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Advanced Skiing at an Advanced Age

summer ski liftOn 92 degree summer days I do my stretches, lift my weights and walk my miles while visualizing the snow covered slopes I’ll navigate come December. At my age, this preparation is mandatory rather than optional. Now the memories of the early years when we were postal skiers, subjecting ourselves to sub-freezing temperatures, icy slopes and even rain just to get in a few runs amazes me. Of course the changes that span the years I have skied are more than just the willingness to endure adverse conditions.

When I started skiing, the geometry of a ski was composed mostly of straight lines not fancy parabolic curves. Ski ski polesbrakes were just beginning to replace runaway straps and pistol grips were the latest thing for ski poles. The former withstood the test of time while the latter disappeared never to be seen again except perched atop the aging poles of someone like me. When you looked at the skiers navigating the slope around you, the more advanced the skier, the narrower their stance. If you could parallel ski with your ankles practically glued together, you were doing well. The new skis have made this technique impossible and unnecessary. In my early years, skiers didn’t have to share the slopes with snowboarders since snowboards hadn’t been invented and the fancy trick skis were not available to your average skier. Fearless youngsters got their thrills bombing straight down the slopes at top speed, using any mound of snow available to get the most air possible (some things never change) or spent their time on the most challenging mogul runs.

speed skiingSkiing was a sport of skill and patience. Lines and the trips up the mountain were longer. Lifts ran at three speeds, slow, slower or dead stop. We became impatient waiting to slide off the chair and begin our run. At the end of the day the main question was “How many runs did you get in?” We stopped only when our leg muscles quivered and our breath came in gasps. Now we stop to admire the view from the top or discuss how well we carved the last turns. High speed lifts allow us little time to recuperate from the previous run and we rarely make it to lift closing time.

But some things never change. The contrasting feeling of warmth as your body heats up from exertion and cold as your face chills from the air rushing past as you ski down the fall line. The indescribable rush you get when you are skiing in a natural, smooth rhythm that empties your mind of everything except the anticipation of your next turn and the feel of your skis against the snow. These things are timeless and ageless and keep us coming back to the slopes year after advancing year.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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