Tony Vagneur: Just a left and a right and it’s all right in the world

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It happens most every year, particularly after a good snow: “Are the lifts gonna open early?” With a low, almost imperceptible murmur, talk starts to spread, kinda like the gathering of a herd of cows who serendipitously know that a gate at the far end of the pasture, over a mile away, somehow just got left open.

I’m not immune to that kind of wishful thinking (early opening), which more often than not seems to come true, but sometimes life gets in the way, especially on weekends.

With the early opening assured, there seemed little to do but wait. But wait, there were horses to get home before the snow got too deep, and with a big storm threatening, opening day became horse hauling day. Fortunately, the snow-packed road had finally melted off just enough to get the job done.

Then Sunday rolled around and my daughter and son-in-law needed to get their cows home before the big storm hit, and work like that is just as fun as skiing, so no sweat. Ty and I usually trail them the first 8 or 10 miles down the lane, but being so late in the year, we figured we’d better haul them all the way out.

Ty and Lauren had brought them down to a natural corral the day before, so we figured we didn’t need any horses to round them up — they were ready and having no horses would save us an additional trailer trip to get everyone home. We arrived early with a fleet of trucks and trailers, raring to go.

Then the question arose as how to best get around a bunch of them at the bottom of a 45- to 50-degree slope. “Hell, that’s no problem,” I said, and took off with Johnny Nieslanik to the top of that incline. Me and Johnny trucked right down there until he went to the left — I figured I’d better go right to even out our herding front. Made some good turns, too, going down that steep, gravelly SOB, just like running a slalom course, until a dirt snake got me and down I went.

No big deal, except somehow, I pulled my left hamstring in the process. I could barely walk once I got collected, and trust me, it was a long day, especially driving a stick-shift truck for a couple of laps. Could have done the same thing on the mountain.

The day after Thanksgiving, the grip of my ski boot held my leg just right and I could ski as usual, although takin’ it easy was the word. I hadn’t missed much, it didn’t seem. As an old friend said after last week’s column, “Don’t you wish you could have a time machine and go back for just a day?” Yes, yes, I do.

That’s the beauty of getting back on the slopes in the fall. A couple of turns down a favorite warm-up and it’s all there. There’s no reticence involved, just ski. It’s as though summer didn’t intervene — coulda been up there the day before, or 20, 30 years ago, doing the same stuff. Been down those runs hundreds (thousands) of times and it feels so good to be back home again. OK, OK, after a while, the legs are a little rusty, but other than that?

Planned Monday’s ski day around Klaus’s 100th birthday party because you’d be a damned fool to miss it, and a great guy like that deserves your support. Talk to him for 10 minutes and your own motivational level shoots up, making the world a better place.

Catherine Lutz, one of my first editors at this paper, and I were talking to a young man who was telling us how he’d skipped work that morning so he could ski in honor of Klaus. “You mean in honor of his birthday,” someone asked? No, he didn’t mean that — he meant that because of Klaus he was going skiing. Just because. Period. That’s how Klaus affects people.

Thursday morning, my daughter and I, along with my 2-year-old granddaughter, Charli, headed for the Magic Carpet at Elk Camp. It was a first for both Charli and me, and after a couple of runs, Charli started eyeballing the chairlift, “Let’s go, Ampa.” Five big runs before lunch. Atta girl! She likes it.

It was Charli’s first day ever on skis, and don’t you know, it also was her first big powder day. That should make a good story whenever she starts telling about how it was when she was a kid.

We’re in it for the duration now, and there’s no looking back. As fellow ski patrolman Howie Mayer, namesake of Uncle Wiggly’s, always said, or at least one of the “family paper” repeatable things he always said, “It’s just a left and a right.”

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at


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