Killington Mountain was the backdrop for a funny reunion last Friday.
Queensbury native Rob Lauricella, now a Vermont resident, texted that he was at Skyeship Gondola, exactly where we had planned to meet.
I decided to mess with him, though, texting back: “Okemo, right?”
Then another: “Be there in 5.”
And I waited.
Not very long, though.
Probably 30 seconds passed and the phone rang.
“Killington!” he said as his first word on speaker phone as fellow Queensbury friend Dan Stewart and I howled out loud, driving just minutes from the parking lot.
Apparently, he had tried to text first and it wouldn’t go through — hence the panicked call.
It was a perfect, funny start to a day that saw the three of us retelling old stories and laughing a lot as we traversed all six Killington peaks on cruisers and steeps, making both quick and wide turns. The sky was mostly blue and the wind also blew, but not obnoxiously so, and it actually created some neat little snow tornadoes Lauricella was recording on his phone.
We rode the new bubble chair, gondolas and high-speed chairs.
We had a great chat with a grizzled Killington ski school veteran who looked a little like a bearded Jack Nicholson and clearly relished the mountain in all seasons. On his way to a lesson after lunch, he oozed Killington with stories of summer mountain biking and winter turns and lessons.
Without much new natural snow, we were pretty impressed with the quality of the surface. Most turns were scratch-free and we enjoyed man-made powder turns in front of blowing guns on a couple of trails. We skied hard and got our legs burning.
For me, the day provided some neat reflection too, spurred by chatting with Lauricella. He essentially switched places with me in life a few years after we met. He left for a remote Vermont town and raised a family there. I left a remote Vermont town for a job and raised a family here.
It was interesting hearing him tell of his kids being bummed at times because of the remoteness of Saxtons River, and I could relate, growing up in Chittenden.
I reflected about Killington too and how 40-ish years ago a school bus hauled us Barstow Elementary students 15 miles to ski at noon every Friday in the winter, which spurred on a love for this sport that’s even stronger now.
I reflected about longtime friends like Rob, too. You know the ones; friends who you can go years without seeing and immediately step into a laugh-filled conversation like it had never stopped.
At lunchtime, I got reminded of his meticulous-planning nature too, evidenced by the tiny film canister-sized Tupperware container that held sliced pickles for his turkey sandwich (putting them on the sandwich ahead of time makes the bun soggy by the time you eat it, he informed me).
He reminded me of his need to plan out his meals to avoid getting “hangry” too, like when we just hit the sunny, soft side of the resort and he started dropping hints that his Tupperware-filled backpack was back at Bear Mountain.
“I’m glad you had that snack,” he said to me with a laugh on Monday of the Kind Bar I gave him to tide him over three days earlier.
He said he was talking to his wife after returning from skiing and was saying the same stuff I was thinking, that it’s neat to have friends who can pick right up like “we’d seen each other the day before.”
It’s also neat when these cool human reunions and reflections can include carving turns at a really impressive mountain that left our legs weary and spirits full.
Killington Communications Director Courtney DiFiore on Wednesday said if we were impressed Friday, it’s even better now.
Killington is now offering skiing on 101 of 155 trails — seven more than when we were there, and she said the snow was supposed to continue all day Wednesday.
DiFiore said she believes the selling point of Killington is its terrain for all abilities in several areas and its ability to handle large crowds.
“I’m always surprised how quickly I get on lifts and how many runs I can do, even on weekends,” she said. “We’re able to spread out with multiple lifts.”
Before hanging up with Lauricella on Monday after an interview full of laughs and more stories, I told him to send me some pictures he took and ones I took of him on his phone.
That was about 11:50 a.m.
You’ll love this.
He said he would send them, “but I’m going to eat lunch first,” accompanied by a thumbs-up sign.
I’m trying to get him back to his Queensbury homeland to ski the revamped West Mountain, reminisce, laugh and hear more stories — while making turns.