Friday, March 15, 2013

16 skis in a closet


When was the last time you skied on a Monday or Tuesday or both? You really owe it to yourself because the work that is waiting for you can wait another couple of days. Why not?

I know I led a very irresponsible youth and it’s easy to blame it on whatever I want to blame it on. After spending four years in the service during World War II, I saved most of my Navy pay so all I needed was a place to cook meals and sleep out of the rain and snow, and my health.

I found them wherever Ward Baker and I parked our trailer and could somehow get on a chairlift. Since that first day in the powder snow at Alta, Utah, at the end of 1946, I have seldom missed a chance to forget everything except being the first at the top of the mountain on a powder day.

Skis have changed over the years, though. When Howard Head first showed up at Sun Valley with a dozen pairs of his shiny new aluminum skis, only a couple of the more than 20 Austrian ski instructors would try them. Their attitude was that if God had made aluminum trees, then it would be OK to ski on aluminum skis.

If you want the best equipment to handle each condition of snow these days, you can do what a money-manager friend of mine does. In his ski closet at his ski-in, ski-out home he has:

Ski pair No. 1 for hard-packed granular; pair No. 2 for freshly groomed powder; pair No. 3 to be used in 1 inch of new powder; pair No. 4 for skiing in 4 to 5 inches of powder; pair No. 5 for 6 inches of powder; pair No. 6 when there is a foot of new powder; pair No. 7 for skiing chutes when there is 6 inches or more of new powder; and pair No. 8 for when the ski patrol starts opening runs after a foot of new snow. Keep in mind that he never skis on ice so he has no skis for that one particular snow condition. Add them up, and you’ve got 16 skis.

The cosmetics on the top of all his skis are identical. He had the artwork designed by a well-known artist in Venice, Calif., and the decals of the artwork were done by a very good decal maker in Seattle. All the skis and decals were created so that not very many of his friends know that he has and uses different pairs of skis for each kind of snow condition. Unfortunately, the resort where his home is located has built too many lifts to the top of their mountain, so any time he skis after 10 a.m., he needs his hard-pack granular skis. There’s just too much traffic on the mountain right in the middle of his comfort zone.

There’s a reason why some people spend their entire ski career on a mountain that to a stranger is boring by the time they make their fifth run. But my friend knows where to park his car, where to eat lunch, where the after-ski drinks are both potent and cheap, where to get his edges sharpened and, just as important, where to take his current spousal equivalent for a quiet booth and a candle-light dinner.

I think my friend with all of the skis has missed the most important reason to go skiing—when you’re at the top of a hill you’re all set for a journey of freedom. You can go as fast or as slow as your mood takes you during the time of your descent.

For a lot of those powder snow days, my skis were for my transportation to get to the best camera location to document skiers doing the thing I’ve been preaching to my audience—finding their freedom—and bringing back those images for my annual tour and for the thousands of people who have supported my lifestyle all these years when they bought a ticket to one or more of my movies. Do any of them need half a dozen or more pairs of skis? I don’t think so. Just warm clothes and a couple of ski lessons to handle whatever snow is waiting for you on your next ski trip.

At 88, I can hardly wait to take my next ski run with my wife, Laurie, who is such a good skier. She always waits for me at the bottom, and your friends will wait for you at the bottom, too, so enjoy every turn!

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