Marolt: Skiing like you are something else
Most skiers pretend they are something else while schussing the slopes. If you don’t, I feel sorry for you. You might be taking this thing too seriously or, at the very least, missing out on a really enjoyable fantasy that’s pretty much a gift from the sport that is all about what you think of yourself.
Tell me you have never arrived at the head of Spar Gulch first thing in the morning with not another soul in sight and taken off with a skate and push, pretending to be Bode Miller in the Hahnenkamm, straightlining a tuck until you are damn good and scared or scarred, whichever comes first. That’s what I’m talking about.
As a kid I liked to pretend I was Ingemar Stenmark. I would have fantasized nationally but I wasn’t strong enough to mimic Phil Mahre very well. You might say it was the globalization of my skiing idolatry. Not that anyone mistook me for Steny, but I believed in honoring practicality, if not reality, with my daydreaming.
When I wasn’t trying to make smooth, precise slalom turns through the Volkswagen bumps on Ridge of Bell, my alter-ego switched to that of Franz Klammer, holding the line between glory and disaster flashing past tourists at Grand Junction, through Kleenex Corner, all the way down to the imaginary finish line at the bottom of Little Nell. As the near misses and misters pulled up to chew me out, I’d already be chastising them for getting in my line as if they’d inadvertently crossed through the protective fencing to screw up an Olympic downhill race in progress.
Not so many on the hill pay as much attention to ski racing, so who do they picture themselves as? Judging by what people intending to be seen but not to ski on Aspen Mountain wear, my guess is lots see themselves as supermodels or superheroes. It doesn’t matter — whatever buckles your boots.
I pretty much gave up on pretending I was one of the World Cup stars at about the time I out-aged all of them. It was then I began emulating machines; at first an F-14 fighter jet equipped for aircraft carrier catapult takeoffs and tail-hook landings. All I can say is, “Be glad you weren’t around then,” or “I’m sorry” if you were.
Now, I fancy myself a ’68 Camaro, yellow with a black ragtop — a great American classic! There are all kinds of modern marvels of engineering that blow doors on it by every conceivable measure of performance; even still, the youngsters see it cruise by and say, “Wow, that’s cool,” and the old men smile and remember their own classic rides.
One stomp on the gas and the thing will still go like a streak, but you don’t risk it too often with a machine like that, especially one still running all original parts. It would be a darn shame to redline it now and throw a rod or drop the trany.
The thing is, it’s not a show car, all decked out and redone, that the owner pulls out of the garage a few times a year and coaxes gingerly through the Fourth of July parade or sub-leisurely across slow mountain roads on the sunniest fall afternoons.
This baby’s still an everyday car that parks on the street. It’s got original paint: dinged and a few scratches here and there, but it still looks pretty good in the right light. I guarantee there’s no rust in the wheel wells.
It feels like it has always been owned by a teenager, passed down from brother to brother, cared for by boys who took shop class in high school and know how to synchronize gears with a stick and clutch pedal and who possess intuitive regard for steel parts meshing in rhythm with a crankshaft turing at 4,000 rpm. It was made before everything was engineered to be automatic and, instead, relies on driver instinct.
There’s an ineffable ease about a ’68 Camaro. While the modern Beemers, Vettes and Rarries are hellbent on justifying their Madison Avenue status symbol reputations at every red light, the oldies idle along on wide open boulevards paved with legends, real and imagined. It’s most relaxing, if you ask me. I remember when the ’68 was fresh off the lot and still had something to prove.
Roger Marolt thinks hiking the bowl is like driving a ’48 Willys. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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