Column, Looking Back

Attempts at becoming a skier!

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Dating is often a time when you try to be good at something…even when you are not!

With ski season just beginning I am reminded of my diehard attempts to strap on skis and get from the top to the bottom of Pico. It’s not that I had never skied before, it’s just that I was never any good at it!

I had skied with my female friends since the 50s and will admit that the rope tow at the Rutland Country Club was about my speed. A lot of us learned to ski there and our only goal was getting from the top to the bottom in an upright position. We were especially glad when we stopped at the foot of the hill because if you didn’t you would end up in East Creek!

Then in 1974 along came Peter, my future husband. Skiing was one of his passions so I knew my life was about to get interesting. When he picked me up for our first date I noticed that his license plate said “QASI.” I immediately thought of the Latin word, “quasi,” meaning “what if.” I had been a Latin major in college so that’s where my mind went! But where was the “u?”  I asked about the plate and found out that those letters stood for “Qualified Amateur Ski Instructor.” It’s a program that certifies a skier to teach on an amateur level. I could see ski lessons in my future and wondered how those would go. This romance could be over just as it was beginning.

Before meeting Peter I had occasionally ventured onto slopes beyond the Country Club. I skied at both Pico and Killington…if you can actually call it skiing! At Pico I always knocked my partner off the T-bar when we got to the steep upper part. When I was on the chair I had trouble figuring out the timing of a proper exit. I practically jumped off each time which is certainly not the way to do it. I took the gondola once at Killington, thinking that would make my life easier, and I forgot to take out my skis and down the mountain they went. As you might guess getting up the mountain was as challenging for me as getting down!

I definitely knew that Peter had his work cut out for him if I was going to have any success on the slopes. Our first venture together was on the infamous T-bar and I had a proud moment when I didn’t knock him off. Then the real challenge began, getting me down without going from one side of the trail to the other. No nicely carved turns for me, and turning to the left definitely happened with a lot more grace than turning right. I did a snowplow most of the way down…crossing in front of other skiers as I made my way from one side of B Slope to the other. Peter did his best to teach me but my lack of coordination and fear prevailed and my “style” never changed!

Every Sunday Peter taught in the Junior Program at Pico. While he was teaching I was happy reading a book inside the Pico Ski Club building. At one point I offered to help an instructor with the really little kids who had lessons on the “bunny slope.” They were so cute and had no fear. Of course, I chalked that up to the fact that they were closer to the ground than I was! By the way, the only “help” I qualified for was bringing the kids back to the lodge to use the restrooms. I had found my niche in the ski world.

Skiing changed for me when we took a getaway weekend at Stowe. We skied downhill on Saturday but the temperature was frigid. Inside the motel were brochures for the Trapp Family Cross Country Center. We went there on Sunday and rented skis. I had the time of my life! There were no lifts and no gigantic hills to traverse…and very few people to get in my way! It was peaceful in the woods and I could take time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and views. Peter had a good time too and our “accidental XC adventure” was the beginning of many others over the years.

As time went by Peter split his time between downhill skiing with his friends and cross-country skiing with me at local places like Mountain Meadows, Mountain Top and Blueberry Hill. They are all beautiful areas and it’s nice to have choices nearby.

Unfortunately as we age our bodies don’t always let us do the things we want to do. That is the time when the two words “Remember when?” are used to start many of our sentences. At this time of year, a “skiing story” is sure to follow those two words

If it’s your turn to make ski memories, strap on the skis and head down a mountain vertically or enjoy a cross country adventure. Some day you will look back and say, “Remember when?”

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