Skiing: A true high
I am a skier. Ever since I was 3 years old, I’ve been buckling boots, snapping bindings, pulling zippers and carving turns, some of which have turned out fairly “pretty,” or so I’m told. All thanks to my daddy who decided to start skiing when he already had three of his four little kids. He would come home from work late on a Friday, pick up three boys and a girl, eventually, each with one shopping bag full of clothes – just one! – throw us in the station wagon or, later, a camper, and take us skiing for the weekend.As teenagers, we added friends to the trips, tripping over all of their scattered, bumpy sleeping bags, feasting on “breakfast slop” (bacon, eggs and potatoes cooked in one pan outside on the grill – then playing in the snow. My poor mother. She wasn’t a skier but was damn happy we were. She was camp cook. The onlytime she got any rest is when we were on the hill.Obviously, this was no slop. This was living really well. A steaming, hearty skier’s breakfast and hot chocolate – outside at the picnic bench – then playing on the mountain all day. What’s better than that? We were first on the hill and last off, sometimes by the scruff of our necks. Our downhill needs not sated when the lifts closed, we’d jump on cafeteria trays and scream down the hill in the dark. No one wanted to stop.Risky? You bet. How do kids – or parents – survive extreme sports? Our cafeteria trays had no brakes. The only steering mechanism was the bottom edge of our boots, buckled to the end of our little legs, which stuck straight out in front of us and dug very deeply into a hill approaching at a high rate of speed. Luckily, our biggest mistakes were stopped by hay bales placed strategically in front of the lodge. The only thing ever broken was a ski or three and a couple strands of straw. Growing up, I did all my skiing on the East Coast, which some people say isn’t really skiing. And let’s face it, skiing doesn’t necessarily include growing up, either. Now that I’ve spent the last 15 years skiing here in Aspen, still not growing up, I see some people are right. Not that you can’t learn basic skills on East Coast slopes. You know, turning, stopping, après-skiing, a few silly tricks, tip turns and the usual games people play on skis. But they ain’t no X Games. I couldn’t take my eyes off of these games. Could you? Forget cafeteria trays, how do these athletes – and parents – survive? I am absolutely astounded by the acrobatics on skis, snowboards, motorcycles and snowmobiles now being carried out of Aspen on ESPN and ABC. Skiing backwards into a jump? With the only purpose not to get out of this but to soar and spin into it, performing ballet in midair, with boards strapped to your feet? Or how about pulling a motor vehicle upside down in circles in the dark under lights? And landing right side up?If the ski industry ever wondered where the future of the sport was heading, it need look no further. It’s right here at the X Games, and the evolution is being televised. Seriously, I, and most long-term, two-wheel riders, can imagine doing tricks on my motorcycle. I have already performed a few, saving my life here and there. But that’s different. Riding my bike is often basic transportation and comes as natural to me as walking. It’s a nonissue, once the pigtails and lipstick are in place. I am so comfortable on my motorcycle, I could see falling asleep at the handlebars. It’s so comfortable, it’s like a long-term relationship. I know where the switches are and can turn on the lights. With my eyes closed. But flipping a dirt bike backwards on hard-packed ice? On purpose? Repeatedly?They make my relationship with my bike seem more like a long, romantic date. A very good, responsive date, but a date nonetheless. These athletes romance their equipment around bumps and curves and through pipes to heights few dates, dances or ballets could ever replicate. They don’t mess around. They commit. They win – or are – the girl and the gold. However, despite all the magic in the air at the X Games, I’m not going to make the switch. No snowboards for this blonde. I like my hips just as they are: unbruised. I’ll stick to the elegantly simple act of pointing them downtown, making a few pretty turns, one at a time, occasionally spinning on mountain through the trees and powder with aboarder carving ’round the neighborhood with me. Oh and don’t forget lunch at the top, of course, and, at the end of a day, an outdoor Jacuzzi, snow falling on my shoulders and sipping my new après-ski drink, the Ménage-a-Trois: Kahlua, Bailey’s and Absolut Vanilla. At home. Ahh, the sacrifices we make for skiing. Aspen resident Bonnie Behrend is a Kiplinger fellow, former national TV news anchor and do-it-herself website developer. She can be reached at email@example.com
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