Proof of winter was a stack of ski tickets on the zipper of my childhood ski jacket.
I learned the meaning of the word, provoked” the year my older brother had a major skiing accident. Harris was the best skier of all of us, at the time. It was post Christmas and he was wearing the latest in ski wear. He jumped off a mogul on the toughest slope, the fall was so epic that Ski Patrol was involved.
Harris was quiet and very pale as he was lifted onto the sled, we saw that one foot was facing the wrong direction. The x-ray was stunning, his tibia was snapped in half which meant surgery and several screws to hold it in place. Much to Harris’ chagrin, in the emergency room, the nurse insisted upon cutting his new ski pants off of him. My Dad’s childhood friend performed the surgery that very afternoon. Harris came home with crutches and a cast from his foot to his thigh.
My parents took a much needed vacation that spring. My Grandparents were left in charge. Harris was at the point in his recovery of exploring how much he could do with a full leg cast. One afternoon, GrandDad was napping on the couch in the den, we decided to experiment with Harris’ crutches. The object of the competition was to determine which one of us could get the most horizontal. With our arms holding the crutches we swung our feet up to the back door, holding there as long as possible. It was easy for my younger brother, Steve and me but Harris had a very heavy cast to hoist up and hold. Harris’ attempt was a disaster, there was a loud crack as the cast hit the door. The crutches shattered and Harris fell to the floor.
GrandDad’s face was a scary red, his cheeks were puffed as if he was going to explode. “I have never been so provoked!” were the first words out of his mouth. My GrandDad was of the generation that “children should be seen and not heard.” Not only had we interrupted his nap, but Harris’ cast and crutches needed to be repaired or replaced.
I could see my Grandfather’s jaw finally relaxing as we sat at the airport waiting to retrieve my parents from their trip. There was a request for GrandDad to pick up a white phone on the airport loud speaker. My parents had missed their flight. They had met some friends in the Denver airport and lost track of time. GrandDad was very provoked again and swore that my parents would need to get a taxi home when they finally did arrive.
Early in the summer, Harris’ cast was reduced to a walking cast below his knee, which meant the freedom of riding his bike. I don’t think that he had permission from the doctor or my parents but he was suffering from “cabin fever” and there was no stopping him. Somehow he managed to break this cast as well. Luckily, neither of my parents were provoked by this.
I started skiing in first grade, everything but my ski jacket and gloves had been my Mom’s when she was a child. The long underwear was soft, pink cashmere, the ski pants were black wool gaberdine with a Jantzen tag at the waist, my boots were leather with red laces, and my skis were shiny and wooden. I was ready to conquer the slopes. I learned how to “snow plow” my first day on the “bunny” hill. The rope tow was a challenge but I managed it without falling once.
My two brothers were my skiing buddies. As we all got better at skiing, my Dad would take us for long weekends to ski in Colorado. One spring break, we skied at Steamboat springs. We promised to meet Dad for lunch, so after breakfast, we made two or three runs, always following Harris’ lead. It got increasingly warmer in the afternoon and we tied our jackets around our waists.
Harris remarked that the snow had become slushy on the slopes that we had been skiing all morning, he wanted to try something new. We headed over to a double black diamond slope with a three foot vertical drop at the beginning. My brothers leapt off and skied away. I could hear their encouraging yells as I side stepped down, crying with fear. The hill was aptly named Twister, it was a mogul skier’s delight.
We trusted our brother as we followed Harris past a spot that had danger signs emblazoned with a skull and cross bones. The snow was once again powder and it was great skiing until we came to a creek. We removed our skis and jumped across the rushing water in the creek. Steve and I were now scared and angry, we yelled at Harris as we put our skis back on. The sun was setting as we managed to ski to a road, then we walked back to our condo to meet our Dad. Harris made us promise not to tell of our afternoon exploits.
I began skiing afterschool with my high school friends. Our local ski area, Hogadon, was just a few hairpin turns and snowy, steep hills from my house. My best friend would drive us in her gold Chevy Corvair, without snow tires. She was my hero, she was an amazing driver and skier. We were in our Bohemian phase and eschewed ski pants, we wore Levi’s . My hair in long braids covered by a hat knit by my Mom. We’d ski until sunset and drive down the mountain with ice crusted wool socks and pants. We felt alive and free.
I continued to ski every chance I got. While in college at The University of Wyoming, I skied the Snowy Range which is in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The base elevation of the ski area is almost 9,000 feet. We were spoiled with the almost daily snowfall which afforded glorious powdered snow.
My brothers and I skied together every chance we got, in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Skiing was second nature to us.
Nothing beats the outstanding beauty of the mountains. Taking in those panoramic views and breathing the fresh mountain air is rejuvenating for the mind and soul. Clear blue skies also known as “bluebird” days in the world of winter getaways are every skier’s dream. Research has shown that Vitamin D, which is produced from sun rays plays an important role in boosting mood and warding off depression. I definitely had some teenage angst, but skiing had such a positive effect on the quality of my life. If you doubt this, just walk into any ski lodge and observe all the happy, rosy-cheeked faces. Skiing is more than a sport, being active in a beautiful outdoor environment can’t be topped.