Marolt: The Lo down on a local feud
To some, Lo Semple is a ski bum whose skill level surprises — considering how much time he spends at it — a food critic writing for a paper without a dining section and a Los Angeles-born local. To me, he is a Rice Krispy drunk on milk. He is karma’s boot in my backside.
Lo pokes and prods. I became keen to his game when invited to be his partner in the Power of Four ski-mountaineering race and halfway through the contest he bound me with his bitter banter and transformed the event into what amounted to a cage fight on P-tex fueled by vengeance and Power Bars. Since then, he skewers me with letters to the editors, atrocious in punctuation and bland with adjective choice.
There may be nothing more difficult in mountain life than to engage in a ski race against yourself. I do not mean setting up a course or standing at the bottom of a run and consulting a stopwatch to see if you shaved a few seconds off your last attempt over the same terrain. That’s child’s play. What I mean is challenging yourself to a head-to-head dash through a dual giant slalom course.
I took up this challenge once with little success and am convinced the carnage I left is the reason for Lo haunting me today.
To those in the know about evil exploits from my dark past, most would assume that Aug. 26, 1999, was the epitome of my foul play. Sweet Thursday is what I call it. I had eight different letters published in the local papers under eight pseudonyms — seven in The Aspen Times and one in the other. I set out to be the only person published that day, but a few scallywags sneaked their pieces in, and I ended up controlling only 53 percent of the readers’ editorial content for that day, barely a majority.
I see now there was plenty of reason to be proud, for certainly it is a record that will never be approached and very likely a world record for that sort of thing, but at the time I felt like a failure, falling well short of my goal. I had to make it right with something bigger.
For this I resurrected Todd Coghi from dry ink. He was a character I had invented earlier to torment the Aspen Cycling Club and its disciples. He was a braggart without peer, even in Aspen. He teased about men wearing Lycra. He boasted unbelievable times on his bike to Maroon Lake. He urged others not to poach closed, muddy trails during elk migration, leaving that to extreme experts such as himself. He was the perfect alter ego to challenge to a ski race.
He started by blurring the edges of the local ski racers in the town series. He teased them, one and all, for getting beat week after week by a girl, which was completely true and stung all the worse. Leaving the local “men” red-faced and too humiliated to fight back, I responded under my authentic name and challenged Coghi to a ski race, with the winner to walk away with the loser’s skis.
Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! Sir Walter Scott knew what he was talking about. People in town went nuts over the challenge! Letters of encouragement for me, the local hero, appeared in the papers. I met people who surprisingly knew Coghi and confirmed he was a jerk. I was interviewed live on local radio. Later they spoke with Coghi via a telephone connection, of course. We set a date for the race. It was to be on the NASTAR course above Bonnie’s.
The town buzzed in anticipation. My wife met a former ski coach of mine on the street who was battling through a course of chemotherapy. He told her to tell me he was pulling hard for me. She nearly killed me when she got home.
I’d be lying if I said there were no sleepless nights for me over this. As the race date approached, I ran thin on wiggle room. My best plan was to show up to the race with a keg of beer for the crowd and wait for Coghi to chicken out.
Alas, I was graced with inspiration, and the day before the race, Coghi wrote to the papers claiming he could not compete because he had broken his wrist schussing Highland Bowl. I was off the hook! And, yes, now I am sorry for the ruse. Karma punches hard. Will you ever leave me alone, Lo?
Roger Marolt knows we all have our highs and Lo to deal with. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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