The phone starts ringing at 6 a.m., and for most of the the 32 years that Norm Sayler has been an owner of the Donner Ski Ranch in Donner Summit, Calif., the questions have been the same.
"Are you open?" the caller asks.
"If the caller's a skier, the next question will be, 'How cold is it?' " Sayler says. "Then, 'Are the trails groomed?...What's the color of the snow?...What are the road conditions like?' You can be on the phone 2½ hours with these people."
But in recent times some of the calls go like this:
"Hey, dude, you open?"
"Now that," Sayler says, "is a snowboarder."
Hey, dude, don't be afraid.
Snowboarders don't bite, although some skiers are afraid to get close enough to find out. Skiers have an endless supply of stories about the lunatic boarders who have cut them off, conveniently forgetting that people strapped into two skinny boards and waving poles have done the same thing from time to time. Give boarders some room. They are no more crude, crass or threatening than any group in which three quarters of the members are males under the age of 25. Some use words that make no sense to you, such as "fakie" (riding backward) and "halfpipe" (a trench used for freestyle tricks, so called because it looks like a wide, concave chute up to several hundred feet long with high vertical walls), but then you might use expressions that mean nothing to them, such as "leveraged buyout" and "the ground can't cause a fumble."