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Report from the Big Mountain

Whiteout in Whitefish

Location: The Big Mountain Whitefish, MT

Dates: March 5 - 12, 2011

Photos and Video

More Photos and Videos from the post Big Mountain British Columbia Trip

“That was terrifying!”

So said Peter Fahey, arriving at the bottom of the moderately pitched main entry trail to the back side of the Big Mountain -- in an impenetrable, zero-visibility, utterly disorienting fog the likes of which neither of us had ever experienced.  I didn’t answer him right away, as I was too busy blindly trying to figure out the pitch of the slope I was standing on and,  just as unsettling, whether I was moving or not.

 “Well”, I finally said, “they told us it could get a little foggy here.  I guess this is what they meant.”

 Yes, the Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana is legendary for its sometimes foggy weather.  The visibility is often measured in “chairs” -- a “two chair day” means you can see the next two chairs in front of you on the chairlift, but no farther -- you get the idea.  (Especially when it’s a “one-chair day”, or, as on this day, a “no chair day.”)

 So, the annual ski trip wouldn’t have been complete without a good old-fashioned Big Mountain whiteout, and we had that one.  We also had everything else necessary for a complete Dartmouth ’68 ski trip -- wonderful company, fabulous snow, great terrain, gourmet food, luxury ski-in ski-out lodging … and a bonus reconnection with a long-lost classmate!

 First, the company.  Our usual gang of rebel warriors was a bit diminished this year because of the off-the-beaten-track location of the Big Mountain, next door to Glacier National Park near the Canadian border.  Nonetheless, the hard core showed up: Larry and Julia Griffith, Hap and Susan Ridgway, John Manaras ’67 and John’s brother Steve with wife Lindsay, Jim Lawrie, Peter Fahey, Rick Pabst, Dave Dibelius, Peter Emmel, Max Milton, rookie tripper (at long last!) Rich duMoulin, and my good friend and fellow Sunday River ski instructor Mark Haskell.  (Who summed up the trip better than anyone -- at the end of the week, he said to me, “This zip code will definitely see me again.  In fact, I can imagine the day when this zip code will have my name in front of it -- as my address.”)

 And now, the lost classmate bonus.  Every year I research the Dartmouth Alumni Directory for classmates who might be locals at our ski destination, and send them an email asking them to join us.  Two years ago, at Steamboat:  Bill Philip.  Last year at Tahoe: Dave Stanley.  This year, in Whitefish: after 43 years, our own Joe Carbonari and his lovely wife Pam.  They came to Arrivalfest at our condo the first night (Joe was instantly recognizable -- looks just the same!); and they so enjoyed themselves that they invited us all to dinner at their beautiful Kalispell home Sunday night, favored us with Mardi Gras beads at our dinner soiree at the Lodge at Whitefish Tuesday night, came to dinner at Steve and Lindsay Manaras’ home in Columbia Falls Wednesday night, and Joe came to our reunion banquet at the Kandahar Lodge Thursday night.  (Pam, mayor of Kalispell for eight years and a force in Montana politics, had to be in state capital Helena that night, righting wrongs or tilting at windmills, I forget which.)

 The point of all this about Joe and Pam isn’t really about the ski trip -- you guessed that, right? -- it’s about the resources Dartmouth gives us for making connections.  After all these years, Joe proved that you can take the boy out of Dartmouth, but you can’t take the Dartmouth out of the boy -- he seamlessly fit right back into the fold.  So for that matter did ski trip rookie Rich duMoulin  (joining us less because of my repeated pleadings, more due to Dave Dibelius’ iron-fisted pressure!)

 Ski trip aside for the moment, guys, please use the tools Dartmouth gives us to make connections.  Pick up the phone or email a classmate for whom it’s been too long out of touch.  In Chicago, waiting for my train (another story!), I called the law office of my fellow Alpha Theta Peter Shaeffer – and got right through the otherwise impenetrable wall of administrative assistants to talk to Pete.  Short notice, couldn’t make it that evening – but I’m through Chicago often enough that I know we’ll make connections.

 You do the same for some friends for whom it’s been too long.  We’ve reached an age that we’re no longer primarily occupied with raising kids and building careers -- we now finally have that wonderful gift of time.  Use it to reconnect with the guys who knew you when.

 Oh yeah, the rest of the ski trip … yada yada yada.  You’ve heard before all about the slopes, the snow, the restaurants, the fun and games -- and that’s all fine.  In the last analysis, though, the ski trip is really about the company, and the camaraderie.  Peter Emmel will shortly put his Picasa album of a kazillion pictures on our class website, and those will tell the ski trip story far better than I can.  Enjoy -- and make plans to join us.  Next year’s trip is Aspen, Colorado, March 3-10, 2012.  Aspen denizens John Blair and Jim Noyes will be helping organize things -- let’s make this the best yet, and the most well-attended.  And the most rookies.  And the most long-lost classmates.  And … you do take my point, yes?  Let’s make this happen!

Gerry

 

 

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Last updated: Thursday, February 05, 2015