Sunday, December 30, 2012
MOUNT HOOD, Ore. -- I’m sitting in the base lodge of one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the country but I should be outside.
The snow is snowing, but softly. The wind is blowing, but gently, and I can weather the “storm” because I have a roof over my head.
My son Ben, 40, and my grandson Ezra, 10, are out there skiing and I’m not.
Not that I terribly mind my current occupation of snow-people-watching because skiers wear colorful clothes and Martian-type helmets and some of the helmets even have a little lighthouse on top that’s really a camera. I kid you not.
While I gaze at this snow menagerie I wonder why I ever gave up skiing in the first place at least a decade-and-a-half ago.
Did I get scared? No, although I’ve had my feel of pretzel knees and frozen fingers.
Did it get too expensive? Heck, no; as a sometimes ski writer, I usually got in on a freebie.
Then the answer to my ski retirement question suddenly dawned on me: I was working for a living. That is, assuming that you call broadcasting hockey games “work.” When I might have been skiing, I was watching the guys stickhandling over a frozen pond. But it wasn’t always that way.
When my two boys, Ben and Simon, now 34, were tykes, I had few weekend hockey games to cover, which meant that we were skiing Hunter Mountain at every opportunity. Before they put on the slats, I had some exciting moments all by my lonesome.
On my best ski days, I either worked over Hunter West -- my favorite area -- or the ever-fearsome K-27 that overlooks the base lodge. In either case, my technique never would have received an affirmative nod from Better Skiing Magazine. Let’s face it, to purist skiers, I was a bum -- B-U-M, bum.
I could tell that on any given day when I was at Hunter there were those expert skiers chuckling to themselves over my lack of slope sophistication. Those scoffers scoffed because my skis were those three-foot-long, wooden Clif Taylor “Short-ees” that many Stan-watchers believed would be more useful on a crackling fire in my crackling fireplace.
As I zig-zagged down the mountain, some onlookers actually thought that I was wearing ice skates, not Fischler’s Favorite Skis. But I loved my Clif Taylor’s because they reminded me of my Aunt Hattie, who lived in Albany. We used to kid Aunt Hattie because of the Plymouth she liked to drive always seemed too old for us. But Hattie had the best answer: “It takes me where I want to go.”
Ditto for my yellow-and-black Clif Taylor’s that resembled oversized toothpicks. They could find their way around the toughest moguls and enabled me to ski even an occasional Black Diamond (very tough) trail. Not that I negotiated slopes without the throbbing of my heart. I’d never tell you a fib like that.
Fright was my co-pilot on Hunter’s daunting K-27, but I always had delight for dessert after I successfully negotiated the last few yards. Same with Hunter West’s assorted torso-twisters. All of that comprised Chapter 1 of my ski life.
My Chapter 2 involves my kids and their introductions to skiing. Two things come to mind: 1. Hoisting them into the chairlift. For some reason that always was a challenge for fear that they just might fall right out as the chair orbited toward the peak. 2. A biting cold day when I worked with Ben and his pal, Damon. New to the sport, Damon was dangerously under-warmed and looked to me as if at any moment he’d freeze to death. It was darn cold for Ben, too, and I admired how heroically each of them pbattled through Jack Frost’s brand of torture and kept trying again and again to do it right.
Like Ben, Simon eventually made it to the racing level -- my wife, Shirley, too and she has plenty of trophies to prove it. Looking backward, I feel that both boys’ successful morning put-on-the-ski-boot battles with my gnarled hands all proved worthwhile now that I see what skiing meant to them..
Now the grand-kids are doing it. Today it’s Ezra; next time little Niko, who appears ready at age five.
Meanwhile, I sit in the Mount Hood base lodge watching insect-like figures slalom down the pristine run where snowmaking is not necessary. If ever there was a Winter Wonderland, this Mount Hood is it.
The temptation for me to be out there with the schuss fraternity is strong. To resist that temptation I remind myself of the challenging parts; the agony of frostbite, the fear of a tough run, the long lines to get on the lift. Those were the stinky parts.
But I’ll tell you this: When we return to Boiceville, the first thing I’m going to do is find my Clif Taylor Short-ees and my boots, to boot. Should the boots defy time and be useless, it still won’t matter. I’m going to phone my pal John Parete and see if he’ll drive with me over to Belleayre of which Johnny is so fond.
Yeah, one day watching the snowbirds at Mount Hood has convinced me to rock ‘n roll once more.
(Winter translation: Ski again, man, ski!)
Author-columnist-commentator Stan “The Maven” Fischler resides in Boiceville and New York City. His column appears each week in the Sunday Freeman.