For some people, New Year's Eve is the greatest night of the year. For others, it's time to stay home, solo and safe. And for a few people...well, keep reading for this epic account from Robbie Herst, the winner of our My Best/Worst New Year's Eve contest.
As I ran naked through three inches of fresh powder at the base of River Run in Keystone, I was struck by a moment of clarity. In the still 3 a.m. snowfall, the resort had a surreal, empty quality I had never experienced before. Inspired, I jumped spread-eagled into a nearby drift. Vapor steamed around me, and my testicles conspired to contract into my abdomen. Patton passed by me in a hairy blur, followed shortly by a pale Lauren, who howled with laughter. I watched the snow fall on my face for as long as I could bear before barreling after the others’ footsteps.
The raison d’être of our evening dated back some seventy years. A small hut, built into the side of Keystone mountain, was the last evidence of pre-resort years. It was an indulgence passed down conveniently to my good friend Chip, and we intended to indulge in it fully for New Year’s. The hut itself was mostly a small room with a couch, a small kitchen area and a table. In the cabinets were ancient bottles of whiskey and peppermint schnapps, enough to ignite the evening of a handful of idiots. There’s a certain excitement you get from drinking pointlessly aged alcohol, like you are drinking yourself into the past. We wanted to do something different.
I’d had the brilliant idea of taking a nighttime gondola ride. Unfortunately, the gondola was only for customers of the restaurant midway up the mountain, and the lift operators were checking reservations. It was about 9 p.m. and I was slightly drunk. I placed a call to the restaurant and explained to a very confused maître d’ that I didn’t know the name of my reservation. I told him that I was with my girlfriend and we were meeting her parents for dinner. I said that I’d forgotten her father’s name, and I knew that he’d made the reservation. In confidence, I told the man that I was already on thin ice with Christine and could not afford this blunder. He asked if it was Jeff (party of four), and I told him, very relieved, that, yes, it was.
We took celebratory shots and embarked on the gondola. We were Jeff, party of four, and we were a little late and very sorry. The ride up was ethereal, and from the gondola we could see the resort completely lit up for the holiday. It was starting to snow, and we sparked a joint and stared silently out the cold glass.
I guess I hadn’t thought this all the way through, for when we got to the top, we were pointedly ushered out by a lift operator and toward the restaurant. We tried to maneuver out of our trajectory, but the maître d’ had already identified us as Jeff, party of four. He was in his mid-forties and had an angry look on his face. Standing next to the man, presumably, was the real Jeff and his associated three. Jeff looked about eighty, and could not have been less ready to meet his future son-in-law. I headed off the maître d’s anger by telling him that I’d realized it wasn’t Jeff, after all, and must have been a different name. He was having none of it, and said in no uncertain terms that we were to leave immediately. So, back down the gondola, whatever.
To the bar, then, and a couple pitchers of beer to re-up after our excitement. A band came on that was no good, and we decided we were on to the next thing. Chip suddenly mentioned a condo nearby with an unbelievable heated-pool situation. All outdoors, he told us, with hot tubs and a sauna and limited security. We agreed on this idea, recovered the whiskey and located the condo. By “limited security,” I soon learned, Chip meant that there is a securely locked gate. As it happens, the man is a former gymnast, and without even mentioning it, he propelled himself up and over and opened the gate. We were inside now, and it was abruptly obvious that this wasn’t one of the massive condo complexes, but a much smaller arrangement. Maybe three families share this space. It was also obvious that we’d completely neglected to bring any swim gear. Again, without discussing it, Chip disrobed completely and climbed into the hot tub. We were all drunk enough to think this was normal, and we followed suit.
So we were in the hot tub now, completely naked, drinking whiskey, and snow was falling thickly all around us. We had the big canvas cover halfway on in case we needed to hide quickly. Patton mentioned that there was no way for us to know when it hit midnight. As if on cue, we heard a countdown inside. A party, too tame for us to notice until then, was happening a few yards away. 3...2...1...Happy New Year!
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We started to shout it, too, but the door to one of the condos opened exactly at zero. We threw the cover all the way over just in time, and the entire party streamed outside to toast the New Year. We waited for what seemed like hours but must have only been a few minutes, breathing stale air and trying to suppress our giggles. A drunk woman was slurring nearby, and we all heard her as she suggested that they go in the hot tub. We shared a terrified glance. Chip started counting something down on his fingers, gesturing to us; I didn’t understand what he was saying. At zero, he threw off the lid with an enormous splash and leaped out of the water. I followed on instinct, grabbing someone’s discarded clothes in transit.
In my memory, there was a lot of shouting and yelling and commotion behind me, but that could have been a drunken fear. What I’m sure was real was the strange steam my steps made as they hammered a route through the fresh snows of 2010.
Read our second-place essay in our My Best/Worst New Year's Eve Essay Contest here.