The snow started to fall. Large white flakes swirled and danced in the air. It was the end of the day, the end of a great day at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Mom had hung out at the Judah Lodge enjoying the scenery and holding the extra gear while the boys and Dad spent the day snowboarding. Carving the mountain in soft fresh powder that had fallen the night before.
What a great way to start the year. And what a great way to end their winter break, Dad thought happily as he finished his last run. He’d had a great week with his boys but it was time to go. He knew he could beat out the flakes and make it down the mountain in no time. If they hurried it would be a quick drive down Old Highway Forty to their deluxe house rental in downtown Truckee. He was anxious to hit the hot tub. That, pizza delivery, a bottle of wine, and Apple T.V., and their last night would be a success. In the morning they’d pack, strip the beds, return the keys, and be back home in San Francisco in no time.
Dad walked up to Mom just as Jake did. “Come on, let’s get our gear together, I want to hit the road before there’s a traffic jam,” he stated unstrapping his boots. “Hey, where’s Henry?” He asked looking around.
“He came in a short time ago and asked to take one last run. You know he loves snowflakes in his face.” Mom said smiling and offering cups of hot chocolate to her family.
Dad cursed under his breath. “Damn, I want to beat out the traffic.” Retrieving his backpack from under the table Dad changed shoes, removed his helmet and looked at his wife. “I’m going to the car and get her warmed up. Henry better be here soon. Come on Jake.”
“Ah, I’d rather stay here and drink my,”. Jake didn’t finish his sentence as he saw the scowl on Dad’s face. He looked towards Mom but her face was looking away from them so he just shrugged and got his gear together accidentally spilling the rest of his drink.
“Don’t be so clumsy. Come on, let’s go. See you in the car. And hurry up.” Dad said walking off.
Looking over Mom saw another bunch of people leaving. She recognized them as the group who had parked next to them earlier this morning. It was convenient to arrive just as the slopes opened, since they had gotten close parking with a short
walk to the resort but now they would be in the back of the line. Dad wouldn’t be happy.
Just then Henry arrived covered with snow and a huge smile on his face. Mom told him to hurry.
“Can I have my hot chocolate please!” He said ripping off his wet gloves.
“In the car, Dad’s anxious to beat the traffic. Quick grab your stuff, let’s go.”
Henry sighed, Dad was always in a rush.
Together he and Mom raced outside braving the thick white flakes.
“Woah, almost a black out. Haha, I mean white out!” Henry said opening his mouth to catch the snow.
It certainly was beautiful Mom thought, also enjoying the snow hitting her face.
“Okay, good, buckle up. That hot tub is calling me.” Dad said pulling into the line of cars.
As he pulled into the score of traffic Mom noticed the people who had parked next to them, just a few vehicles ahead. She and Henry hadn’t delayed Dad much.
The wind whipped around their Suburban and the snow hit their windshield with force. The clear blue sky had vanished, only grey skies with heavy clouds were visible.
“I’m glad we had good weather this week. It only snowed in the night. This looks like white out conditions and it might last awhile.” Jake cried excitedly.
“You boys certainly improved your skills. And yes, we were lucky with the weather. Today was great powder.” Dad said as he inched the car forward.
Mom thought about her time. Skiing and snowboarding just weren’t her thing. Hot weather with warm ocean waves was her preferred vacation. But Dad liked the mountain and yes, after all it was cheaper. Besides, she met some nice people and she’d had time to finish her book. Anyway she thought, smiling, the boys are so athletic.
“I’m cold,” Henry said. “Where’s my hot chocolate?”
“No drinking in the car.” Dad said.
“Let’s turn up the heat at least,” Mom said.
“Yeah, and I want to watch a DVD. Where’s my iPad?” Henry asked cranking.
“Yeah,” Jake echoed, “where’s the iPad.”
Mom stared out the window. They were just crawling along. She wanted to get to the rental also. She just hoped no argument erupted before they made it back. Dad so was difficult when he had one specific idea.
“Look,” Mom said pointing, “remember the snowman family next to that tree. The one’s with the 49er beanies. They have almost disappeared. All I see are red tassels.”
“Wow, we are in a blizzard! Hurray!” Jake cried looking out his window.
“Where’s my IPad?” Henry again asked, too cold to be interested in the blizzard conditions.
“Son, when I was your age there was no such thing as internet, iPhones or iPads. Why, we thought paying for T.V. was a ridiculous idea.” Dad spouted. “Why...”
Dad’s repetitive conversation was interrupted by a knock on his window. The wind and white out had prevented them from even noticing the four wheeler rolling up.
Gusts of fridge air blew into the car as Dad rolled down his window.
A Sugar Bowl employee nodded hello. His face was covered by a ski mask and his hat covered by snow.
“Road conditions have gotten much worse. Everyone needs chains at this point if you don’t have four wheel drive and snow tires,” the man yelled.
Dad motioned his arms. “Yep, we are prepared. Four wheel drive and heavy duty tires. We often travel rough roads.”
Holding up his hand to block the wind he continued, “say, how are the road conditions to Truckee?”
“Slow going but okay, although Old Highway 40 has been shut down. Only way to Truckee is to the left via route 80. They are reopening the Judah Lodge if anyone wants to eat or sit by the blazing fire.” The employee nodded and moved onto the next car.
“What!” Dad hollered as he watched the man slowly drive forward braving the elements.
“Oh great, this will take forever! I knew we should have left earlier! Why did you take that last run, Henry?” Dad continued looking towards the back seat.
“Oh, stop it. It’s the weather. The people who left the lodge at the same time as you are stopped also. They are only a few vehicles ahead of us. I recognize their car.” Mom spoke fiercely.
“Mom, can we go to the lodge now?” Jake asked. “That sounds fun. I’m hungry!”
“No, son. Highway 80 is still open. I want to go in the hot tub.” Dad repeated.
“Please, Mom.” Henry echoed.
“Listen to Dad, he’s the one behind the wheel.” Mom answered without much conviction.
“Can I have my iPad?” Henry asked again.
“Say, let’s play a game. Twenty questions. I’m thinking of an animal that lives in the snow,” Mom said trying to avert another argument.
“That game is for babies,” the boys cried in unison.
“What about an audiobook? We have “Call of the Wild” on tape. That’s a novel by Jack London.” Mom suggested.
“Oh, yeah, my friend Barry told me they made just made it into a movie. He saw a preview for it when him and his family saw Star Wars last month. He says Harrison Ford stars.” Jake said, “let’s listen.”
“He and his family. Watch your grammar, and no we don’t want to drain the battery or waste the gas. Just bundle up and let’s play that twenty questions game Mom proposed.” Dad said
They obeyed but without enthusiasm. Nobody ever had exciting ideas. Cats and dogs and snakes and red foxes were so easy to figure out. Furry, small, four legs, pets. Or long, scary, smooth. But when Henry had them guess Shoebill, a large African bird Dad booed. Everyone had been stumped and Dad liked to win. Oh well, Henry thought.
The sky got darker and the car got colder. Jake had to pee and Mom was hungry, and Dad just wanted the traffic to get moving.
They sat in silence, each in their own world. Henry started drawing figures on his foggy window. Jake blew out his breath, so cold he could see it. Dad restlessly tapped on the steering wheel and Mom watched the snow fall.
“Hey, people are moving,” she motioned. “Look!”
“Great,” Dad said starting his engine again. “Hot tub here I come!” But to his surprise the cars were moving because they were pulling out of the line and parking.
Just then another four wheeler rolled up.
Reluctantly Dad cracked his window. The snow covered employee motioned. “All highways are now closed. Looks like it will be hours before 80 is reopened. A shuttle is coming by to take people to the Lodge. Nice and warm in there. If you have sleeping bags bring them.
“Great,” Jake shouted. “This will be fun! A sleepover at Sugar Bowl! Wait until my friends hear about this. They will be jealous!”
“Not so fast, son! I’m not giving up.” Dad stated forcefully.
“Well I am!” Mom said, “grab your backpacks and sleeping bags. I have the thermos and my wallet. Here comes the shuttle.”
Quickly they hopped out of the car. The wind whipped around them as they carefully climbed onto the shuttle, grateful for the ride. Dad watched them go.
This can’t be happening he thought, shaking his head. The parking lights were on now and using his windshield wipers to clean the windows he stared at the accumulation. Drifts were forming and even the parking spots were getting covered. What was he going to do?
More and more cars pulled out of line. More and more people hopped onto the slow moving shuttles. Soon Dad was the only one left on the road.
Well, he thought turning his engine on and shifting into low gear and moving into the last available parking spot, I guess the hot tub will have to wait.