Marolt: Bloated having my cake and eating it too often
Recreational skiing is a funny thing. I mean that in the most literal way possible. This is mittens and a pom-pom hat to those who would claim it as a lifestyle. You can lump snowboarding in here for this observation, too.
We have to be honest. In basic terms, skiing is nothing more than dressing up in fashionable clothing to go out and slide on snow with slippery boards mounted to your feet. There is no objective to it aside from how pretty you look doing it. You know you can get down any slope on the mountain. That is not the challenge. Admit it; the only thing you are really concerned with is how you appear to others. This is the essence of why skiing underneath the chairlift seems to be a challenge.
As all diehards eventually do, I got to the point where it was not about how much I loved to ski, but rather that I dreaded the thought of missing a day on the slopes. Somewhere in the back of my demented mind the thought resided: You can’t be seen as cool if you are not up there to be seen.
I imagined that taking a day off from skiing put me in a subclass of humanity. I pictured slackers drifting around getting haircuts and buying groceries or milling around a stuffy house with the blinds drawn watering the plants while doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen. In my mind, those ordinary-people duties could easily be put off until spring and, in fact, should be if you were serious about the sport.
It was a militaristic thing. Back in Navy basic training, the indoctrination included keeping everything squared away all the time, maintaining top level physical fitness and constantly being reminded what a piece of crap you were by military standards, but how even then you were superior to ordinary citizens who were so oblivious that they never even noticed if they had a loose thread hanging from a sleeve, for example.
I recently talked at length with a tourist, a label not of his own admission, of course. He said he was a part-time local, but I figured it out. Not that this matters, because his observations were accurate. He asked a question by making a statement, the way the unsure often do.
He declared, in a tone begging affirmation, that the locals only ski for an hour or two, at the most. They don’t ski every day; as hard as they go for it, their bodies wouldn’t hold up. They are at the point where they actually get better by resting and weaker by going up every day.
Because of his lack of stature in the skiing world, I wanted to discount everything he said. I desired to play the part of the wise and experienced skier and set him straight. Yet, in spite of this urge, I found myself nodding as he spoke. While I couldn’t bring myself to tell him he was right about this, he knew that I knew he had figured this skiing thing out.
I suppose what irritated me about his lecture was not only that he was correct or that he was preaching the definition of being a local to a local, but mostly that he had come to his conclusion simply through observation during a few ski trips. If it had only been that easy for me! To come to the same conclusion, I required five decades of devotion to an activity I mistook for higher state of being and put enough wear and tear on my body so as you could reasonably compare my physical health to that of a Ford Taurus bought out of a rental car fleet for use in a high school drivers’ education program.
Many years ago an old college friend came to visit. At first he was very impressed by how well I “turned ‘em”, but as the week wore on a couple of things happened. First, he improved rapidly. Second, he figured out exactly how devoted I was to the sport and understood how much time I had put into it. Toward the end of his stay he said something to the effect of, “As much time as you’ve spent skiing, you should probably be even better than you are.” How could I argue that? In a sport designed around show, how much time had I wasted showing off? Creating a lifestyle out of that seemed suddenly pointless. I knew I needed to find a better purpose for the sport. Starting to think of it as a fun diversion has been a good start.
Roger Marolt skis a lot, but less than before and loves it more than ever. Email at email@example.com.
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