Blogger Andy Knight writes about his skiing heroes in his latest blog post. Read it below and on the Waterville Valley Foundation Blog.
By any reasonable measure, I am at best an average athlete. In high school, the dread 600-yard run for the President’s Physical Fitness Award ended in barfing episodes more than once. I didn’t have much patience for team sports, and I grew up in household where work was generally valued over play. However, when I was twelve, my parents signed me up for an after-school ski program at Pat’s Peak through the local YMCA. I hacked my way down the J-Bar slope on ancient wooden skis with screw-in metal edges and Cubco plate bindings that my Dad was resourceful enough to figure out how to attach to my auction-house leather-and-plastic boots. Adjust the bindings? I don’t think we knew you were supposed to do that. The next year found me back at Pat’s every weekend, mostly skiing alone, emulating better skiers and progressing slowly from a snowplow (that’s what we called it back them) to a stem christie (a lost art) to something like a wide-track parallel turn. But, as Warren Miller says, once you take that first chairlift ride, your life will be screwed up forever. So it went with me.
Nancy and I spent our early twenties day-skiing Killington, and our late 20s enjoying pre-Christmas ski weeks at Sugarloaf each year. It was at Sugarloaf that I finally took real lessons and learned some semblance of technique. It was also at the Loaf that I was first exposed to really great skiers — racers, instructors, and patrollers who could ski anything with a casual grace that simply blew me way. Several years in a row, I skied with Sugarloaf instructor Rocky Freeman. Rocky — a sometime bush-pilot and an excellent teacher — was a heroic figure to me, and I happily followed him down ridiculously steep terrain, emulating his every move. Against all odds, a couple of those moves even stuck.
Today, I found myself contemplating my humble beginnings and slow maturation as a skier. For past four or five seasons, I’ve managed to squeeze out forty-plus days of skiing each season. My skiing has gradually improved by dint of sheer repetition — but also because I once again find myself surrounded great skiers I can emulate. If you ski every weekend at Waterville Valley, you probably take it for granted that just about everyone is a pretty good skier. Having spent a week out west in February, I can, however, report that the art of skiing as it’s practiced here is highly refined. I’ve spent the past few years carefully studying the technique of the best skiers on the hill — BBTS coaches and racers, Snowsports instructors, and our excellent ski patrollers. I can’t say too much of it has rubbed off, but it’s good to have role models.
Even better — and I have no idea how this has happened — I’ve become friends with some of those amazing skiers I’ve admired from the chairlift. My second run this morning, I caught up with patroller Kevin. Kevin’s a powerful skier who carves quiet arcs down the hill, hardly seeming to exert himself no matter how steep the terrain. A few runs later, I hooked up with instructors Dick and Mike — PSIA Level Three coaches who ski with rhythmic grace and ease at eye-watering speeds — and we ripped down Tippe and World Cup for some of the best runs of the season. Somehow I managed to keep up, almost-but-not-quite matching them turn for turn. We won’t talk about my technique; skiing with your heroes is one thing, but it’s certainly better that I was following and not leading so they didn’t have to watch. It’s gratifying to get to ski with people who are so good at what they do, and who obviously enjoy it enormously.
Speaking of heroes: I hope you’ll be able to attend the book-signing by the authors of A Hero Is More Than A Sandwich: Tales of a “Volunteered” Fireman. Penned by Waterville Valley Ski Resort President Bob Fries, with a special tribute to the firefighters of 9/11 by Tom Gross, the book humorously recalls their service as volunteer firefighters in Waterville Valley.
The book signing will be held at Diamond’s Edge North on Saturday, March 19th from 3pm till 5pm. Bob and Tom have kindly offered to donate a portion of each book sold that evening to the Waterville Valley Foundation.
By Andy Knight