March Madness meets April Radness

Pop quiz, hotshot.

You’re buzzing on March Madness hype, but you’re tired of getting your hoops’ fix sitting on the musty, sunken couch in the corner of your basement, squinting at one of those tiny black-and-white TVs with a built-in clock radio.

At the same time, the majestic slopes of Mt. Hood are looking as white as they have all year, and on a clear day they seem to call to you like the Sirens in Homer’s “Odyssey.” You want to hit the slopes, but your wallet’s full of moths and dust, and the chances in your NCAA bracket hinge on tonight’s game. What do you do?

What do you do?

When the same question was posed to me last Thursday, the answer was unexpected, yet simple.

I went to Ski Bowl.

There is an inherent disappointment involved in driving up to Mt. Hood during a rainy spring day. Once you pass Sandy, you’re already in the foothills, yet the rain keeps falling. You stare intently at the windshield, waiting for that telltale sign, the moment when the raindrops stop falling as purely liquid water and start splattering against the glass like little balls of coconut Slurpee. But some days the rain keeps falling, and every mile you climb on Hwy. 26 (without the reassurance of sleety splatter) seems to tear another handful of hope from your heart.

The raindrops had only begun to get chunky as we pulled into the Ski Bowl parking lot. I was mired in doubt. I pulled on my boots in a downpour. But then, as I was buying a ticket, the next squall moved in and the rain was gone, replaced by nice fat flakes of wonderful snow.

Ski Bowl night lift tickets cost 20 bucks, but the two-for-one Ski Bowl coupon in my trusty $10 Gold-C coupon book cut the price in half. I recommend buying one of those coupon books next fall. Just look for a grade-schooler in front of your favorite grocery store.

The ensuing riding was wicked awesome. The rain had softened the snow pack, and the new snow falling laid a fresh frosting of goods across all the runs. We charged the hill, rode hard and had a sweet time.

But I felt I was forgetting something. What of March Madness, the Sweet Sixteen, Kentucky battling Wisconsin, Arizona taking on Notre Dame, Kansas and Duke butting heads and Marquette against Pittsburgh? Worry not – the games were not forgotten. They had simply taken a temporary back seat to sweetness. Sweetness that was, by nature, ephemeral. Case in point: An hour after we started, a heavy, sleety fog moved in and it was time to retreat to the bar and check up on how the Midwest and West region semifinals were going.

A little side note here: If there is one drawback to the basketball-and-boarding regimen at Ski Bowl, it is the cost of a glass of beer. Four bucks is steep, even at the resort with the most black diamonds in Oregon. And even if you are one of those folks who is adventurous enough to eat mountain food, you’ll have to pawn a kidney to afford a plate of chicken strips or some chili fries.

But the evening games were both worth the cost of a pint of Ice Axe or Dead Guy.

The Wildcats of Kentucky and Arizona had earlier won, and both were seemingly on track to a Final Four meeting (more on that later). We shot some 8-ball, watched the Kansas and Marquette games, and waited out the crappy weather. Minutes passed like seconds, the skies cleared over Ski Bowl and both games were tied at halftime. Now the question was, do we go back out and ride, or stay in and watch? We went out, because it isn’t every day one gets a chance to slide stealthily through thin air, or to fly without wings, and we figured we could catch the end of the games. After all, “Rock, Chalk” isn’t just the Kansas Jayhawk yell. Most of the winter it has felt like rock and chalk were all that was covering Hood’s slopes. But we buckled down, took a chance and went out, and the runs were better than ever, with hotshots hollering like crazed cowboys as they spun rodeos in the semi-darkness.

To sum it all up, both Kansas and Marquette won their night games Thursday with squeaker finishes, and both are in the Final Four after beating everybody’s favorites Arizona and Kentucky over the weekend. They’ll jump it up around 3 p.m. Saturday on CBS. And the weather report is calling for cold temperatures and lots of snow in the mountains for the rest of the week. I humbly suggest you try it out. A mixed-bag of March Madness and April Radness is sure to cure whatever ails you.

And hopefully you’ll have little balls of coconut Slurpee splattering against your windshield miles before you start to worry.