Marolt: My bar is set at 11,200 feet | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: My bar is set at 11,200 feet

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

I skied for an hour and 45 minutes and covered about 11,200 vertical feet. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that … today. When I was a teenager, somewhere between the boat tow and the high-speed quad epochs, that kind of productivity on the slopes was impossible. I think that is the biggest change in skiing.

Eleven-thousand two-hundred vertical feet of skiing would have been a good day in my youth. It took 45 minutes to get to the Sundeck by way of three slow lifts.

If there were lift-lines, the time could easily double. Think about this: It often took almost two hours to accomplish then what today we call "a quick gondola lap."

If my math is correct, in 1980 covering 11,200 vertical feet, including three-quarters of an hour for lunch and bathroom breaks, could take six hours in the high season. To squeeze that in, a skier would pretty much have to be a diehard, catching nearly the first lift ride up in the morning and the last one before they shut the mountain down for the evening with little time wasted between.

I suppose the bottom line for me is that 11,200 feet has proved to be kind of a magic number.

It represented a good day of skiing when I was young and a perfect afternoon break on the ski mountain today. The chronology has changed, but that amount of terrain covered represents a perfectly good time in either era.

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Yet, I wonder: Should I be happy getting the same amount of skiing today for a quarter of the time I had to invest to get it 40 years ago?

I thought about this getting ready to go skiing again. Well, more precisely, I was thinking that and about what a pain in the neck it is to get geared up to take "a run" at lunch. It never seemed like such an ordeal when I was a kid. It's not because I am old and lazy and stiff, either. I do yoga, so it's easy for me to bend over to buckle my boots.

It was during the process of slipping into something less comfortable that I understood that this overly involved process of getting ready to ski is the same as it has always been. It's just that, now, the time it takes is proportionally larger than it was in the old days. Taking 20 minutes to get your stuff together for an all-day affair seems less cumbersome than taking the same 20 minutes to go out for an hour and a half.

Going skiing was an outing in the earlier years. Today it is an activity to do between taking the car in for service and walking the dog. I do not know if that is a good thing or if it even matters at all. I enjoyed it then as I do now, only differently.

When lifts were slow and ski runs as unkempt as the beards and hair of the ski bums, a day on the slopes was more an adventure in the wild. Lift lines were longer but came at the benefit of less crowded slopes. You could easily find yourself alone on a barely out-of-the-way run, skiing about as fast as you dared with little worry over another skier getting in your way. We had more time to catch up with acquaintances in lift lines and have meaningful conversations with the people we rode up with. There was plenty of time to skier-watch, laughing and learning, as the lift ground lazily back uphill.

I almost never stop for lunch on the mountain anymore. It makes no sense when you are up there for only 11,200 vertical feet of skiing. It also preserves my food budget for the winter. I get my stuff on in the late afternoon, walk briskly to the mountain and do my best to get back to the office to crank out another hour of work before calling it a day.

I honestly can't remember if people even did top-to-bottom runs over a lunch break in 1980. It seems like that would have been an hour and a half warm-up run down Spar, and probably not worth the trouble.

I enjoy pondering this, even though we don't have a choice of going skiing in 1980 or now. It makes me realize that this sport we love — that carries memories of a lifetime of participating — has changed almost as much as I have.

Roger Marolt compares skiing then and now to the difference between sipping a tall, cold beer, or downing a shot of tequila. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.

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