On December 1, 2021

Skiing experiences over the years

By Mary Ellen Shaw

If you are a skier or snowboarder you must be excited that the time has come to do what you love! However, just because we live in this beautiful state doesn’t mean that we all love snow!

If you are here to hit the slopes, you are probably saying to yourself, “What’s not to love about snow?” The people with the “negative replies” would probably be part of the senior age category of which I am a member. But let’s stay positive and take a look back at the ski days of yesteryear. I know that snow was a welcome sight for me back then.

During the 1950s I was among the locals who learned to ski at the Rutland Country Club. There was one rope tow that pulled skiers up a 525 foot hill. You started your descent at the 14th hole of the golf course and ended up at the 13th hole. If the conditions were icy you might “schuss” over the 6th hole and hopefully stop there before ending up in East Creek as there was no barrier to prevent that from happening!

You could even take ski lessons at the Rutland Country Club. Among the instructors were Joe and Anne Jones, George Grant and Stevia Chaffee. A few years ago I interviewed Stevia’s daughter, Suzy Chaffee, a 1968 Olympian. She said one should never underestimate the training received on the slopes of our local country Club.

Young people like a challenge and after awhile it was time for us to move on to a bigger ski area. For many of us it was Pico that gave us that next level of experience.

I remember how big Pico looked with multiple slopes that offered a J-bar, T-bar and chair lift. It was quite a change from the country club’s rope 525’ rope tow.

My preference for getting up the mountain was to have my feet remain on the ground and to have a buddy beside me. The T-bar allowed me to accomplish that. It was a perfect solution until you reached the steep part of B slope and your feet were practically pulled off the ground as you struggled to remain upright. I knocked more than a few friends off the T-bar in that spot. In fact it got to the point where I was often abandoned by a friend and “paired” with someone who was skiing alone. How lucky were they!

Things didn’t go much better when I advanced to the chairlift. If it stopped midway up the mountain there was a feeling of panic as I looked down from on high. Thank goodness it always started up again as I can’t imagine how they would have gotten me off the chair unless they knocked me cold first! Exiting the chair at the top didn’t always go well either. Instead of getting off smoothly I tended to give a little jump a few seconds early. I remained upright but it must have looked quite entertaining!

Common sense should have told me to just drop the sport but the opportunity to be with my friends always won out. By the time college rolled around my days on the slopes had stopped as we all went our separate ways.

Then I met my future husband, Peter, in 1974. Wouldn’t you know, he taught skiing at Pico! His students were school age and lessons were given every Sunday. He also belonged to the Pico Ski Club, and Pico Mountain was Peter’s home away from home. When he asked if I could ski, I said, “Sort of!” I am sure he thought he could teach me and I would be gracefully following him down the trails in no time.

I think it’s safe to say I was un-teachable! His turns down the mountain were controlled, smooth and close together. Mine brought me from one side of the trail to the other without always being in control. The best part of each ski day was heading to the lounge after the last run to listen to live music. My skis were off and I was back in control of my feet! Spotting Paul Newman at the bar one Sunday was the highlight of that day on the slope.

Occasionally I helped out one of the instructors on the bunny slope…not by teaching the students but by taking them back to the restrooms as the need arose. I had found my “niche” at Pico.

There was one very special event at Pico and it didn’t involve skis. Our wedding reception was held at the main lodge back in September of 1975. The dinner was wonderful and the band kept everyone on their feet but thankfully not on skis!

We used to like to visit different Vermont ski areas for a get-away weekend. One time in Stowe it was so cold that riding a lift was uncomfortable. I saw an ad for the Trapp Family Cross Country Center and suggested we give it a try. I loved it! My feet were on the ground and you worked hard enough to stay warm. Peter liked it also and by the ’90s we were skiing at various x-c centers throughout Vermont.

There is something for everyone when it comes to skiing. You just have to find the right fit. So get out and enjoy the snow. In the blink of an eye you will find yourself in the senior category and snow will become something you don’t want to drive in or shovel. Bah humbug!

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