Chairlift Speed Dating: A Must-Do Adventure
Groggy from sleeping in my car to fuel up for first chair, I weaved through the parking lot. Nerves danced in my stomach as the reality that I didn’t have a close friend with me for moral support settled in. I usually love a good solo day, but today I wished my friend hadn’t bailed last minute. I wondered what type of people would show up for speed dating. Would I meet someone interesting? Would everyone be desperately seeking relationships? Would it be awkward?
I hopped in line to register. Still feeling mildly ashamed that “it had come to this,” I focused on breathing so I could feel like myself. A tall, wobbly, 20-something bro bouncing toward the line caught my eye as he asked, “Is this the line to meet hot girls?” I nodded. A giggle quelled my low-level panic. I figured everyone probably felt the same way I did.
The last two years of my seven single ones, I’ve been dealing with men on the internet who have tried to FaceTime as a first date, used European hockey players’ selfies, and rescheduled dates multiple times because “they were still moving apartments.” Last winter I joked with my friends that I had a brilliant idea I called “sk-eed dating” where people would speed date on a chairlift. As it turned out LuvByrd, a dating app for outdoor enthusiasts, had the same brilliant chairlift speed dating idea and actually put it into action. So, I headed to Loveland Ski Area with 200 other singles to see if the reality matched the dream. In short: it did.
At the front of the registration line, I was handed a pink ribbon and told to come back at 10AM to get matched. Pink meant I was age 18-35. Is that a wide range? Sure. Would I rather be in an 18-24 range and risk spending my day with teenagers? I mean, the cougar thing could be fun for a day…but I was here for the long haul.
My warm up entailed skidding down icy slopes, through falling snow and flat light. My confidence ended up dipping, the opposite result I had hoped for. Nonetheless, I arrived back at the tent promptly at 10:03 to meet my first match.
Roughly 60 people uncertainly stood in a mass looking around for directions. An event worker was pointing at people and handing out raffle tickets - a tactic I appreciated. For every date we went on, we got another raffle ticket, which reduced my fear of needing to reject someone. I was just moving on to increase my odds of winning new skis later, duh. The girl next to me was paired off. I was next.
My first date was with a tall, former professional tuba player turned middle school music teacher. He’s of the hardcore outdoor variety - the kind that does skimo racing and ski flying. You know ski flying, right? That casual sport where people run up mountains so they can jump off cliffs while wearing parachutes and skis? Yeah, he was that level of hardcore.
His lower face looked cute. But, it’s hard not to be intimidated by the 180 days he logged last ski season. We did two laps together, I rolled down the hill during one, and we went our separate ways.
My second and third dates I call Music Guy and Whisky Guy because the first was playing hip hop out of his pocket and the second immediately started raving about his favorite drink. Music guy was kind of cute, but we weren’t vibing. Whisky guy – well, I don’t drink anymore, so that was a one-lapper. We fist-bumped at the base, and I met my fourth date: Orange Jacket.
By this point, I’d ruled out three people in under an hour and a half. The New Englander in me was absolutely loving the efficiency of speed dating.
With Orange Jacket, something was different. This guy was an actual season pass holder, not a Loveland first-timer, for one. He suggested we hit a less-crowded lift off the beaten path.
I found myself drawn in by the conversation and wondering what he looked like while he told me that he attended art school to study design. We also shared an aversion for moguls. He asked if I wanted to go do his favorite groomed run on the other side of the mountain called “Awesome.” My heart wasn’t necessarily skipping beats, but hey he was intriguing. So I geared up for adventure.
The trek involved three more chair lifts of nice conversation, some cat walks, aggressive wind above the treeline, and some reflective moments on my part. Visibility was low, powder was accumulating, and we were nearly alone. I soaked in the silence.
“Awesome” measured up to its name with its smooth, yet powdery surface. Orange Jacket and I were the only two out there. I wished we had time to lap it more.
The wind was vicious on that last lift ride, but I didn’t mind because my lovely date’s hand rested on my helmet pinning my hood down for extra warmth. Pretty nice after spending years chasing the hottest frat bros at the party.
He warned me about a sharp left on our journey back to the base. I watched him push his way up a slight incline and I skated with my skis to get a little speed. Suddenly, my left leg was on the side of a drop-off and my right leg rested on the edge of the catwalk. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen so casually.
“NO ONE SAW!” I turned my head around to see two guys behind me laughing hysterically. I joined in with them wishing there was a video of the scene. Yelling through the wind they added, “We were wondering, ‘Is she gonna make it? Is she gonna make it?’ And no, you didn’t.” By this point I was dying laughing. Orange Jacket’s hand was outstretched with an offer of help, a smile on his face as well.
“Hold on, I think I’ve got this.” I pushed a pole into the ground and attempted to sidestep up the hill to safety. After four failed attempts, I finally grabbed his hand. I crawled army style like a mermaid, skis flopping over my head. When I finally reached safety, I couldn’t help but laugh. Neither could my date.
We exchanged numbers before parting and spent the evening texting about traffic and the anticlimactic activities of the night - laundry and Gossip Girl.
Dating apps are great because they connect us with people we wouldn’t otherwise meet. In adventure speed dating, however, things actually happen. Even if you only spend 15 minutes together, there’s a chance you’ll at least get to walk away with a story about the time you did a spread eagle in the trees. Also, rather than spending a few days wondering if the conversation would continue and if the guy would actually show up for our plans, I got to do two weeks worth of work in a matter of 5 hours. Not only was it more efficient, but we spent time focusing on finding things we had in common since our bodies were completely covered in snow gear. It felt like a different kind of blind dating.
This style of dating doesn’t come without challenges though. While full body coverage minimizes physical insecurities, insecurity about skiing ability sprung up in its place. The biggest challenge, however, was understanding if the joy I felt all afternoon was due to my connection with this man, or the adventure of exploring new trails. I’ve decided the only way I’m going to know is to hang out with him again. So, Greg, if you’re reading this, will you go out with me sometime?