I get a lot of enjoyment listening to friends gearing up for ski season. Not that I’m planning a packed-powder adventure anytime soon. No, what I enjoy most about winter recreation is just thinking deeply about it while parked on my living room sofa with a hot beverage.
My approach to skiing can be summed up in one phrase: Look, but don’t touch. I developed this attitude 30 years ago when I worked as a radio ski reporter. It was my job to love the sport from a safe distance.
Inside the confines of a small office, I gathered information about snow conditions from resorts across the US and then called stations to deliver enthusiastic on-air descriptions of what I’d learned.
But I could never challenge the slopes myself. The radio calls had to be made six days a week, and the boss kept the staff so tiny there was no substitute reporter to fill my spot in an emergency.
The risk of experiencing some job-threatening mishap, such as mistaking a ravine for a bunny slope, was too high for me to ever consider participating in the activity I was so happily promoting.
But this conundrum didn’t bother me. It only reinforced one of my longstanding personal preferences: I’m a dedicated fan of friction and its nearly identical cousin, traction. Maintaining their presence in my immediate surroundings is a top priority.
During childhood, my idea of a good low-friction experience was the playground slide at elementary school. It was short in distance and duration, and you could grab the sides on the way down to slow the descent.
Acceleration has always alarmed me. It’s a scientific fact that if a body in motion accelerates long enough, it can reach escape velocity and break free of the Earth’s gravity. Granted, there has never been a case of any downhill skier peeling off toward Neptune. To which I say – not that we know of.
From the age of 10 to 16, I did go on several family ski trips, so no one can accuse me of failing to give the sport a chance. Most of my attention on the slopes was focused on finding a good place to stop and prepare for the next 50-foot segment of the journey.
What I really needed was a supply of orange highway cones to place around my stopping areas so oncoming traffic would be extra cautious in my vicinity. During my rest breaks, I would just stare into the distance and say to myself, “It’s so embarrassing when I fall down. And my fingers are really cold.”
Such introspection also occurred while riding chair lifts. The aerial views were compelling, but most of my time was spent looking down and thinking, “Wow, I wish I was closer to the ground. And my fingers are really, really cold now.”
To everyone who has their boards and poles ready for action, I offer this message: Have the time of your life cutting those turns through fresh powder.
I’ll be enjoying snow season in a different sort of terrain: flat, soft, and well-upholstered.