Skiing on Kodak courage
Previously, I hinted about a special day of skiing. Actually, it was much more than that. I lived every skier’s wildest fantasy.So now you’re wondering: Did he win the Town Downhill? Is he the new president of product testing for Atomic Skis? Did he just return from four weeks of heli-skiing in Canada? Can he really do a Dinner Roll?Nope, it’s better than all of those things combined. It’s something that anyone who’s ever slid on snow has dreamt of since the first time he experienced the magic of a Warren Miller ski movie.That’s right! I spent a day on the slopes of Aspen Mountain being filmed for his latest picture.”Can you imagine how fired up we would have been about this back when we were 18 years old?” my brother Mike asks as we head up the gondola at 8:15 a.m. on a crystal-clear day with perfect snow below us.”Yeah,” I say. “About as fired up as I am right now!” “Yahooo!” brother Steve hollers. We slap high fives and do a ski boot tap dance in The Bucket.So how did I end up with this opportunity? Well, it’s because Mike and Steve take their vacations in the Himalayas and ski on 8,000-meter peaks. This makes them interesting. What do I have to do with that, you ask? Well, I constantly tell them that such endeavors are extremely dangerous, foolish, and irresponsible. As this is advice from an older brother, and my being aware of how such unsolicited advice is normally taken, I am solely responsible for their undertaking these adventures in spite of their own common sense. So, I get to be in the movie, too. Anyway, by the time we get to the top of the mountain, the camera crew has the perfect spot scoped out on Back of Bell #2. We ski to the Ridge while they head lower to set up. Here is where I expect to be standing for the next half hour while they carefully unloaded their $30,000 camera and decided which $50,000 lens to use. I begin working on my tan. No sooner am I into my George Hamilton-on-Bonnie’s-deck imitation, then a voice squawks over the radio, “We’re ready when you are.”They set up for that shot quicker than a Kansas City housewife pops out a Polaroid at Chippendale’s. The crew was led by Chris Patterson, the best in the business. His assistant, Shaun Thompson, is an aspiring filmmaker. We would scramble to keep up with them all day. I’m first up and ski the tree line as directed. I may as well have rolled down the slope. The snow is suddenly crusty and I feel like it’s my first time on skis. That’s when I realize that it is impossible to feel good about your skiing with Uncle Warren watching. After we all take a turn, Chris asks if we mind hiking up to do it again. Mike and Steve, freshly acclimated to 20,000 feet from a recent climb in Ecuador, agree too quickly. That sets a precedent that will turn the day into an aerobic challenge. With sweat dripping off my chin, I realize that making a ski movie is about as glamorous as interval training on a Stairmaster. We all ski to the bottom and the film crew hops into their car and heads for Red Mountain. Their plan is to use their biggest lens to film us carving down from the top of Lift #8 to the bottom of Lift #1. They will start with close-ups and then back away to show three dots careening down the vast expanses of fresh corduroy on Aspen Mountain. I’m skeptical. On the walkie-talkie from the top, I ask Chris if he can even recognize us from all the way across the valley. “I can see the crud stuck between your front teeth,” he replies. OK, so maybe this will work. And, maybe that lens is worth the cost of a new Range Rover. Chris counts backward from five and we’re off. Mike is leading, I’m hidden in the middle, and Steve is bringing up the rear. Mike is carving nice turns and gradually picking up speed. By the time we get to the bottom of Ruthie’s, we’re right on his tails doing a comfortable 40 mph. Then, we hit Spring Pitch and the perpetually icy Airplane Turn. Mike amps it up to at least 50.On the catwalk above Straw Pile I yell for Mike to slow it down a bit. Because he can’t hear me, or maybe because he can, my plea is ignored. He suddenly throws in a left-hand turn that I don’t anticipate. If I follow late, I’ll run right into him as he switches directions and starts coming back; good for the film, but bad for brotherhood. I opt to go straight instead. The good news is that I’m now in the lead. The headline news is that we’re clipping along at about 65 mph!We get to the bottom of Lift #1; my lungs seared, thighs burnt, and adrenaline boiling in my veins. I’m cooked!”How was that?” Mike asks over the radio.”Looked like fun!” Chris replies. “You wanna do it again?”We three brothers look at each other and just start grinning. “Hell yes!” We skied that run three more times and then headed to Face of Bell where we chased each other through moguls and around trees for most of the afternoon. We zipped through lift lines, hiked, sidestepped, and ran, but could not keep up with Chris and Shaun moving their cameras around ahead of us. We didn’t stop for lunch. It was way too much fun. Taking full advantage of this opportunity to feel 18 again and high on Kodak courage, we raced and one-upped each other all over the mountain we’ve known as a friend our entire lives. We went until our legs ached and the smiles were frozen on our faces. It was the magic of skiing. We finished the day with a run down Red’s and then onto the Ridge and into the long shadows of its notorious bumps. We concluded with an outdoor interview at the top as the sun’s last rays kissed Mount Hayden goodnight behind our backs.As we skied down in the twilight, my final realization of the day was that it isn’t the cameras that produce the magic for these movies. They are just devices artists use to capture the contagious parts, letting it go in the future to infect us. The magic is in the mountains and the people who go to them for fun. For years, Warren Miller has been bringing people together to enjoy the freedom of skiing. On this particular day he brought three brothers together on Aspen Mountain who played like children and found adventure everywhere they looked for the first time in way too long. The purposes of adulthood had nearly made us blind to the joy we really do share in these mountains every time we head up the lifts. Thank you, Warren Miller, for reminding us to open our eyes.After this long run, Roger Marolt can be reached at email@example.com
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