As a young man I was a fairly decent skier and I had the pleasure of knowing a few of the old guard of mountaineers and ski teachers. Many are gone but what survives them is the passion and love these men instilled in so many of us. So while writing a post elsewhere I though it might be worthwhile to share a few ideas these folks graciously shared with so many of us.
The first and probably most important idea was to appreciate the opportunity to live, work, and play in mountains. It's not for everyone and it would seem there is a five year migration pattern that most of the youngsters follow. But those of us who have been around for eight to ten times that long must be a bit different. Are we wired differently, or did we discover something the rest of the five year crowd didn't? Love and passion for your actions are term often overused but I don't know any other way to explain the fact that we stayed behind when so many left, or will leave when their five years are up. Others end up between two worlds and they commute to ski country but reside in an urban setting. I've been that guy because my spouse was a city girl who never thought much of rural living. At least until we moved to an isolated valley near Crested Butte. To be fair that town and the surrounding valley are very isolated. With very few of the accoutrements of the city, she rediscovered her passion for horses but like the five year crowd she grew bored until we moved to Aspen. There she found the culture (art and such) more to her liking and I doubt she will ever move from that valley. In my case I moved on and I now split my time between Summit County and Estes Park. So my time in ski country is when I am in the city. or as close to it as I care to be. Anyways I'm digressing and the intent here wasn't to go on and on about me. What those sages shared was take the time to smell the roses and be thankful for the chance to work, live and play in a place where most folks can only visit, or live for a brief segment of their life.
The second idea was skiing isn't rocket science. We can complicate it with science and theory but in the end standing on two skis and sliding down a hill is something kids do pretty easily without much, if any thoughts about the science behind their actions. I am probably the poster boy for technical over analysis and it may seem odd for me to be who suggests it has limited value but it does. Those guys knew that and told me that many times but I guess experiencing that was what it took for me to finally understand their wisdom. It's fine to know the minute details but if you can't translate that into performance it might be time to focus more on application and less on theory.
The third has to do with aging and how often we allow ourselves to fall into a sedentary routine that slowly erodes our physical capacities. The wisdom in the old sayings about use it or lose it and stay active and stay healthy are well know but how many of us actually subscribe to those ideas? Most of those guys I mentioned lived a very active life and could do things most regular folks thought was impossible at their age. I loved Warren Miller Films piece where Klaus was playing fox and hound while wearing a race bib with the number 86 on it. I watches the premier of that film sitting next to him and my then fifteen year old daughter. The joy and passion in that guy permeated the Wheeler that night and it was like sitting next to a six year old on Christmas morning. It's an attitude he exuded whenever he spoke about his next ski day as well.
Another friend was an Olympic swimmer back in 60 and a very fine skier. We patrolled together and we would seek each other out when not busy scraping the snow. His dogged determination to square out the life curve meant ripping at speed and dominating the run we were skiing. Many of our peers thought he was too intense but skiing well was his passion and he did so well into his seventies. He performed like a thirty year old until cancer took him away so very quickly. My point is up to that last six months he owned and regularly used his God given abilities and refused to let age and infirmity be an excuse.
A third fella was famous as a racer but he is perhaps the most gracious and wonderful skiers you could ever meet. Yes he was a national caliber racers way back in his youth but what makes Bud special is his grace and understanding of the beauty of our sport. Same goes for his wife who many blame for his retiring from racing but if you have a chance to meet and ski with the two of them over at Loveland, do it. Jeanine (SP) was and probably still is a supervisor in the ski school and that is how I met them but it's outside the confines of ski school that their natural grace really shines. They have instilled that appreciation and genuine love of the sport on a very spiritual level in so many of us. At least in those who find the time to stop and listen to the song of the wind through the trees, the velvety feel of snow underfoot, and the magic of our cobalt blue skies overhead, and the company of someone to share those moments. I ran into them the other day and a feeling of warmth and genuine love came rushing back to me as we talked.
Another gal from Loveland showed me the importance of passing on the sport in all it's beauty to the youth of the world. Rosie is a special person who taught me that passing forward the joy of the sport means working with kids. It's through them that the sport will exist in the future and becoming good means very little if we don't share what we learned with all those youngsters. Pay it forward and never stop inspiring kids to enjoy the sport.
One last guy I know helped me escape the mental trap of using age as an excuse. He was a SSD at Keystone before "retiring" in Aspen. Rod overheard me whining one day about being too old to train and pass another level in PSIA. It was then he share how much of his body was replacement parts and how much older than me he is. That didn't stop him from being part of the early birds who went out every morning to work on our skiing. He was also my pro council rep and helped many of us develop the personal skills to be better pros.
And last but certainly not least in all of these stories is a gal who was also part of that early morning training group. She is a cancer survivor who struggles with strength and the ability to stay warm. The fact that she is in pain when the temperature drops below freezing is excuse enough for most who would likely stay inside at seven in the morning. But she was always there and always working on improving her skiing and teaching skills. She doesn't let her pain stop her and her students are completely unaware of just how much pain she is in most of the time. She's an examiner BTW and skiing at that level should be nearly impossible for her but it shows me just how little the average skier is limited by their physical body.
So there you have it my stories about a few of the folks who as seniors shaped and are shaping the sport. Without them I would say the industry would be much poorer. I really didn't start out to do a tribute to them and we can certainly discuss the effects of aging but IMO skiing is a lifelong sport and my friends have shown me age and even illness are only limitations if we allow them to be such.