One Final Melt

One Final Melt

Kenneth Burchfiel

There had been one season, a while back, that the locals couldn’t get out of their heads. Just as the snow began to melt in April, a parade of storms marched over Black Pine, producing foot after foot of powder. Temperatures crashed into the single digits, but nobody cared; they still went out on the slopes, frosty smiles and all. That year, the schools closed before the mountain did.

Back then, global warming made as much sense as cold hot chocolate. There was too much snow, too much cold, too much money flowing into the resort for anyone to listen to the theory.

Two decades later, all of that seemed only a dream, a fleeting vision crammed between ever-present realities.

Aaron stole glance at the mountain. The concrete bases of the chairlift poles poked through the snow, forming a giant series of steps. The ice on Margusity lake, once invincible at this time of year, had cracks running through it. Above him, a light mist began to fall, blurring out top of the mountain.

Aaron stared at the slender curve of the lone black diamond run. It looked formidable in the winter; now, it was little more than a hiking trail. The remaining patches of snow glittered in the fog, green-tinted from blades of grass that pierced their centers.

Shaking his head, Aaron walked back over to the van. A few more suitcases to pack in, and he would be on the road..

Maybe it was foolish of him to draw out his departure. He did this ritual every year; there was nothing new about this trip back. Within months, the Arctic air would return, drawing the seasonal workers back, and Black Pine Resort would be in gear.

Locking up the place for the summer didn’t bother him. When he shut down did. Even in the rain, Aaron felt a humid warmth that Mother Nature usually reserved for the summer months. Last year, on this same date, there had been snow on the ground, guests carving elegant lines in the slopes, money accumulating in his bank account with each passing storm. Never in the past had he closed before May. Aaron wanted to pass it off as fluke. Did that mean that last year was a fluke, too? And the year before that?

Cash-stuffed resorts to the north could shrug off the changes. They had snowmakers and treatment plants; as it were, he could barely afford a grooming machine. Nearby mountains offered golfing and mountain biking, things alien to him. He didn’t know how to make money out of fairways and bike paths, only out of snow.

All the while, those legendary seasons, those blizzard-ridden years had melted into memories.

Aaron finished packing up his van and slammed the trunk. He made this trip back every spring. Nothing new about that, nothing abnormal, nothing strange.

He only hoped that there would be reason to come back in the fall.


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