Jan
16

About Skiing

ABOUT SKIING

A couple days ago, almost-four-year-old grandson Jonas and I took a drive out to Joe Watt Canyon to check out the elk and the sledding. Jonas found the elk to be “big and interesting,” but our two hours there was devoted to flashing down the few inches of snow on the hill, (mostly) intentional tumbles and a great deal of fresh air and laughing. As other family groups arrived, I started thinking about my decades of snow play.

It was alpine racing that wiped out my knees for a couple decades. In the 1950s – before effective release bindings – I skied on the Eastmont High School team, in East Wenatchee, Washington. On a fast, but fateful, meet day at Stevens Pass, at the last gate on my best run of the day, I caught a tip and lost it. Both feet were pointing more backward than forward by the time my old WWII Army skis came off my boots.  No surgery in those days; just be patient and give my joints time to heal. Thirty years later, my knees no longer hurt after a day’s walk, but I still skied and raced every chance I had.

Through my TV and radio weatherman days in the Denver, Colorado, market, I took most of the annual Press Cup races. When I returned to Paradise late last century, I had largely lost the downhill bug. I still recommend skiing for kids and families, although sometimes I forget how much I have loved skiing – and even the word itself.

Skiing. The word slides from the mouth the way a skier lifts off a chairlift at the top of the day’s first run.

Skiing. The sound of skis clawing at the snow through a sharp turn.

Skiing carries magic, really, for earthbound souls who discover skiing’s freedom and for those who instruct them.

I once signed up for an instructor’s clinic at Colorado=s Copper Mountain. I wanted to downhill ski with the big kids, and took the clinic for training and a cheap weekend on the slopes. It changed my perspective on teaching, and on how some kids find magic in their lives.

Not long after that clinic, type-A skiing buddy Tom had his eleven-year-old daughter for part of winter break. She would come along on a day trip for alpine skiing at Loveland Basin. She was awkward, a bit overweight, angry, behind in school, and running out of friends. The girl needed a break; we were it.

At the bottom of our first run (“tumble” was more appropriate for her) down a long intermediate trail, she was angry, frustrated and doing her best to not cry. As I saw it, the problem revolved around a general lack of self‑confidence, very little skiing experience and a father who demanded that she keep up. We managed to get her on the chairlift, and as we rode up to the top of a run she had no business skiing, my heart went out to her.

At the top, I fumbled with my boots and told her dad to head on down. We’d meet at the bottom or up here again. As he tore off down the hill, she stared down the high intermediate slope, trembling. “Well, what’ll it be kid?” I asked. “You want me to get you to the bottom, into the lodge, or you wanna learn to ski?” In the most trembly little mouse‑voice I ever remember hearing, she said, “I don’t want to fall down anymore…”

I took her poles and we started with the most basic of basics – on a hill not meant for newbies.  The first 100 yards took ten or fifteen minutes. Each step went faster, as she gained balance and confidence. The last couple hundred yards, she was on her own, giggling so hard she had tears in her eyes. The rest of the day she couldn’t wait to get to the top of a run – any run. She said she felt the way birds must feel when they fly.

We took her up three or four times, as I recal. A few weeks later, Tom=s ex‑wife wrote that his daughter was doing her best ever in school, and seemed to be attracting friends like a magnet.

Anybody who loves to ski has these kinds of stories. And Nordic (cross country) skiing instructors like Glenn Bandy, Carey Gaziss and Jeff Hashimoto can tell them all day long. I think it has something to do with the magic tucked inside the word “skiing.”

I was never the Nordic skier that Jeff, Carey and Glenn are, but I enjoyed it enough to compete a bit (I once beat Governor Dick Lamm in the Colorado Governor’s Cup 10K). Mostly, I loved moving across winter’s snow with an ability to control my speed and direction.

You can play, too, of course. No doubt, you read the recent Ellensburg Daily Record article about Jeff and Carey and their ten-year-old Ellensburg Ski Team program for youngsters from seven to 18. The kids who come to play have a wide variety of choices in cross-country practice or competition. Find our more at eburgski.blogspot.com.

Glenn, of course, is a long-time cross-country instructor at the Nordic Center of Summit East on Snoqualmie Pass – one of those instructors who has no bad days on the snow. If one happens, he just refuses to remember it. (If the snow melted away under his slats, he might just smile, with “Well, we had three great weeks..”) For info or private instruction call Glenn at 509-962-8084.

It’s winter out there. Go play.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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