Monday, March 7, 2011

S is for Skiing

(Downhill/Alpine that is.)

I have been an avid skier for 33 years.

My earliest days at this crazy sport were spent at Chestnut Mountain Resort. Having had a taste of skiing the winter before, I spent most of my sophomore year in high school at Chestnut either skiing, working in the gift shop, or partying with friends. It was the winter of 1977/78. The ski hill was only six miles further down Blackjack Road from the Pilot Knob turn-off for my house.

Larry, one of my water skiing buddies, said he would teach me how to handle the rope tow. I followed him right over the edge of the sidewalk in front of the rental shop, by-passing the two bunny hills to stop at the bottom of the #3 rope tow, the steepest of the bunch. Larry promptly turned toward me, grabbed hold of the rotating nylon rope, and slid up the hill backwards saying, "It's easy, Bronwyn, just point your skis up the hill and hold on!"

Needless to say, I was flat on my face faster than you cold say "ski!" Damn hotshot.

Chuck and Phil weren't much more helpful. They didn't even pause to help me and simply headed for Blackhawk with a "Good luck! See you later . . ."

I worked hard that winter. I was fearless and by God they were not going to ditch me for the entire winter. Besides, on weekends the lift lines were long enough that I could catch up to them anyway.

I spent the next three winters skiing as often as I could and working as a lifty bumping chairs at the bottom. Chestnut, also known by locals as Mount Plastique due to the bogus trees prominent in the interior decorating, was my home away from home. Many of my friends gained their livelihood there, and some still do! (Murph? if you're out there I'm certain I have a lifetime season pass!) My favorite thing at Chestnut was being the first and only skier headed to the bottom to start my night skiing shift. The view from the top of Chestnut is pure, unadulterated Mississippi River wildness. Skiing down during a spectacular sunset was simply the frosting on the cake.

Fast forward to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. During the winter of 1981/82 my boyfriend and I bought passes for Afton Alps near the St. Croix river, just east of St. Paul. Okay - not remarkable enough to comment on.

Then Dale and I settled south of Hastings where we've been raising our sons for the past 22 years. We've had season passes to Welch Village most of those 22 years. Both boys were skiing as soon as they could walk, both no older than three.

The view at the top of Welch isn't as breath-taking as the Chestnut view, but the Cannon River Valley is pretty spectacular. Last year Welch offered an Olympic Anniversary sale and we all bought our season passes for $99. We were such good customers they were able to replace an old chairlift. And the skiing this winter has been FANTASTIC!

The last three weeks I've been heading down to Welch in time for sunset skiing. My goal is at least ten runs in an hour. There haven't been any crowds so I can usually get in even more runs than ten in an hour and still be home in time for supper. I've seen numerous hawks and Bald Eagles. Sometimes I meet with friends and family. Sometimes I simply plug into my iPod, giving thanks for my new helmet with the ear pockets for my SkullCandy earphones.

Tonight I spent part of the night skiing with Suzanne (testing new skis) and Rachel (riding a new board), and the rest skiing with the Bare Naked Ladies and the Black Eyed Peas. It was a great night.

Tomorrow I think I will renew my season pass for $149! I love my ski area. And I am thankful that I am still skiing. Care to join me?

P.S. I've been skiing Chicken quite a bit this week - nice conditions. I still think Apache at Chestnut is steeper and longer. I've only skied Warpath a couple of times, but I think it's the only double black diamond in the Midwest that truly rates the dual status. Guess I'll have to get back down there to check it out.

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