Miller: In praise of skiing
OK, here’s a textbook case of preaching to the choir, but with Breckenridge opening for the season today, it’s as good a time as any to reaffirm our love for sliding on snow.
We all have a story about how we came to the curious pastime of our chosen way of enjoying the mountain. But be it alpine skiing, snowboarding, tele skiing or Nordic, there’s a tale to tell: that boyfriend who dragged you out on the hill against your better judgment and sparked a life-long passion; the random college ski club trip you signed up for at the last minute; or the parents who got you out on the hill when you could barely yet walk.
While the ski films and glam shots in the ski magazines focus on the hucking of big air and the endless pursuit of the deepest powder stashes, much of what skiing and snowboarding is really all about is a way to connect – with family, with friends, with business associates and, sometimes, just with oneself. Oftentimes, descriptions of those first days learning to slide properly can be hilarious, cherished anecdotes we love to pull out whenever occasion calls for it.
For me, skiing was learned on the harsh ice and blistering cold of Mount Mansfield in Stowe, Vermont. As veterans of Stowe skiing will happily tell you, back in the day they actually gave you blankets with which to ride the lift – a diesel-powered double that took seemingly forever to get to the top. I started at age 5, right around the end of the leather boots and cable bindings era, and my early memories of skiing were not necessarily blissful. Mostly I remember being cold and terrified as the enormous moguls and blue ice of trails like the Starr and the National tormented me in the daytime and invaded my dreams at night. What my siblings and I looked forward to most, it seemed, was the apres ski in the lodge with its endless supply of hot chocolate and fondue and a log room that contained the inn’s only amenity: a battered ping-pong table.
Today’s youngest skiers presumably have an easier time of it, what with cushy Magic Carpet lifts, dedicated learning areas, plush condos replete with hot tubs, video games and the like – not to mention instruction from professionals who are expert at teaching kids. But I wouldn’t trade those early experiences in northern Vermont for anything. If nothing else, they taught me a thing or two about soldiering on against the greatest adversity (such as minus-20 temperatures one day and rain the next). And when it came time to get my own children out skiing, I repaid a debt of sorts to my father by teaching my kids something they can hold onto and enjoy for a lifetime.
Like many who get caught up in family, work and other obligations, I don’t ski nearly as often as I’d like. But if I make it out 15 or 20 times a season, I’m happy. Most of those are with my kids or with friends, and the time on the chairlift is often as fulfilling as that spent on snow. I know with our teenagers that the common bond of skiing provides an invaluable forum for talk, while with younger kids there’s nothing they like better than exclusive time with one or both parents – something skiing offers in spades.
My Dad loved Stowe above all others and routinely drove the seven hours to get there. I’m fortunate to live smack-dab in the middle of Summit County – with easy access to the four best ski hills in North America. I have no particular allegiance to any one mountain: I love them all, each with its own personality and admirable traits. With all four of them now open, let the sliding begin in earnest …
Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 668-4618.
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