Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore |

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

She threw her skis down in front of me, impeding the only way forward and without lifting her eyes, loudly exclaimed, “Don’t worry, I’m not blocking your way.” Hmm, a prima donna with testicles, I thought, and said the first thing that came to mind, “You just flopped one of your skis down on a sharp rock.”

“Yeah, I did that on purpose,” she replied, giving me an exaggerated look of wonderment at just how obtuse I might actually be.

She had on one of those checked, light-green snowboarder jackets that are sort of a modern plaid, and I grimaced as she clicked in, visualizing a deep dent in what otherwise may have been a finely tuned bottom. I shot my partner, who was nursing one of her better hangovers, a quick look of, “Let’s get the hell out of here,” and gingerly stepped my skis around in a partial 180 to avoid running over the 20-something who maintained her ground, talking to a friend.

It can be a little crowded at the top of the Bowl sometimes, and if that girl hadn’t been so obnoxious, I might have forgotten all about it, but what happened next cemented the memory in my mind. Farther down, while waiting for my partner to catch up, I spied this mettlesome lass dive into G-8 with reserved abandon. Gutsy little thing, for sure, but without much form, and skiing in a manner reminiscent of the “Western Pig” style, only without the “western” or the “style” parts of the package.

Not too many people skied the Western Pig, and maybe even fewer know what I’m talking about, but it doesn’t really matter, anyway. Ski bum extraordinaire Pete Luhn claimed to be the father of the Western Pig, although there were those in the late-night hallowed halls of the Red Onion who would, without compunction, nastily tell Pete to his face that he was “full of crap.” But there was another side to Pete, if he liked you.

Pete never got under my skin, except when he claimed to be the better crud skier, and late one evening, at the top of our B.S. game, the two of us vowed to put the issue to rest the next time there was some almost-impossible-to-ski wind-crust on the mountain.

A few days later, I called Pete from the ski patrol shack, informing him of ugly conditions, and with the aristocratic demeanor of one who had just been challenged to dual by pistol, he soon arrived to settle our wager, a half-smile across his face.

Pete and a couple of patrolmen got in behind me as I led them off to what I had previously calculated to be the worst windswept snow on the mountain. Youth and ego have no peer and without the slightest hesitation, I bailed enthusiastically into the highly crusted, rock-laced, steep terrain, wearing a pair of 210 cm Kneissl Red Star slaloms, the only ski more akin to a hickory two-by-four than an actual board of the same name.

Ever the gentleman, Pete enthusiastically observed until I inevitably caught a tip and then skied close while my battered, airless lungs involuntarily wheezed for oxygen. Clearly, I’d blown it, but Pete was calm. “Jesus, Tony, I thought we were here to have fun, not on a suicide mission. You’re too crazy to mess with today.” And off he skied, leaving our argument for another day.

Maybe the girl from the summit of Highland Bowl will eventually become a lady of the West and learn to put a little style into her neophyte presentation and maybe even improve her manners, but I’m guessing it’s too late for her to grasp the intrinsic savoir-faire or class of a diehard skier.

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