Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Next Wednesday, March 2, there will be a benefit movie screening at the Wheeler Opera House to raise scholarship money for Can Do Center for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) programs designed to help people with MS live more actively with their incurable disease. The movie is “Skiing Everest,” and it was filmed, co-directed, and edited by my brother Mike. He along with brother Steve star in the film about making turns (yes, with skis on their feet) on Mt. Everest and other mountains with peaks higher than 26,000 feet above sea level. A few close friends have big parts in the movie. Even I made the cut.
Although this has the markings of another self-promotion Aspen-style, it isn’t. How can I convince you? For starters, the movie has been out for more than a year now, it’s been shown in Aspen already, and the promotion phase of the picture has passed. Secondly, Mike hasn’t recently attached himself to this cause for this purpose. He’s been on the board of the Jimmie Heuga Center for years because Jimmie Heuga was a family friend who suffered from MS. And lastly, what else could this group of skiers do to help this cause?
The movie humbly represents what they do best: sleep fitfully in tents when it’s 20 below zero and blowing 60 mph outside to get first tracks on Coke-bottle ice at airline cruising altitude because somebody else might get there a year or two later and beat them to it. I think there is an implied duty for people who undertake such ridiculous things to at least try using their experiences to help others. It’s that simple … but not.
I can tell you from my time spent in this climbing and skiing thing that determining the right things to do for those that depend on you isn’t easy. And, that’s why I think “Skiing Everest” is a good fit in raising money and awareness for MS.
It’s not in the way you’re thinking either. As evidenced by how often it is done in all forms of media, it is easy to portray a concocted physical struggle as some sort of parallel with other forms of suffering. I don’t like that in this instance. While mountaineering is extremely uncomfortable almost all the time, downright painful much of the time, and even deadly once in a while, all of its perils and misery are self-imposed. It’s not a reasonable comparison to suffering disease.
I credit those who run ultra-marathons and ride their bicycles across the continent for causes they believe in. That is people doing what they can to help others. But, I’m not going to go there with “Skiing Everest” because it would be completely disingenuous to re-write a story that began when the characters involved were teenagers too young to be overly concerned with any suffering outside their neighborhood into something other than what it was intended to be at the time the outline was penciled out – adolescents trying to be cool.
There is also the obvious contrast with kids growing up healthy and getting stronger as this strenuous physical activity plays an increasingly prominent role in their lives with that of the young adult stricken with MS whose strength begins the slow degenerative process at about the same time in life. But, while ironic and real, that’s not the parallel that strikes me most personally about the movie because we were hardly aware of the disease when we began scaling and skiing local mountains three decades ago.
Rather, running as a barely perceptible fracture line through the stunning photography and ragged turns by skiers coaxing their hypoxic bodies to make them, what I hope you will see in the film are boys who grew up with a passion and upon reaching manhood with it were, and still are, faced with how it affects others, particularly their children. The main question as regarding family is obvious: Is it fair to continue pursuing a dangerous hobby that leads one away from home for extended periods of time? The answer to that question only appears to be as obvious. That we close friends and brothers started off on the same path with similar ideals and shared values and came to differing conclusions about this question is testament to the difficulties involved in deciding whether to go or not.
No, you shouldn’t climb and ski dangerous mountains once you decide to get married and have children who depend on you. Yes, you should figure out a way to continue climbing and skiing as safely as possible so that your children, who depend on your example, grow up knowing that lifelong adventure and passion can be a part of their lives, too. And, as there are mountains near and far, expeditions huge and small, and trips short or long answers can be formulated that fall as individually as snowflakes 6 inches deep between these two possibilities.
What I hope cuts gently through the high-Himalayan windblown slab in the film is that each decision made on the mountain and at home, right or wrong, came from deeply contemplating the possibilities and keeping concern for others at the center of the discussion. In many ways that’s better than doing the exact right thing thoughtlessly. People depending on you need to know that they are considered, first and foremost.
That’s what this film represents to me from a very personal perspective and why I believe it is a good fit for raising money for MS. What do you do for people with an incurable and fatal disease? How much of limited resources do you put towards finding a cure versus providing life enhancement? I don’t have an answer for that. I do know we have to do something. All things considered, the very best we can do is demonstrate that we care.
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