State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Damian

Conversation on the lift #3055. Participating: yours truly and a lovely lady in her prime. It starts after we’ve already exchanged the views on trails, weather and disappointing snow conditions.

So, where are you from? she asks. Where do you think I am from? I do get this question a lot and I have a list of rotating answers. She gets to play name this country game - mostly because I am a bit bored. And a bit evil.

Oh, I am not good with accents. Apparently, neither am I or we would not have this conversation. Why don’t you ask me a few questions, you’ll figure it out soon enough. I smile saying that and now she can’t refuse. Natives are so predictable.

Europe? I can tell it’s going to be good. Yes. Germany? Which, as everybody knows, is the Europe’s default country. No. Am I getting close? Yes, you are. Very close. The country I am from actually borders Germany. Am I giving up too much? We’ll see. Switzerland? No. Austria? We are skiing after all. So staying in the Alps seems understandable. No. France? No. OK, I give up. I don’t really know any other European countries. Those who now start to suspect that Americans are ignorant should know that this is below average. Most people here are perfectly capable of naming more than 4 European countries. Great Britain, Spain and Italy have a good chance to end up on the short list.

Wow, really? Yugoslavia? That’s new. It does not exist any more. You know that, right? Should I add that when it did exist, Germany was not among its neighbors? Oh, I am old. Are you Scandinavian? I am assuming here she knows Scandinavia is actually not a country either. No. But I can give you some clues. I am from Gdansk. ? You know - the Solidarity. 1989. The fall of communism. If I was in more charitable mood I would have mentioned Lech Wałęsa. That usually does the trick. Chopin and Marie Curie are way more sinister clues. ??? There are almost 40 million people in my country Really? Now she is surprised. I don’t think she realized until now there are that many people in the entire Europe.

It’s an EU member. The 6th biggest EU member to be exact. EU? I start to wonder if we even live on the same planet. And until recently one of the best allies of the United States. We went to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Although why I haven’t got a slightest idea. Oh - I should know that. My husband is a Marine. She seems genuinely distressed now. For some reason women who pull out their husbands out of ski helmets bring the worst in me.

Great. Ask him. Oh, come on - tell me. I am not telling. Look it up. Am I making a leap of faith here? They do have Internet in California, right? Or libraries?

OK then. Just tell me where you live in the States. Boston, mostly. No more games for today. I don’t want to push my luck. Boston! I went to high school there. Really, that’s surprising? Why? I always thought they had decent high schools in Boston. And I time this perfectly to be able to slide off the chair and just ski away avoiding an offended look.

I choose a steep slope full of icy moguls to punish myself properly. Life is good.


According to their website skiing and snowboarding at Heavenly presents you with a number of different choices. At the moment this number is limited to bare rocks and man made snow, falling a tad short of Experience of a Lifetime trademarked by Vail Resorts that owns Heavenly since 2002. No amount of grooming and reverse tiling can hide wind-polished sheets of ice covering ski runs. Americans are never beginners at anything. They put themselves in an intermediate group 5 seconds after stepping into their ski bindings for the first time. But even those who clearly would be lost should nature blessed us with white powder over carefully prepared corduroy are not above complaining about the quality and quantity of snow.


We take a turn and here it is. A dam. Not particularly huge, not a very handsome one, but a dam nonetheless. Complete with a power station and a reservoir. Also, amazingly out of place. There is, or there was, quite a picturesque valley with several waterfalls around it. The dam actually makes for a great viewpoint. If you venture on the other side you can even hike through the wet tunnel and reach thoughtfully placed bridges under Wapama waterfalls. Very impressive even now, they must have been quite a sight before a raising lake level met them.