President's Day weekend is to ski resorts what Christmas is to churches. The faithful amass as if called by some shiny gold trumpet in the sky.
But I'm on a quest for more than just freshly groomed corduroy. I've come to Mount Shasta Ski Park for a religious experience.
A serene, four-hour drive north of the East Bay, Mount Shasta rises like a phoenix from the farmland along Interstate 5. Snow-capped and mysterious, Joaquin Miller once called her "lonely as God and white as a winter's moon." She juts from the Earth so abruptly; her beauty lures visitors from around the world.
Some visitors are from other worlds, too, which is what draws me here. After years of hearing about space ships and yetis and even Bigfoot -- I long to unearth the legends of this sacred summit.
"Mount Shasta is a transmitter -- the only direct portal to Venus -- Earth's elder protector," says Ski Park employee Yoj Chase, who has studied the mountain for two decades. Yoj (joy spelled backwards) beams as he bags up recycling in the dining hall and enlightens skiers like me.
"She's been called the pulsating heart of the crown chakra. No matter what path you're on -- Christian or Buddha or no path -- you feel it."
"Feel what? What do skiers feel that they don't feel in Tahoe?"
"Generally, they feel purity. People tell me they feel this immense, joyous comfort."
Next door in the bar, it seems people are already feeling the love. Spirits have surfaced in the form of pickle backs -- whiskey with pickle juice chasers. Immense joyous comfort is breaking out all over the place -- and it's only noon. Still, lasting happiness can't be found in a bottle.
I board the main chair lift that rises to the very bosom of Shasta; past proud stands of pines (one shrouded in Mardi Gras beads) and into her frosty arms. And suddenly, the prize lies before me. Swirling above the summit are the beginnings of a spaceshiplike cloud -- a lenticular.
"If there's a bunch of lenticular clouds, you can bet your hindquarters that the starships are here," Yoj's voice echoes in my head. "And they don't just come to hang out -- they're here to assist us."
They won't buy your lift ticket or put on your boots, but these beings will guide you towards peace, he explains. "No matter how little you feel, you'll find out you're not. Here, everybody is a vast, multidimensional being of great light."
Mount Shasta Ski Park has weekday adult lift tickets for $29. http://skipark.com/
The Best Western Plus Tree House Inn has rooms starting at $139. http://book.bestwestern.com/