Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Resurrection time

Commentary by Betty Bell


Betty Bell

Maybe, out on the trails, you once saw a skipper, though odds are against it. A skipper: one who skips. They're as rare as mountain lions but not because of loss of habitat—it's a cultural thing that did them in, but maybe not forever.

Do you remember your first skip? The day you were running full-bore and suddenly a hitch tweaked your gait—a weird scuff-hop kind of thing as your foot came down. But you didn't crash—in fact, your balance was beautifully centered so you followed the accidental scuff-hop with a bold one ... and then another. Holy catfish!—Holy catfish was once acceptable slang—this was the skip! Double payoff with every hop! Who'd a thunk that such reward would follow a misstep!

But if, perchance, you were a normal child, your skipping life was enchanted but brief. For a couple of years you skipped everywhere—to the playground, to school, everyplace but church, all the while progressing from good to great. You probably looked ahead, pictured yourself resplendent in your U.S. Skipping Team uniform, saw yourself mounting center podium and when "Oh say can you see..." rose to crescendo you got all choked up. That's protocol.

And then came skipping's cut-off point. Just like that. Maybe on the very day before you were set to blow out seven candles on your cake—probably in full skip and at the end of a long scuff-hop with your other leg way back, cocked for full-power forward—when revelation ... devastation ...


Of course not. All the big kids were into cultural mores. At 7, already, skipping was passe—now it was the all-out strive to master, and, yes—with a major offshoot rocketing aerials over at The Church of the Skateboard next to The Church of the Big Wood.

I was an almost-normal child, so when cutoff age was upon me I worked diligently at my cultural mores. I never gave another thought to skipping until I was 67...68...69—somewhere along in there—you know, one of those ages when an old-timer still occasionally falls into the "everything's possible" mindset, surely my mindset one morning as I was jogging down Proctor and came upon a short and skiddy stretch and accidentally slid into a scuff-hop, a little one. I stopped, and there came upon me something like a flashback—plain as can be, just ahead on the trail I saw 6-year-old me skipping hell-bent, confident and sure-footed down Proctor.

At 67, 68, 69—somewhere in there—it wasn't in the cards for me to again become an all-out super galloping skipper, but after that, sometimes, if no one was around, I'd ease into itty-bitty skips—especially at skiddy places. Pilgrims, hear this: Skips neutralize the skid. The skip gets you centered like a plumb bob hangin' on a plumb line.

When you were a child you skipped as a child. You didn't worry about "how." It doesn't matter that it's been a spell since you let a series of them loose. Consider: Would Intelligent Design have strung the skip into our DNA if it was only going to wither on the strand? Your skip is there. Use it.

One fine day when you're coming down an easy trail—say the River Run Trail that has such an easy grade it's 23-times-longer than the lift—link a couple of modest scuff-hops. Don't think about "how?"—trust your Intelligent Design—you'll jig right into it. And when you get your confidence back, the next time you come to a skiddy patch, rely on a stabilizing skip and do it with grace and aplomb. Feel not abashed if you're caught in the act. You'll be naturally shy and reclusive—adult skipping still has a piece to go before it's mainstream.

This little jiggety-jig about skipping was triggered by the full-out skipper I watched coming down Proctor a few weeks ago. He saw that I saw him, too—he had to skip right past where I'd backed into the hill—but he wasn't abashed at all. That superior skipper was a harbinger, I believe—mainstream is getting close and new events seem certain—say an annual Backcountry Skip for starters. And I bet not long after we'll be putting on our own Iron Man Triathlon, but instead of the run we'll substitute a Baldy skip to the top. Yes, that'll be extreme skipping—but, heck, a sport shouldn't have to be life-threatening to be extreme. And where we live, extreme is beloved.

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