Vagneur: Visions of skiing dance in my head
It was one of those days, excellent snow with huge, rounded moguls like we used to get before shaped skis. The snow was racecourse hard, but best of all, it covered the rocks and stumps so you could slide off the back of a bump if you had to without worrying about what there was to wreck the bottoms of your skis.
The trail was very narrow and challenging, but the farther I got down the thing, it began to widen and soften. I was thinking maybe I’d better head to Norway before it got too slushy and melted up to be any good. Surely Norway would be about perfect. If I could just remember its name. And then I woke up.
Probably almost everyone has dreams about skiing, particularly this time of year, as our DNA begins to dance a return toward its roots and as we peacefully slumber away, our seasonally dormant reason for living arouses its sleepy head, sneaking up on us as a reminder of what’s coming.
The other day my buddy Ed Pfab, a 41-year veteran of the Aspen Mountain ski patrol, asked me if I was getting a new pair of skis for the upcoming season, or did I think maybe I was getting on the long side of such frivolity? When I told him about the above dream, he scoffed, “You’re a little late — I had a good ski dream about a month ago. Only it wasn’t about hard snow — it was about great fluffs of impeccable powder.”
Ever the drumbeater, I reminded him that skiing was not age-related and from there the conversation turned to equipment choices, Chamonix (where Ed and his family spent a winter season), snow preferences, ski racing versus recreational skiing, and on and on we went until we’d covered most of the bases. It’s kind of like once you mention the topic, you can’t help yourself.
Certainly, I’m in the minority when I say that powder skiing is always welcome, thrilling and exhilarating, and I enjoy every turn, and in spite of several trips to Canada to heli-ski, hard snow is what really gets my attention. As an aside, “packed powder” is a good marketing term to the uninitiated, although loosely interpreted, and maybe we should just say “hard pack.” Whatever.
My first autumn dreams about skiing started about the time I entered fourth grade, maybe before, and have continued ever since. Like Ed, most of my visions are about skiing powder, which is OK, but hucking off large bumps seems to be the thrill for me. Only in a dream can you stay airborne for 100 feet and then decide to hold it just a little longer, like another 30 feet, before touching down in soft, billowing snow. Time after time after time.
With all this nice weather, it’s a little difficult to throw too much enthusiasm toward skiing, but as always, it’ll be here before we know it. Back when we were kids in the Red Brick school and Aspen Mountain got its first decent dusting, it was challenging to pay attention in class and dream about the approaching ski season all at the same time. Skiing always won out, at least from my desk.
Like returning home after a long vacation, getting back on the mountain again brings a certain comfort with it. The first gondola or Lift 1A ride, the lay of the land and the cut of the runs, the cold air and the friendliness of it all; the first sighting of the top, the talk of which run for a warm up, all makes it feel like home. I’ve been there too many times to count and always with an excitement that belies the time-worn familiarity.
With me, I always wonder if I can still actually ski, and then, after a couple of turns, my motor is humming at full speed, looking for the thrill. Come on legs, keep up with the vision.
Many years ago, I spent a lot of time on the hill with my young daughter, teaching her the basic rudiments of the sport, my basic instruction being, “Let’s make some linked turns and keep it under control.” Today, she’s an excellent skier, fearless and game for anything.
This winter the challenge is on once again: to take my young grandson out for his first laps. He’s probably going to like it, as I know I will. It’s possible my entire life on skis, dreams and all, has been geared to this one event — getting him focused on the mountain. We shall see.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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