It’s mid-afternoon at the Sitting Bull and a group of young men are nursing the last of their beers, watching boarders catch some air on the huge jump at the bottom of Okemo Mountain on the other side of the massive window. Music of the mellow variety plays in the background and a waitress delivers late lunch to a couple of other tables. Technically, it’s après-ski, which, says one of the lads, “makes the day a little shorter.” For Rick Doyle, the manager of the slope side bar who went to work there in 1980, it’s a far cry from the party it was back in the day. The ‘day’ being the 1970s and 1980s, when runaway straps were attached to skis, on which people learned how to make snow plow turns and stem christies, filled in sitzmarks to remove any evidence of a wipeout. After the lifts stopped turning, they headed for the bar for food and drinks and dancing, to make a day on the slopes last a little longer. “In the early days, there really weren’t any après places,” he recalled. “Inns would invite ski instructors to mingle with guests for the evening and have fondue, wine and beer - it was calm and mellow.” In downtown Ludlow, Rich Russo at the Pot Belly remembers well back in the day, 1974 to be exact. “That’s when we opened,” he said, “1974. That was the height of the gas shortage and we had no snow that year.” In spite of that challenge, people drove north to ski on what snow there was and at the end of the day, they popped into the Pot Belly, except for the guy or gal who was driving the car. “People would carpool up to ski and after the lifts closed, the driver would drop everyone off here and go get in line at the Shell station and wait to gas up so they could get home,” Russo said. While designated drivers were fueling up for the ride home, their friends would be filling up on nachos and the steamed cheeseburgers for which the Pot Belly was known back in the day. Ski stories were told, friends were made, and a camaraderie was born that had people coming back winter after winter. “When I step back and think about all those people, we were Cheers before Cheers,” Russo said, referring to the popular television series that began airing in 1982. Après-ski activities began stepping up around that time. Places like Sitting Bull and the Pot Belly brought in bands; beer and liquor distributors had promotions aimed at the after ski crowds, and just about every weekend had a theme going. “Grunge, cowboy, greaser,” Doyle said, ticking off his personas from back in the day, while Your Parents - continued on page 51 - a·près-ski äpra'ske/ noun: après-ski The social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing. (Oxford Dictionary) An era that was a whole lot of fun. (Rich Russo, owner of the Pot Belly) BY LORNA COLQUHOUN > 802-228-1600 > page 49