always after me to try some place new rather than go to the same
area year after year. This season Jack talked me into going to Utah
where neither of us had skied before. It would be different. It was,
right from the start.
We caught a very early flight on a Monday morning and by noon,
Mountain time, were in our room at Snowbird, Utah, unpacking. Before
heading out for our first taste of Utah powder, I went to the bathroom
to take care of some sit down business and discovered I could see Jack
in the bedroom. I had shut the bathroom door and figured I must be
seeing his reflection in a mirror somewhere. Not realizing he could
see me, I waved. He waved back and said something like, "Nice. Very
This was indeed different. A genius in the construction industry
had built a bathroom with a big, clear glass window over the bathtub.
Why? So you could sit on the toilet and see the mountains outside? So
you could watch your roommate take a shower or sit on the toilet? Who
knows. There was a curtain by the bathtub window, which we kept closed
the rest of the trip.
The Utah snow was as advertised - wonderfully soft and plentiful -
and I was glad I listened to Jack's suggestion. We were skiing great runs
we had never been on before, we lucked out on the weather, but still
there were the usual aggravations of skiing. I've always been bothered
by macho guys who jump on a chair lift with you, and, instead of holding
their ski poles in their hands like most of us do, they sit on them. That
has to be uncomfortable as hell, like plopping your butt down on two
Sure enough on our second day in Utah, we shared a lift with a pole
sitter. This one a woman. She joined us at the last second, and, when I
saw her start to put her poles under her butt, I said, "Oh, you're not going
to sit on your poles, are you?"
"Yes," she said.
"Why?," I asked.
"So my hands are free?"
"You're not going to touch me are you?"
She smiled and pretended she was going to grab my arm.
Jack, who is much quicker than I am, noticed the woman was wearing
a patch on her left arm, signifying that she belonged to an over-80 skiing
association. As we talked on the ride up, she told us she learned to ski
when she was 40 and that she is now 88. (That is not a typo.)
She asked what type of skiing we did, groomed trails or off
piste? "Groomed," we immediately said, referring to trails that have
been smoothed down by bulldozers.
Ah, she said, sounding, I thought, a little disappointed in us. She
had skied "powder" the past two days, "but today I'm taking it easy and
doing the groomed runs." I interpreted "powder" to mean she had been
zipping her way between trees off piste. I don't do that, ever. Did I
mention that she is 88 years old, 16 years older than I am?
When we got to the top, she skied away as slick as a sliding bar of
soap. As I watched her, I thought maybe it was time to drop my bias
against pole sitters, and maybe even time for me to do something
different - to join them. Stuffing my poles under my butt might feel
very strange at first, but perhaps I just have to suck it up and tolerate a
little discomfort if I'm ever going to come close to looking as confident
and as capable on a mountain as that lady does.
Who am I kidding? I never will look that graceful, and I'm never
going to sit on my poles either, but I'd sure go back to Utah tomorrow.
(Posted February 9, 2010)