Mel Blumenthal

As the clock approached the stroke of midnight on Friday the 13th, I was boxed in and finally forced to make a decision whether or not to push the button on a cheap season ski pass — or, to put it more politely, at a less outrageous cost than the price that would become effective just a few moments later.

In preparation for this momentous decision, I’d devoted a good deal of time earlier in the day reviewing the ramblings of many of the usual suspects and actually canvassing several local and not-so-local friends as to what their plans looked like for the upcoming winter ski season.

Opinions ranged all over the map, but most suggested it was probably best to push the button now and get the cheaper ski pass and keep my fingers crossed that SkiCo would show their usual compassion if things really went further south.

My thoughts underlying this decision centered on the realization that I’m at an age where I don’t decide to ski until I awaken in the morning and take a view of the mountain to determine how blue the sky is, the depth of powder and the grooming status.

Over the years, I’ve learned that lots of other people use similar guidelines in making their ski-day decisions, and thus the mountains tend to attract lots of people when the conditions meet these standards. And with all the COVID-19 restrictions in place, that doesn’t augur well for those of us with a patience deficit disorder who abhor long lines at the lifts and gondolas.

Also, with Gwyn’s High Alpine (my favorite lunch spot is no more) having been unceremoniously dispossessed by SkiCo — and since I’m not a big fan of their monopolistic control of on-mountain food service or their institutional vision of food preparation and pricing — along with all the new distancing and capacity protocols, another few strikes against the joy of skiing takes center stage.

With all this bumping around in my head, the clock just kept ticking away and I didn’t push the “buy” button.

In the days following, I began to second guess whether I’d made a costly mistake. The answer is perhaps yes but maybe no.

All the local news and social media are full of stories of soaring COVID-19 case levels in the ­valley and of increased state and county social and recreation restrictions, limitations on public transportation and reduced curfews that are taking effect this week.

Even the normally optimistic SkiCo President and CEO Mike Kaplan has turned more pessimistic. As reported in the local press and in SkiCo announcements, Kaplan has stated “we’re on the wrong path” and “…we’ve got to do more … if we’re going to save Christmas [and] if we’re going to get open and stay open.”

He continued.

“COVID is spreading like wildfire across our community” and “it’s putting what we all worked so hard to accomplish — a safe and long-standing ski season — in jeopardy.”

In his remarks, Kaplan was noting the obvious: the increasing spread of infection is occurring during the offseason and, by implication, he’s putting the blame on the local residents. That leads me to believe that once we part-time residents as well as the tourists show up, things will likely go from bad to a lot worse.

With all of this bouncing around in my head and having already passed up the lowest-priced ski pass offering, as well as anticipating generally joyless conditions on and off mountain, my next action item is to cancel our holiday airline tickets that we booked in early summer. A rebooking for February, March and April is the new plan, hoping those months will bring a healthier and safer environment for the balance of the ski season.

In pulling the plug, I do so not just selfishly for my health and safety and that of my family, but also for the health and safety of all those who live and work in the valley. I realize if part-timers — as well as the tourists — don’t show up for the holidays in the numbers they usually do, the impact on the local economy will be significant, but the health and safety of everyone is and should be of primary importance.

At the end of the day, with vaccines projected to become widely available in the not-too-distant future as well as more therapeutics on the way, life in the mountains could soon return to something closer to normal than what’s currently in the cards, and that’s hopefully well before the lifts and gondolas stop running.

And if all the stars align correctly, perhaps even SkiCo will look to its heart rather than its head and offer pass and ticket discounts at least as generous as those offered prior to the stroke of midnight on Friday the 13th.

Your comments are welcome at justmel1@­earthlink.net and Twitter @MelDBlumenthal