A man and his truck: It's a tale as old as skiing and stickers

click to enlarge The spirit of Grandma Pontarolo lives on in this bestickered 1979 Chevy. - NICK PONTAROLO PHOTO
Nick Pontarolo photo
The spirit of Grandma Pontarolo lives on in this bestickered 1979 Chevy.

On May 6, 2011, I acquired two things: a 1979 Chevy K20 Scottsdale pickup truck, and approximately 1,400 used masonry bricks. Today, only the truck — namely, Alice the Powder Hound — remains in my possession. And stickers — lots of ski stickers — have replaced the bricks.

Although Alice is known now among powder-hounding friends and random passers-by for her sticky art, my gateway drug into ski truck ownership started earlier in my teenage years with a 1979 Datsun 620. I bought it for $50 from a friend at the high school senior all-nighter. It needed a radiator, brakes and some electrical work. It ended up being my "lake cabin" for the next two summers as well as my daily driver. When I regretfully sold the Datsun, it was adorned with hundreds of ski stickers and a hand-painted Grateful Dead "Steal Your Face" mural on the hood. The Datsun had become something of a living mural of ski adventures. Bumper-to-bumper ski stickers. Just stickers, about skiing.

With savings from living summers in a truck for most of my early 20s, I eventually bought a little farm in Cheney, and the memories of the handy Datsun with a six-foot-bed came roaring back. I approached my grandparents, who lived in Walla Walla, for the aforementioned two items: their 1979 Chevy pickup that sat in their back pasture and all the bricks they had laying around. The latter for a pizza oven never to be built, the former to be named Alice the Powder Hound after my grandma.

In my infancy of ownership, knowing all too well that Alice had some of the same ailments the Datsun had had, I let a friend borrow her to drive to Schweitzer. During an early-season blizzard, this friend accidently plowed Alice into two parked luxury automobiles and nearly nosed it into the second floor of a condo complex. No one was hurt, thankfully, but Alice did earn her stripes. Dangerous, unpredictable, generally cold all the time, and with a 400-cubic-inch Chevy small block V8 and full-time 4X4, she was also tough on the pocketbook. During those early years, you had to hit the starter with a hammer just to get it to engage the flywheel. All the tricks, quirks and "anti-theft features" of a good ski truck.

From then on, ski stickers started to appear. A couple vintage Powder magazine banners appeared on the doors and windshield. A gift of die-cut K2 stickers from a friend. A freebie from a ski shop. A purchase from a local ski hill. A pocketful of stickers from the premiere of the yearly ski film. They all landed on Alice the Powder Hound's doors, bumpers, hood, tailgate. In my younger years, ski stickers were like currency. Some collected baseball cards; I collected ski stickers. Somewhere in a Ziploc bag, most skiers have an assortment of old ski stickers. It's where to place them that becomes the looming question. Now we are only left with Riblet chairlifts, bathroom stalls, the occasional speed limit sign and Alice the Powder Hound.

While I was at a rural post office checking my mail, a guy pulled up and mumbled to himself after looking at all the stickers on Alice, "That guy has a lot to say."

Alice the Powder Hound draws you in. Lots of waves, thumbs-ups, honks. People always ask, "Have you been to all those places?" I have no idea. There are just too many stickers.

Today Alice has become more utilitarian. She gets the occasional tuneup. She goes to the dump. She spends lots of time exploring Forest Service roads to get me to my monthly ski destination. Every now and again, I will park her downtown in Spokane's Parkade, and someone will text me a picture of Alice the Powder Hound from their office window or social media account.

She wears many hats — the most important being that she's a constant nod to my grandparents, who were kind enough to pass her on to me. And she's a reminder that "bumper stickers" don't have to be political. Rather, they can simply be the adhesive holding together an old blue and white Chevy, which celebrates the greatest pastime with every passing mile: snow skiing. ♦

Nick Pontarolo is an attorney in Spokane.

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