While my country seems to be imploding with coronavirus scares and management woes, Mrs Bear and I are spending the week in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. While Mrs Bear has made great progress since her leg fracture, she opted not to ski this week. Instead, she lap swims in a 90 degree outdoor pool, accompanies me on snowcats for dinner in high mountain cabins (below), and keeps working on her rehab. I have been out on the slopes everyday enjoying one of my life passions.
Let me backtrack to the beginning. In my late-twenties, I became increasingly frustrated with my tennis skills. After being a ranked junior and a college player, my game was suffering from “real world” limitations. Playing once a week, which was about five times less than during my competitive years, led to frustrations as my skills diminished. So I made the decision to find brand new recreational opportunities. I reasoned that watching myself get better in new sports was psychologically better than getting worse in older ones.
Skiing is one of a handful of sports that, on your first try, you will either absolutely hate it or become hooked for life. Some people hate the cold and have trouble picking up the basic skills. Falling down a lot and getting wet are not conducive to an admiration. I, on the other hand, loved being in the mountains…Skiing is not something you do on the flatlands. I dressed up for the weather, and, from the beginning, I learned the basics of how to turn both right and left. If you can turn, you can slow down and stop. And I liked challenging myself with bigger mountains and steeper slopes.
Now, let’s jump to the present… I find skiing to be peaceful and reflective. I took the shot above on an early run at about 9:00 in the morning. It’s just me and the slope. And as you see, the mountains I ski have become immense. This pic was taken at about 9,500 feet above sea level. The air is crisp…The winds are blocked by the mountain…And the world I have to deal with on a daily basis is far away…No money issues, politics, or any other kind of commitments for that matter. AND, there is another 2000 feet of elevation gain behind me. Beaver Creek rises to an elevation of over 11,300 feet. From there, it’s 3500 vertical feet, about five miles of trail, and roughly 30 minutes to return to the stresses at the base.
Now, let me describe the joy of being taken up the mountain on a chairlift. To imagine this, I inserted a photo looking UP the trails. Most of the time, the lifts take you through the trees…Aspens, Firs, Spruces. There are few sounds… the gentle hum of the cables interrupted occasionally by a scratch and thump as the chair goes over a tower, the swoosh sound skies make when they carve out a turn, and the sound of your own breathing. The sights also put me into a trance…The blueness and bigness of the sky, the recent snow clinging to the branches of neighboring skies, the whistle of the wind through the trees, and the whiteness of the slopes below you.
And finally the rhythm of your own movements… the pureness of carving a rounded turn, the thrill of gliding at speeds that put a bite of frozen air on your two inches of exposed skin, and the feeling of being in control as your skis glide down the slopes.
All this adds up to a natural high. Although the song is hokey, John Denver experienced the same meditative bliss on a chairlift in Aspen and penned “Annie’s Song…” You fill up my senses like a night in the forest…
I’ll be 70 soon. I don’t push myself like I used to. But I still cruise high above the life pressures down below. Skiing is an escape…Better and safer than drugs or alcohol, and equal to the pureness of a perfectly struck golf shot…But that’s for another post someday.