Snow Sunday: Singles Line

Snow Sunday: Singles Line

Remember back in the day when there was no singles line in Telluride? Instead of being automatically funneled into the lift line and efficiently matched up with an incomplete chair load, you stood in line awkwardly, looked around, then yelled, “Single?.”


If there was a single, they’d yell back, “Single,” and then you’d have to look around the lift line from the general direction of the voice. Then you’d yell, “Single” again, like a weird game of Marco Polo. Finally, you’d find the owner of the voice, awkwardly shuffle through the lift line to meet the other “single” with whom you’d share the next ten-minutes with while riding the lift.

It was inherently awkward and inefficient, but it forced a sort of weird, organic interaction. I’m sure as I’m writing this someone is inventing a Tinder App as a new alternative to the current singles line—swipe right to fill the empty seat, left to wait for a different match. If this App actually exists, I may never get another seat on an empty chair again.

And, to be honest, I don’t often use the singles line. I’m usually skiing with friends, family, or kids and there’s really not that many lift lines in Telluride. Sometimes, I just intentionally go up by myself. Other times, when riding with strangers, after the polite nod and random shuffling to put the bar down, I simply turn my music up.

But this year, on the frantic powder days of the epic December and January storms, I found myself in the singles line funneling onto different lifts with random groups of people. There were plenty of times, when I didn’t say a word. But, on powder days, everyone seems to have something to say. And, in Telluride, chances are you know the person you are riding with to some degree.


One weekend, I rode with the same person on Friday then again Sunday. In just two days, he became a new friend. I got to follow up with everything he told me about Friday. His wife had made it to Grand Junction fine, although was pissed she had to because it was snowing. He won his hockey game and had skied more days by January this year than he had all last year.

Another time, I went up with a young man from Boston. Turns out we went to the same college – ten years apart. His friends were riding the chair ahead of us. They could only fit two on the three-person chair because one was in a sit ski—double amputee. The three met at Harvard Business School and realized they had something else in common – they had all served in Afghanistan. That’s how his friend lost his legs. And, he was skiing Stairs on a powder day in Telluride. The young man said he had served out of a combination of idealism and naivete. I met his two friends at the top, shook their hands, and asked if they’d be interested in speaking to my history class.

This winter I also rode with parents who I saw twice a week at gymnastics or soccer pick-up, but never had actually spoken to. I learned where they went to college, how they met, why they became lawyers and moved to Telluride.

The more I used the singles line, the more I saw how the chair was the perfect opportunity to listen, to learn about those I rode with. And, it was easy; there was no commitment. It was just a fling, not as serious as in that you had to survive an entire date, but more like “just lunch” in that you only had to survive 12 minutes. If it wasn’t going well, you had a guaranteed exit strategy.

A friend, and former professional surfer who was visiting this winter from Costa Rica only skied Lift 9 because of the conversations. Granted she’s a gorgeous Argentine with warm eyes and the Buddhist attitude of a true surf bum. She didn’t like Gold Hill because the lift was too short, but swore that Lift 9 was perfect. “I love Chair 9,” she said. “I’m willing to listen, and people will open up. I go deep.” 

She told of a guy who spilled his heart to her and admitted he was no longer in love with his wife. She chimed in with her own perspective in her very heavy Argentine accent, “I feel it’s beautiful to love, but marriage boxes love in.”  

I chuckled imagining the scene on that chair and the breath of fresh air that man must of felt as he got off. He had probably never thought of marriage that way, just as I had never thought to serve my country.

But now, I haven’t stopped thinking about those who do because of that one 12-minute chance encounter on Lift 9.


1 Comment
  • admin
    Posted at 20:03h, 19 March

    Jesse, Great story. I hope we get the chance to ride a chair together- I love what you have to say.