By Karen D. Lorentz
While riding a lift recently, one out-of-state seatmate noted he and his wife ski in all kinds of weather; they don’t mind rain even though his “supposedly water resistant jacket gets soaked.” It doesn’t matter because they love the sport and being outdoors, he said.
The other seatmate, a local, agreed and skis every chance he gets.
On another ride I met a couple who skied before they married and now have two children skiing.
They all reminded me of my younger days — skiing in the rain, skiing with my dad, my siblings, later my husband and kids and now occasionally with grandkids.
More than love
When it comes to a sport that exudes excitement and exhilaration and which all ages can participate in, both individually and together, Alpine skiing is without equal. I suspect that we fall in love with the snow and the excitement.
The excitement is apparent to anyone who has seen eye-popping footage on the Wide World of Sports or watched the Winter Olympics. Being on the edge — as in “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” — makes for ooohhs and aaahhs as someone takes a jump, wins a race, sails out over the halfpipe, or tumbles out of control.
For skiers and snowboarders, the thrills and spills are well known. Most of us, whether serious competitors or recreational skiers, have taken our share of falls.
But we’ve also enjoyed the thrills of a medal or the sense of accomplishment that comes from mastering a challenging run, whether the steeps, bumps, trees, or terrain park.
My first “medal” was a NASTAR bronze at Okemo in 1980 and a gold came from a Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge 25 years later when there weren’t too many racing in my age group. The best part was being invited to the finals — what a hoot for a senior! The following year I got gold again – this time on Snowshed, my kind of racecourse!
But there’s more.
There’s the excitement of discovery — of new places, new trails, and “new tricks” — and the pleasure of getting away from everyday routines and pressures of work and responsibilities. Such experiences rejuvenate and elevate the human spirit, making life better in the process.
There are also the physical benefits from getting healthy, outdoor exercise, which releases “feel good” endorphins in the brain.
The sense of individual mastery that comes from “getting good” at a challenging sport — whether “good” means graceful, fast, or outrageous in the pipe or park — is priceless. As is handling a scary trail and achieving an “I can do it” attitude, at any age.
There’s an added exhilaration that comes from being in incredible surroundings — the views and awesomeness of being in the magnificent, and sometimes very challenging, outdoors. The beauty of fresh snow or rime ice coating the trees show us nature at her wintry best; or in the case of skiing in a blizzard, she shows us what courage is.
Bringing people together
From my vantage of 60-plus years recreational skiing, what may be the biggest benefit is that a love of skiing affords connecting. It’s a way to be with people and make friends.
At its best, the love of skiing provides a common interest that becomes a tie that binds.
In my experience, skiing has provided bonding memories. First there was Dad teaching my sisters and me how to herringbone up the hill and ski down on a golf course in Connecticut. (We progressed to skiing Pico and Killington together in our younger years and as older adults who had all moved here.)
As a much older sister, I had coaxed my younger brother (around age 5) into riding a J-Bar by offering him a dollar. Today, he is an extraordinary skier and lives on Snowmass. He returned the favor of that “bribe” by flying me out for a visit and the luxury of skiing out his door last year.
Not that I would ever advocate daring anyone to do something above their ability, but I still appreciate the memories of things Robert got me into on other visits.
I never would have ridden the Imperial Express at Breckenridge — then the highest lift in North America — and followed him up a windblown, scary, narrow catwalk to get photos at 13,000 feet if he hadn’t talked me into it!
That was when he had his condo at Vail and got me to ski Vail’s Slot, Riva Ridge, and the famous Back Bowls. It was his ski buddy (a set-up) who coaxed me to ski Beaver Creek’s famous Birds of Prey Golden Eagle where I took the slowest run ever on that famous men’s World Cup downhill trail. And another of his ski buds enticed me to ski Steamboat by offering a stay in a luxurious townhouse.
Did I mention that skiers can be the nicest people?
I think that comes from wanting to share the love.