By Matt Tarka
http://powdermag.com/features/onlineexc ... commuters/
THE COMMUTERS: Living in a world of limbo
By Matt Tarka
To many, the word ‘commuter’ evokes visions of the working masses struggling through gridlock traffic to and from their displaced dream homes. To others, ‘commuter’ may take on the meaning of the college student who lives at home with the parents and shuttles to and from campus as needed. In The Mountains, Commuter is coming to mean those who work in The City and escape back to their refuge in The Mountains at any opportunity.
These Commuters occupy a gray area and find themselves in a world of limbo. They aren’t locals. Still, they may know the mountain and powder stashes as well or better than many locals. With many boasting a respectable 50 plus ski days per season, Commuters don’t fit the tourist category even though they show up mainly on weekends. The Commuter is prone to know the projected storm totals and detailed forecasts for The Mountains while being largely indifferent or oblivious to the weather in The City. When posed with seemingly easy questions such as “Where do you live?”, they often pause, look up at the ceiling, and scratch their heads because they don’t really know how to answer. If it’s a matter of legal residence that the question seeks to discover, the answer is The City. If it’s a matter of “home is where the heart is”, the answer is undoubtedly, The Mountains.
Fueled by a huge stoke factor, they follow through on overwhelming desire to spend time in The Mountains while they often curse themselves for not being there full-time. This type of dedication requires accepting long drives, knowing each good coffee shop along the path, cursing the rising gas prices, and dreaming of how the snow will be when it’s finally time to ski. On the personal side, the Commuter often is stretching the bounds of tolerance in relationships, withholding promises to friends and family, or downright passing on any social or romantic life back in The City. They may even have more friends in The Mountains than they do in The City. For years, The Commuter will remember the days of bottomless powder or sticking a line at the cost of increasing the tally of missed family functions, breaking up with their significant other, or skipping another Super Bowl party because, yet again, a dump required their presence.
Perhaps no one typifies The Commuter better than Snow Nymph, a familiar face in the Eastern Sierra. She recently ended a streak of being gone 86 consecutive weekends from her city domicile in pursuit of mountain adventures, mainly peak bagging and playing in the snow. During her streak, Snow Nymph accumulated approximately one entire month behind the wheel on her butt navigating her trusty 4Runner through the night to another powder day or burly trailhead. Small in stature but huge in stoke and dedication, Snow Nymph always has a smile and camera near at hand to post pictures on her well-known web site and otherwise spread her love of The Mountains. As the staff of Powder magazine may testify, a person doesn’t need to be based in the high country to live for and spread the stoke of skiing, snow, or The Mountains. When back in the office on Mondays, coworkers quickly go from asking the Commuters “What did you do this weekend?” to “How was it?” to not even bothering. Even without the telltale signs of raccoon eyes, creaking knees, legs that avoid every stairwell possible, and a permanent grin of fulfillment, there is no question that the Commuter did not go to The Mountains. Coworkers stop asking how the latest adventure went because the responses, filled with terms such as cold smoke, coulies, corn snow, hucks, or wind-buffed, are totally alien. The blank stares and polite nods are testament to how different those two worlds really are. Back in The City, no one really understands what would possess someone to spend every possible spare moment in The Mountains. It’s easy for the Commuter to feel a sense of detachment and longing for the next time they head to The Mountains. Back in The Mountains, they will be in the place where their friends understand what they say and why they choose to spend scant time in The City.
When the Commuter hears the sound of their boots clicking into the bindings, they are back in their realm. When they accelerate down the fall line, their world collapses to that familiar and welcomed point that skiers know but often are at a loss to describe. They know it. They feel it. It’s the overwhelming sensation that keeps bringing them back and makes everything in They City vanish, at least for the moment.