Heel Toeing into lift line with one hand on a toe-piece and the other grasping poles, bodies bend, the RFID beeps, and the turnstile turns. It’s spring and our group of four skiers jump into one of the last gondola cars on this partly cloudy, Teton afternoon. The time is 3:56PM and once skis slam into racks and poles pinball through the interior of the gondi car, we immediately—Kssssh-pop Rainier tallboys open and foam drips onto the metal floor. Laughing and slamming beers together, the Bridger Gondola sweeps us up 3k vertical in 10 minutes.
By the end of it, hands are filled with crushed cans as the Gondi pulls into the top station. Zippers zip in a mellow staccato and although someone appears to have vomited in our gondi, this small red box seems more luxurious than an Italian sports car. The culprits of said vomit, probably the UC Santa Cruz ski club, are too drunk to be aware of this ritual. Instead, their coeds are lining up Fireball shots at the bar and their guys are hooting and hollering over iPhone videos on Instagram, which showcase their buddies skiing in boxers and busting ass on the Daily Drop. Stoke is High.
Landing at the top Gondola deck, we materialize out of the car and waddle out into a cloud-spotted paradise. I realize it has been a while since I flew in the “Last Flock” and now seems as good a time as ever to rejoin the boys for the final flight of the day.
Standing at the top deck for ten minutes, clicked into skis and leaning over poles, familiar smiles emerge from gondola boxes. Bill Bowen and Wade McCoy know what’s up and their worn faces join us on the deck. Laughs are sporadic and common, the result of off-color comments on the “Silver Fox” tram driver and stories of the hard drinking, hard drugging 80’s before the gondola was erected in ’97. It’s all good—good to hear.
However, action is mandated by the ski patrol’s call to arms, “head on down folks” and they interrupt the idyllic scene. But like every good party, it was bound to end.
One after the other, the Flock poles off the slushy deck and one by one, launches off the natural hip created by the last Gondola lift tower. Someone I don’t know throws a daffy and I realize it’s time—Time to fly.