Tony Vagneur: Roaming and riding these hills never gets old, no matter your age
This time of year it starts to come up in conversation — the coming ski season. A lot of other things come up as well, but throw a little snow and cold weather at us, and thoughts and conversations start to wander toward winter.
How we got on the subject, oh yeah, the recent snowstorms were a topic, but we were talking about kids and watching them grow and develop as skiers. I mentioned that my grandson will be in a race program with the ski club this winter and his younger sister, Charli, is right at that ability turning point where she’ll find the magic and start to come into her own. I’ll have two agile speed demons to keep me on my toes. And through the bumps. “It won’t be long,” Margaret said, “until Cash will be saying, ‘Come on, Ampa, keep up.’” Geezus, am I getting that old?
Klaus Obermeyer mentioned that he wanted to live until he was at least 103 so he could say he had been skiing for 100 years. It had never occurred to me before, but if I make to 103, I too will be able to say I’ve been skiing a hundred years. I’m rooting for you, Klaus — you have the inside track for that and more. And creeping up, it isn’t that far away for me, either. Maybe Klaus and I will sit down around the kitchen table at his ranch when we both have reached that landmark, and toast our individual milestones.
One thing about skiing, it’s not age related, at least not much. Memorable every year is the first time I pole off from the top of the gondola, let ‘em run straight for a while, picking up a little cruising speed as I top the crest of the hill and then start making a series of quick turns, almost wedel-like and then let ‘em run straight to the bottom of No. 3. Poof! And there it is! Damn, I can still do this. That is the sweet spot on the mountain for me, the place where, since the gondola has been there, I’ve made my homecoming for another season.
You know it’s coming, the minute Summit is opened, my buddy Bob and I will be swiveling down that brute, either trying to miss early-season rocks or laughing at how good it feels to be back. It was early season, 2011, the day before official opening (Ski Club sponsorship day) when we’d already skied it a couple of times in really good snow, and I was complaining (mostly to myself) that I couldn’t seem to get enough air off the small cliff at the bottom.
There was blue sky under me on the third attempt, the one where I out-jumped the landing and lit in the relatively flat, unpacked snow in the runout. Instantaneously (and without a word of warning), my skis buried themselves, my helmeted head smashed into the tips with an earsplitting crash and within that short heartbeat of time, created a situation where I had to dig myself out. My first thought was that the crack I heard from my helmet was another cervical vertebra fracturing itself, a happening that occurred the previous spring, for real. Nope. Thankfully, I was happy to be able to dig myself out.
It can’t be helped though, especially with grandkids following my every move, that maybe I am getting a little older. There is a realization that time does take its toll, but my mind and most of my body never hesitates to keep up with the fast kids. Or at least try. Mostly, I notice the aging process when I get up in the morning to take that proverbial and necessary pee. Now I understand why some folks don’t have mirrors in the bathroom. Who is that ugly bastard staring back at me?
For over 70 years, I knew that reasonably good-looking guy, but now he has been displaced by a curmudgeonly sort with an older- and different-looking visage. When people quit acknowledging my presence, maybe that’ll be the cue to take down the mirrors.
Anyway, from the inside, I’m still celebrating 17 and kicking up summer dust, so whatever this winter brings, it won’t be my chronological, age-related season. See you on the hill, either horseback or in the bumps.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.