Altitude Sickness
December 7, 2016

Lessons from the young and passionate

The first order of business this week is to congratulate Killington, their volunteers, and their “Beast”-ly snow crew for putting up one hell of a show for the FIS Womens World Cup.  It was a great, tough course with lots of drama, and most importantly, it brought out an audience that pushed records for regular season events. Good for you, Killington, you have done us proud. I salute you.
A few years ago, I encountered a completely delightful experience when riding the Superstar chairlift. I wrote about it on my Facebook, as it was before I was writing this column.
The events that occurred were not all that out of the ordinary but they’re interesting in the context of something that occurred a couple of weeks ago while skiing the early season triple before Thanksgiving.
A few years ago I was getting on the Superstar lift and a 5-year-old came up next to me and asked if she could ride the lift with me. I said okay. Then she got right next to me and said, “You’ll have to help me on the lift.” I helped her, and then I tried to get some distance as one would think appropriate with a stranger’s child, but she sat right next to me and said, “I need to sit next to you so I don’t fall off the lift.”
This child was intelligent, articulate, precocious, and immediately began asking me all sorts of questions about myself. She asked what I did for a living, she asked how old I was, she asked my name, she asked where I lived, and when I asked ,“Where are you from?” she then proceeded to tell me her address in New York City.
I told her very gently that perhaps she should avoid telling strangers her actual address, that she could list a street or neighborhood in Manhattan and that people would understand.
For the five minutes of the lift ride she pumped me for information like she was a talk show host. I felt like I was talking to a 5-year-old Bill Clinton, Jimmy Fallon, or more likely a 5-year-old Ellen. I am unable to remember her name, but every time I see a child getting on a lift I think of her and hope that she is still out there with her Manhattanite race club rocking it on skis.
I had a similar experience shortly before Thanksgiving this year when a girl of about 8 years old came up to me on the ski slope and started talking to me and the woman that I was skiing with. We couldn’t understand her very well because she was wearing a face mask, and talking very fast. But she was clearly very excited about something.
After she skied away, someone made it clear that she was trying to get us to ski with her because she and I were both Telemarkers. We thought this was inordinately cool so we caught up with her and skied the rest of the trail with her.
When we got back to the lift, my friend and I and asked the adults she was riding with if she could ride with us. They consented and she proceeded to talk to us about how passionate she was about Telemark skiing and how we were all part of the “Telly Gang.”
My name would be “Telly Brady,” her name is “Telly Kate” and so on and so forth. She was all about having all the Telemarkers ride together as a community and pointing out members of the Telly Gang from the lift (“That’s Telly Chris, and that’s Telly…etc.”).  Totally adorable.
One of the things that I love about skiing every day is that I get to meet new people from all over the place and of all ages. Some of them are local, some of them come from away, but we all have one thing in common, which is a love of the sport; we all have a habit of going outside in the winter instead of hiding inside.
I was totally inspired by her passion for inclusion and her passion for the sport, and I sincerely believe that in 15 or 20 years we are going to see this girl in ski movies as a young woman. She was already a pretty great telly skier and had only been at it a few years (being only 8).
After all of the divisiveness and the exclusionary speech of the last year it was nice to meet someone who didn’t really care about anything except skiing, didn’t want to talk about anything except skiing, and didn’t want to do anything except get the largest possible group of people skiing with her.  It was a very good lesson.

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