By Merisa Sherman
The sun was shining, the snowmakers were hard at work on their pre-season task of covering Rime with a blanket of white … and I was meeting one of my original ski sisters for a quick walk in the woods. Wait, did I just write that they were finally making snow? Oh, what a relief to finally get to write that phrase. To drive up to my office at the top of the Killington Road and see that beautiful cloud of white smoke peeking up over the ridgeline — how can you not love the roar of the guns as they do their white work, even at that distance?
And then, randomly, a little ditty I made up as a kid popped into my head:
They’re painting the mountain white,
they’re painting the mountain white,
It won’t be long before we ski,
It makes me so hap-py
The temperature fell last night,
Sooooooo, they’re painting the mountain white.
Okay, so the lyrics weren’t that advanced, but I was pretty young at the time. The song has stayed with me for over 30 years now. No matter if I haven’t thought about it for months, the moment those guns turn on the song just pops right in.
That happens to me with all my little ditty songs, either ones I have made up myself or ones that my dad would sing while we were skiing. Oddly enough, I don’t make up little ditties when I’m doing anything else (except canoeing sometimes). I never realized it, but my younger cousin once told me that I would make up a new song every time we went skiing. Apparently, skiing just squishes the songs out of me.
They aren’t very good songs. They are more like the little songs that you read in “Winnie-the-Pooh.” Nonsensical ditties with awkward rhythms that seem to match the turns I’m making or the trail that I’m on rather than anything else. I’ve got songs about rain, about moguls, about skiing in the trees, about ski racing … some are fun, some are meant to push me through a tricky situation but most just come out of nowhere apparently.
Like so many of my ski traditions, my dad started it. When I was very, very little, he would put me between his legs when we got to a bumpy or tricky section and sing “Bibbity, Bobbity Boo” while he bounced me along. Now, my dad didn’t change the words or make any fancy edits, he was just a desperate dad trying to get his little 3-year-old girl down a tricky section without having me freak out or hate skiing forever.
My dad definitely succeeded, but it also worked a whole lot better than even he could imagine. To this day, I can hear myself sing this silly magical song whenever my legs start to get the rhythm of the moguls. I don’t think about the song, it just pops into my head “Salakadula, michigabula …” Perhaps that is why I love skiing moguls, because I can feel my dad right there with me, singing along with his graceful turns and jersey pole flick, even though we haven’t skied together in over 8 years.
I would guess that’s why I love to ski while I sing. Or why I love to sing while I ski. I mean, I LOVE singing while I ski. I sing on the chairlift to stay warm, I sing on the ice to make it feel nice, I sing in the rain well, because Gene Kelly did it so why shouldn’t I? I’ve taught beginners to get over their fears by singing a favorite lullaby or hymn down Snowshed or having my Future Stars all be instruments in a band to distract them while they try to ski on one ski.
It doesn’t matter what the song is or what the lesson is, I have always found that a song helps to keep everyone having fun and laughing. It relaxes the legs and the heart, letting the skier simply enjoy the sport rather than focusing so much on every little thing. I’ve had students who started in a mere whisper end up singing at the top of their lungs because the song and the skiing just made their soul happy. And guess what? They make better turns and have more fun because of it!
As I look up at the mountain on this beautifully crisp bluebird day, I imagine all the fun we shall have over the next few months. All the songs we will sing and the adventures we shall have as we make our way through the wonderful white world that our snowmakers and Mother Nature create for us. I’m ready to share my joy and happiness with those around me as we will all be together again on the hill soon enough. But until then, we’ll just have to keep dreaming. Ski ya soon!