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Are the good times gone?

Tony Vagneur

Having been out of the trenches for a while, perhaps I don’t know the drill anymore, or maybe it’s just become more canned. Need a Christmas rush, you say? No problem, let’s just squeeze it in between Christmas and New Year’s and reclaim the mountain for ourselves on the second of January. Rattle the cash registers like tin cans before a blizzard and then we can sideslip One and Two Leaf until February’s weekend of presidents and March’s spring break season, and then a little more privacy for ourselves until closing day.Somewhere, the magic seems to have been dulled, the thrill of being in a ski town pushed too far to the back of the gondola. It may be, as Bob George used to say, “You’re not getting jaded, Vagneur, you’ve just seen too many winters.”I doubt it, although ski bums are pretty much a thing of the past. Oh, there are still guys like Yeti Bob and me who ski almost every day and love it, but we no longer wash dishes and flop ten to an apartment for the privilege of doing so. Instead of hovering around the mountain as the independent icons we once were, held loosely together by the common bond of skiing, many of our kindred spirits today form cliques – intentionally or not, this group or that, some going for big vertical and days per year, hoping for a spot in the unofficial hall of being noticed, perhaps even a shrine. A needless worry. We forget that our main mission, other than pure enjoyment, should be continual improvement in overall ability coupled with many grins. We are so focused on extracting dollars, we’ve even lost much of our obnoxiousness, confused by some with “messy vitality.” Whatever happened to the disparaging term, “turkey”? It was a metaphor of sorts, used to denote tourists, who like their namesake birds of fowl, had very little conception of what was going on around them. Easy to spot, they could be seen standing in the middle of the street, mouths agape at the shops or the mountain, fur coats and silly hats partially out of place; or on the slopes, failing to look uphill before moving into downhill traffic. “Turkey” was a favorite designation slammed around by people who were at one time turkeys themselves, which made the term all the more humorous. Today, locals and turkeys are often so much alike, the distinction has become blurred and the term archaic. Texans used to take a lot of abuse from those enthroned as “locals”, but on many occasions, the Lone Star State held the upper hand. The Dallas Ski Club could raise the fun meter past the upper reaches repeatedly, and there used to be nothing more exciting than the arrival of Billy Hanks, his entourage of beautiful women in tow, all looking for excitement. We could hang out at his penthouse apartment above Cooper Street and fall in love 20 times a day. As a matter of fact, my first real love in life was a lady from Corpus Christi who gave me more than a glimpse into the world of women and men and whose memory lasts forever.Even the distinctions between “good” skiers and the other kinds have been diminished, most likely for the better. Shaped skis have made competent skiers out of people who otherwise might have stuck to the bowling alleys of the world. It’s hard to imagine, in today’s society of instant gratification, someone going through the requisite two or three seasons to finally become proficient enough with a stem-christie to get down Ruthie’s. On the other hand, it’s sometimes unnerving to share Summit or S1 with a guy who’s on the third day of skiing in his entire life. The pursuit of money has weakened our natural edge, the good times are now less spontaneous and more politically correct, but in spite of it all, Aspen Mountain skis the same as it always has – which is to say, magnificently.Tony Vagneur thinks we can finally get down to the business of winter. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net.


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