the 25th flattest state in the Union. (See Figure 1, The United States Ranked by Flatness.) It is neither flat as a pancake, nor as mountainous as a wedding cake. It is a deflated soufflé, and its topographical mediocrity makes it the ideal downhill skiing destination for those of us who enjoy small hills. I have never skied in Colorado or Montana; I'm just not into long runs. I'm a small hill enthusiast. There is nothing more exhilarating than carving through a fresh line of pow-pow for exactly 1 minute 15 seconds.

Figure 1. Florida's state motto: "The Cross-Country Skier's Delight."

I cut my teeth as a small hill enthusiast in one of Milwaukee's premier middle school ski clubs: Blizzard or Snowstar. I don't remember which one I was in, but I remember that the other one sucked cheese curds. Either Blizzard or Snowstar was full of gnar shredders like me, while Snowstar or Blizzard was just a bunch of gapers, bombers, and snowplowing wannabes.

The kids in the other club pinned their lift tickets to their main zippers. Are you kidding me? We pinned our lift tickets to our pocket zippers.

They preferred camouflage balaclavas. Were they crazy? We preferred balaclavas with fluorescent skull faces.

They preferred small hills that were sick. Whatever, dude. We preferred small hills that were sweet and rad. Obviously, Snowstar or Blizzard was way better than the competition in every way.

The only thing that kids in both clubs agreed on is that we hated skiing at Crystal Ridge Ski Resort. Crystal Ridge was the worst ski park in Southeast Wisconsin because it was built on top of an old Milwaukee County landfill. We never actually saw garbage, but we knew it was there. Looking down from the chairlift, we were convinced that we were not seeing moguls, but subterranean depositions of discarded furniture and dismembered mob snitches.

I don't mean to imply that there is anything wrong with repurposing municipal waste. That part was ingenious. The reason that Crystal Ridge was such a terrible ski hill was not that it was built on a landfill, but that it was built on an old landfill.

A new landfill is a hole in the ground. As garbage is deposited, it becomes progressively less concave. It doesn't achieve "old landfill" status until it is completely full and the trash is flush with the surrounding terrain. An old landfill is a lake of garbage, not a mountain of garbage. Only in Milwaukee would someone think to cover that with snow and call it a ski hill.

My family and I are going skiing up North this weekend. We haven't done this in a couple of years, and Lauren and I are a little nervous, a little more aware of our limits. As we've aged, the cushion that separates a torn meniscus from being abandoned in a nursing is just a bit smaller. On the other hand, the risk of injury is measurably lower than when I was a kid in Wisconsin, because this time, we're skiing in the 22nd flattest state.

With warmest regards,