Teaching Myself

When I was four I decided it was high time for me to learn how to ski. My schedule was pretty open, and I had all the necessary clothing. I lived in Seattle and Stevens’ Pass was only 78 miles east on Highway 2. All I needed were skis, boots, poles, goggles, and a ride to the ski area.

I knew I could rent the equipment once I got to Stevens, and that meant transportation was the only obstacle. Mom was busy making lunches, cleaning the kitchen floor, and watching my younger brother, John, who had a habit of running out the front door naked if left unattended. All Dad did was work six AM to two PM Monday through Friday; he didn’t do anything at all once he got home, and his weekends were completely free. After my midday nap I waited for him to get home so I could pop the question to him.

I had tapped into a hitherto unknown desire because the next thing I knew my red skis and I were at Stevens Pass being whisked up the rope tow while mom waited in the lodge with John and my older brother, Stewart made his way up the tow on his own.

Rope tows were defective in those days. They were set so high off the ground that a two-and-a-half-foot-tall four-year old couldn’t reach the rope. I made arrangements with Dad to take me up the tow by tucking me between his legs while he held the rope with one hand and me with the other.

I discovered that placing my skis in a snow plow* configuration and shifting my weight from the inside of one ski to the inside of the other, while keeping my poles out front ready to mash the moguls as I picked up speed was the best way to make a controlled and elegant descent. From there it was an easy progression to Seventh Heaven (the top run at Stevens Pass) and first tracks in powder so deep it was over my head.

My advice? Teach yourself. It’s a lot easier than depending upon someone else’s schedule and expertise.

Next Week: Teaching Myself To Rock Climb, Age Nine

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*The snow plow is not a wedge, as it is commonly referred to today. You’re not “wedging” your skis between your boots and the snow, you’re “plowing” snow by putting your skis in a “V”. (If you snow plow in deep snow you ruin the hill for others who want to ski through the deep snow and not the bare track you just left behind. You are now in a position of humility and subject to the ridicule of other skiers shouting “Powder Pig!” at you from their seat of shame on the chair lift above you.) It’s a plow, not a wedge.

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