Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 27, 2008-Back in the Day of Skiing

Consider This for October 27, 2008-Back in the Day of Skiing

Nostalgia. Memories flashing in my brain as I stare out the window last Wednesday during our first real snowstorm. It was raining, sleeting and snowing all at the same time.

It actually snowed twice at my house in August, twice in September but this was the first real snow where it stuck to the ground for any length of time.

I moved to Colorado in May of 1970. I drove to Summit County about the same time and decided that someday I would live here. I finally moved to the mountains in April of 1974 after driving up here just about every day when the lifts were open.

In May of 1970 there were two ski areas in Summit County. A Basin and Breckenridge. Keystone opened that fall and Copper Mountain opened in the fall of 1972. I was on one of the first lifts at both ski areas on opening day. I was obsessed.

In 1970 I 70 was not finished and the Eisenhower tunnel was under construction. The Eisenhower bore westbound opened in 1973 and the Johnson bore eastbound opened in 1979. I was part of the construction crew of the Johnson bore and did the concrete on Vail Pass before that part of the intestate was finished.

It was a different world when you had to drive from Denver to Summit County on the old Highway 6 over Loveland Pass. Parts of I 70 has been finished in the spring of 1970 but you would go from four lanes to two lanes back and forth all the way to Dillon.

I decided early on that I would ski all of the ski areas in Colorado. I actually drove to Aspen early in the morning from Denver and then drove back that night. I remember sleeping in my car many nights in parking lots at ski areas. One was a parking lot where the first parking structure is in Vail at Bridge Street.

I skied Monarch and Purgatory. I slept in a camper trailer owned by a friend in Steamboat many weekends. No running water so after three days I could not stand myself let alone my friends.

My skis were used Sears Aluminum skis with steel edges and were 250 cm. I learned to ski at Loveland Ski Basin where lift tickets were $4 a day. I think lessons were about the same price. I built immense thighs trying to turn my 250s coming down the hill in the traditional snowplow. My ski pants were jeans. My ski jacket was light nylon with a heavy sweatshirt underneath. After my first run I was soaking wet. Lunch was chili on a paper plate covered with cheese and a glass of beer. We would go to the Red Ram in Georgetown for Apres Ski.

I decided to join the Ski Patrol and a friend was on the patrol at Geneva Basin over Guanella pass from Georgetown. When it came time to train there was no snow at Geneva Basin so I trained at A Basin. I thought I was going to die. We had to put skins on our skis (remember mine were 250 Cm) and then ski up the hill. The hardest part was moving the skis.

My boots were low hard leather and my bindings were Marker bindings with a spring loaded thing to hold them to my boots. Of course that did not work. If you set them to release they would release all the time. If you tighten them so they would stay on then you had the potential of a broken leg. What a dilemma. And yes I did eventually buy a pair of compound skies and real boots with real bindings.

I finally gave up skiing as a bad habit in the 1980s after spending many days not skiing but standing in lift lines. Everytime I mention that I am reminded by my friends that there are now high speed quad lifts and gondolas to zip you up the mountain quickly. I will leave that for younger folk. I do miss the chili with cheese on a paper plate though.

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