Mapping Out A Plan…

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Hello skiers and riders of the South East. I hope you all are safe, sane, and surviving this pandemic. I am looking forward to putting this whole situation in the rear-view mirror and getting back on the slopes, even though summer is knocking on the door first.

My intent for writing this is to highlight an artistic aspect of being a snow sports enthusiast, and perhaps inspire others to take action or at least plan ahead for when things return to normal. A personal favorite of the ski culture are the free samples of design that you can grab anytime before or after you allow gravity to pull you down a snow-covered path to the next available seat on a machine heading in the opposite direction and back uphill. I am talking about trail maps.

Even though we live in a digital world full of apps where a picture worth a thousand words is at your fingertips, we still have a bit of the past readily available in paper form. When you purchase your lift ticket for the day, or even if you casually walk by the ticket window with a season pass in hand, you are but an arm’s length away from grabbing a piece of that resort and carrying it around in your coat pocket.

I have found many uses for these colorful visuals beyond the “Where am I” and the “How do I get to that lift” moments. Before I dig deeper into the alternative uses, I want to give kudos to Beech Mountain Resort for installing their trail maps on a few of the safety bars to the #5 lift. I know that a few resorts out west do the same, but it is neat to see that here in our region too. Please note that seeing one of these requires the passengers to ride the lift bar down style.

Now, what to do with a trail map once you completed your turns and have returned home? One of the obvious answers might be to discard them in the trash, but that is not what trail maps are made for. They need to be easily accessible and/or proudly put on display. In my younger years I would pin them to the wall and start a collection of the places I have been to, and on a rare occasion a place I have yet to ski but have stumbled upon their masterpiece anyways. Eventually the collection grew and I ran out of wall space which forced me to rotate them from one season to the next. When I finally met my better half I was influenced to select a few that were worthy of being framed, and I am very thankful for that moment. The office at my work has been converted to a ski lodge of sorts, where customers and vendors instantly know that “I am a skier” without saying a word. You can do the same, and all that is required is a hammer, nails, and a few free prints. As the years go by it gets more amazing to see how the resorts have changed their appearances and capacities.

So what other uses are there for trail maps beyond hanging them? Well, I personally like to take a few trail maps and place them in the freezer at the beginning of the ski season as a way to summon the Norse Snow God Ullr to bless the slopes with ample amounts of fluffy white pow-pow. It works best to select trail maps for the places you intend on visiting in the upcoming season, but you might as well throw in a few of the neighboring resorts too for good measure. Ullr will oblige (hopefully) and bury the entire region.

Some might consider that to be of crazy talk, but you know better that anyone that any snow is good snow, and no snow is a no go, so go with anything that possibly can bring on the snow.

Let’s say you were wise enough to grab a handful of trail maps and you have extras to spare once the season has begun. For a lot of us, there are a few holidays at the end of the calendar year that have a tradition of exchanging gifts, and my argument is why would you need to buy patterned paper to wrap said gifts when you can add a personal touch with something that is already free and a representation of your passion? Add those savings back to your wallet. Also, the response I get from someone who has never received a trail map wrapped gift ranges from “Wow this is cool” to “Oh that is awesome” and so on. Be warned that once they have received a beautifully wrapped gift that way they will expect any and all future gifts to have the same style. I for one am happy to oblige.

For many years I thought that covered the bases for creative uses for a trail map, but I have recently been turned onto another one, the paper airplane. How did I not consider this before is beyond me, but I am impressed by how efficient some of these things can fly! Recent experience has taught me that larger trail maps have more material which adds mass to the fuselage and wings and that extra abundance aides in longer and straighter flights. I have only made three of these so far, and the current top gun goes to Winterplace.

This whole paper airplane idea was sprung by new acquaintances at a new business that happened to open their doors at one of the worst times possible, the start of the COVID-19 crisis. However, things are taking off and no major turbulence is showing up on their flight pattern. I highly suggest that anyone living in or near Charlotte should check out the Paper Plane Deli and Market located in the Belmont neighborhood near the Plaza Midwood and NoDa areas of town. They share a parking lot with the Catawba Brewery and other local businesses. On top of the unique items and delicious meals they sell, they have a quirky sense of style, and right now they are inviting customers to help them decorate their interior with paper airplanes. Simply make your bird(s) at home and bring them in. They gladly accepted mine and have hung them amongst the creativities of others. See if you can find Beech Mountain, Cataloochee, and Winterplace in their ever-growing fleet.

And this brings me to my final point. In a world where uncertainty, fear, and frustration can move in suddenly like a cold low-pressure system with a goal to cloud out the joy, we can focus our attention and efforts on happier things such as the beauty of art. Someone out there could be a very artistic reader that will be the next great trail map designer, or perhaps you are one to enjoy fun crafts such as origami, or maybe you simply just want to hang up a memory of a favorite destination. Give it a go while we all have this extra free time and see if you can bring more color into a darkened setting. Let’s bring that high-pressure system of warmth, vibrancy, and positivity back.

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