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If it’s white, it’s not ice.

This is what I tell my co-workers at the Brighton Resort Ski School when they roll their eyes about “icy conditions”.  To which they respond, “You must be from the east coast.”  The last week has been warm, the snow soft and thin in patches (this is, after all, pre-Thanksgiving skiing), but it has not been icy.  “We’re just spoiled,” the locals will shrug.

I can’t wait to get spoiled.

Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the Greatest Snow on Earth (they say).  With seven ski areas within ten miles of each other, all less than an hour drive from the city, all averaging 500 inches (12 m) of powder every winter, I don’t care if it’s the “greatest” or only so-so, just as long as they let me ski on it.

Twice a week I work the counter at the Brighton ski school, selling lesson packages and directing harried parents to the rental shop, the bathrooms, the cafeteria.  My uniform is jeans, a fleece vest, and a baseball hat or beanie.  I answer phones and smile at customers and when it’s slow no one minds if I read a book behind the desk or slip out to take some runs.  I love my job.  I hitchhike to work or to ski every day from the mouth of the canyon, me and a handful of other bums.  Yesterday I rode up with a registered nurse who described to me the first time he witnessed a C-section birth.  “Dude, I grew more in that half an hour than I did through all of puberty!”  Today I waited in a line of cars that snaked for ten miles through the jutting canyon walls.  I watched the emergency lights spinning for an hour, on the other side of the trees where a truck had rolled over the embankment.

I live with Kathy, a cheerful massage therapist, and her husband Troy, a construction worker.  Winter and the flagging economy give him plenty of hours to fill playing WWII video games and shouting at the University of Utah football team.  Kathy’s sixteen-year-old, Mackenzie, makes occasional appearances as a dark-haired zombie on a stool in front of the TV on the kitchen counter.  I have a room to myself, furnished, full use of the kitchen and a living room, wireless internet, and the company of a balding cat when I want it.  They’ve also loaned me a bike for the winter.  Not having a car, the bike means freedom, and being able to visit the local library twice a day.  I grin at how much faster a bike is than walking, even as my teeth chatter and my hands turn to ice in the wind.

Beginning a life in a new place is always hard, and I’m a little bit lonely, despite the friendliness of my co-workers and the kindness of the Eaton family (wonderfully gracious friends from back east who gave me a place to stay when I arrived and helped me find work and housing).  I’m still smiling, though, and I can look ahead to a month from now when the slopes will be overflowing with snow, when regular paychecks will be plopping into my checking account, when I know the names of all the ski instructors I work with, when I am too busy to think, when I’m apparating from powder day to night job to day job to drinks at the pub with the other scruffy snow addicts, when all of this is normal, when I forget that I’ve ever lived anywhere else.

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