Lum: Where does it end?
When I was growing up in New Jersey, we used to ski down a very big hill in our yard, a hill that by any realistic standards would be considered a mound. Nonetheless, we’d drag the skis off their shelf in the barn, the largest of the three pairs being maybe 6 feet long and the shortest around 4 feet.
These skis were plain, ski-shaped boards with a leather strap around the middle, under which we placed our galoshes and sailed down the 25 feet of the “hill.” Then we’d pull our feet out from under the straps and lug the skis and poles back up. Yes, we had ski poles, long with baskets made of leather thongs.
If the snow was really deep — say 4 inches — we’d add to the thrill by making a ski jump out of packed snow, often employing a log. A good run over the jump might lift us a good 2 inches off the ground. Man, that was skiing.
When I came to Aspen, a superhero lived among us: Stein Eriksen, who gathered crowds at Aspen Highlands when he performed his amazing trick of launching himself into the air on skis and doing a complete somersault before landing. The fabulous, famous Eriksen Flip — could anything ever beat that?
If you watched any of the X Games, you know just exactly how far we’ve come from that.
Kids are doing triple flips on snowmobiles, leaping 50-foot gaps on skis doing flips en route and flipping up, down and sideways on snowboards in the halfpipe at Buttermilk. Buttermilk — our baby, beginner mountain — now the national showcase for the most extreme derring-do in winter sports.
Could anything ever beat that?
I can’t imagine what it will be, but you can bet that in a couple of decades (or fewer), that X Games stuff will be as old hat as Sonja Henie’s great skating trick that made her the queen of the ice in the ’40s, which was a dizzying sit-spin with one foot sticking out.
Of course it isn’t just sports; as a society we just can’t seem to relax. Although we now have the means more than ever, we keep upping the ante. We attack our recreation at a killer pace, obsess about everything drive our kids with intensity. Those low on the totem pole have to work 80 hours a week to maintain, and the upper echelon works 80 hours a week to — what? Where are we running to so intently?
Bigger, better, faster, newer, more.
I remember seeing a newscast a few years ago during one of the Israeli conflicts where a female reporter, while interviewing one of the soldiers, scolded him for smoking. “Lady,” the guy said, “I don’t have time to quit smoking.”
Maybe in earlier times most people were just too busy to think about going for the gold and too tired to devote the energy to it. With more leisure, we go to fast forward.
Perhaps the movement toward slow cooking, backyard chicken coops and personal gardens is a step back to nature, but I fear the genetically enhanced crops and industrial slaughterhouses will win out.
Su Lum is a longtime local who could understand the rush better if she thought we were getting anywhere. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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