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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stateside skiing - good manners over good food

We’ve just had 9 inches of snow fall overnight in New York City and this morning city commuters were joined by hardened Alpine athletes heading out for Central Park with their cross-country skis. 

The current batch of winter storms nationwide has meant that apparently there is now snow on the ground in all 50 states except for Florida (even in Hawaii, snow has fallen on a volcano).  So it should have come as "snow" wonder (forgive me) when I discovered there are actually ski areas in 37 states – forget Utah and Colorado, I want to try skiing in Alabama and Tennessee.

On our arrival on this planet, we were much overjoyed to discover that many of its inhabitants also seemed to pay homage to the Snow King and that we would even be able to fall at his feet (many times) at a special meeting ground less than 3 hours from our dwelling place. 

It was with great joy and warmth in our hearts therefore that we set off our first year in the (rented) alien mobile for a weekend ski trip upstate New York; we quickly discovered how essential was that warmth in our hearts as every other molecule of heat was sucked from our bodies by the biting winds and temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius that make up just another day when skiing on the East Coast. Now you know why I may want to ski in Alabama and Tennessee.

Never mind, we thought. The bitter cold would only justify the leisurely, long lunch that we are so fond of in Europe and which generally seems to dictate our choice of runs around midday as we aim for our favourite mountainside hut. Forget quaint mountainside huts. Think shopping-mall food hall. Forget tartiflette, raclette and fondue. Think sticky bean chili, mass-produced chips and gloopy Boston Chowder. And no wine. Only whining from the multitude of mini Snow King followers whose hands have frozen. And from me, because there's no wine.

Since then we have skied both East and West, from quaint Vermont to the dizzy heights of Vail (and I mean literally "dizzy" as with Vail resort lying 2.4 kms above sea-level, the altitude sickness means even I don’t want wine).

The food is not like Europe (but then we’re not in Europe), we’ve discovered more polar protection gear for more parts of the body than I knew existed (gear not bodily parts) and the concept of a long lunch is as foreign as the idea of a one-piece ski-suit. But given the prices you pay here for ski passes, who wants to waste time not on the slopes – and who wants to spend two hours over gloopy Boston Chowder.

But then there is the other, more civilized side of Stateside skiing which puts us older civilizations to shame. Free tissues at every ski lift and in every lodge for those ever-present runny noses; quiz questions written on boards at the bottom of ski lifts with the answers displayed at the end of your journey; lift operators who ask how your day is going – and really mean it.  And the ski queuing system.

Now I know that Americans are sometimes seen as being, shall we say it, pushy. Anyone who might hold this belief only needs to compare ski queues in Vail and Verbier. In Verbier (as we found recently), it’s the old “shoulders first” mentality, with no hostages taken and no allowances if that lump blocking your ski tips from advancing the necessary 5mm just happens to be a falling four-year old! 

In Vail, thanks to the marvellous "multiple-lines-on-each-side-of-the-lifts-filtering-in-alternately" system, the only falling is people falling over each other to be polite -  "No, it was your turn", "Are you sure?" "Absolutely", "Thank you so much",  "Have a nice day". 

So there you have it - skiing US-style: impossible cold, imperfect food, impeccable manners.
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