For most in Telluride, getting on the mountain is the priority throughout the winter.  Yet, everyone has a few obstacles—work schedules, kids, or work schedules and kids. So, sometimes just getting to the lift is the result of a perfectly executed strategy.

In my house, we have three go-to strategies: the switch, the free agent and the sacrificial fly.

The Switch: Although pretty basic in theory, the switch’s complexity lies in the execution. The move is agreed upon between two caregivers, usually a husband and wife, although it can be used between a mom and skiing grandmother, or two moms. The basic tenet is you ski first and I hang with the kids, then we switch.

For the move to work, timing is essential. For this reason, it works best (in general) between spouses when the female takes the first shift. Give a man a tool shed or garage, he’ll happily piddle around all day — the same goes for a kitchen stocked with bacon and pancake batter on a weekend morning. If the first person gets out early, both partners get their fill; a late start can be the ruin of a good switch.

The Free Agent: The free agent is based on the philosophy: take what you can get, when you can get it. This means whenever there is a window to ski, you’re in the be-ready position and out the door. This usually involves attending meetings, conferences and your child’s drop offs and pick ups in your ski clothes, in hopes a window will present itself. When it does, there’s no time to meet friends, you just go up as a free agent.

These are the days you realize how local the mountain really is. You run into different folks sharing a run or two – a Gold Hill with the preschool director who helped you out the summer before; a North Chute with your favorite bartender (the iconic snowboarding dad), and a Mak’m with the town’s, local, hockey phenom. These folks aren’t in your regular repertoire of ski partners, but you’re glad they were that day. And, the next time you drop off your kid, order a drink, or go head to head on the ice, there is a knowing smile behind the acknowledging nod.

The Sacrificial Fly: The last move, the sacrificial fly, is the most selfless and usually happens out of love or obligation. This is when you look at the day and realize the switch won’t work and there are simply too many moving parts for everyone to get what they want. The writing is on the wall; it’s only feasible for one person to ski. This is when someone has to say, “You go today.” Although difficult, it is a liberating move, and one that will not be forgotten and is expected to be repaid.

And then of course, there are the beautiful, sunny, days when the whole family skis together. You explore the Enchanted Forest and ride the Poma lift above Ute Park. Pushing further, you hope to get over to Gold Hill and down See Forever – often carrying a melting child down the last half and knowing all your friends have done the same.

No matter how you do it, the goal is the same—to get on the Mountain. And, it’s not only about the skiing, it’s about being a part of the Mountain’s magical, micro-community that begins and ends with the season’s snow.

Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure.

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