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Andy Dappen | Mission migrations: Last day of season has skiers looking ahead to next year

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Submitted by Andy Dappen The author searches in vain for a pink flamingo at Mission Ridge on April 13.

Swpring and pink flamingos were in the air. Actually, the pink flamingos were on the ground. Some were the plastic type occupying the front yards of people with a sense of cheese or a sense of humor; others were human types with feathered costumes imitating the long-legged birds.

The occasion was Flamingo Days, the last day of the season at the Mission Ridge ski area, April 13. Pink flamingos (the plastic type) hidden around the mountain had value, and skiers who found these treasures could cash them in to collect a prize. Prizes for returned flamingos ranged from candy bars to clothes to a pass for the 2014-15 ski season. Not a bad bargain for bagging a bird.

The connection between birds and booty is a tenuous one that, perhaps, only downhill skiers and snowboarders ‘get.’ That dusty connection may have something to do with brain similarity between birds and skiers. Or it may have something to do with the seasonality of skiing leaving just as the pink flamingos are arriving. Or, perhaps, it has something to do with the flaming hue that skiers take on when, in the presence of spring sunshine, they shed shirts and expose snow-colored skin to strong solar radiation.

Regardless of the event’s history or rationale, skiers (particularly local ones) did show up to say goodbye to this year’s ski season. It was a bizarre season with yo-yoing weather that brought no snow in December and January, then record snowfalls in February (79 inches), then roller coaster temperatures throughout March.

Some 1,214 skiers arrived to celebrate season’s end. and by noon about 1,200 of them were packed in the gymnasium-sized front yard of the mid-station lodge. A band played nostalgic rock music — thankfully at a volume facilitating rather than foiling conversation — while the gaggle of skiers squawked amongst themselves and pecked their bills into pitchers of amber-colored elixir.

By the time the last day of the season was wrapping up, all the human flamingos had strutted their costumed stuff and were moving their tired carcasses down to the parking lot at the base of the mountain. The day had been glorious with views from Mount Hood to Canada. The skiing had been fabulous with soft corn snow to chase as the spring sun warmed the winter snowpack. And the skiers had been festive, with good cheer flowing like spring runoff.

All of which left a few skiers with an acute case of melancholy. “I shouldn’t have come,” said Matt Dahlgreen, whose smile at midday had been supplanted by tear-streaked cheeks. “If I hadn’t been here, the season would have just faded away without me noticing it. This just reinforced what I’ll be missing,”

“Hey, Matt,” yelled a nearby skier who recognized the weepy Dahlgreen. “Days like this get you excited about next year, don’t they?”

The comment altered Dahlgreen’s despondency. Unlike this winter, he didn’t plan to be working next winter. “Next year I could be up here five times a week rather than five times a season.”

Dahlgreen had found his pink flamingo. Suddenly he was smiling again.

Pass details: Those who expect they’ll be skiing enough next winter to spring for a season’s pass (seven days is the break-even) should consider purchasing their pass in April — adult passes jump from $375 to $425 on May 1. Families should also be sure to weigh the savings of a family pass — families with two or more children will see savings compared to purchasing individual passes.