There has been a lot of talk about global warming lately and the ski areas are concerned about shorter ski seasons and the revenue concerns that are a result of this weather phenomena. A lot of areas have been promoting summer activities like golf, conventions, hikng, lift served mountain biking, bike parks and other ways of bringing the public to the mountains in the summer to boost bottom lines at resorts.
Back in the day, my buddy Mike Smith, who I have referenced in this blog as my ski buddy from Lake George, NY, was the mountain manager at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. Mike was instrumental in designing and installing one of the first Alpine Slides in the country and Annie Dupre Santry and I were his crash test dummies during the installation. The slide basically was a concrete slide which made its way down the mountain and the rider would utilize a cart with wheels and a brake lever for speed control. By leaning left or right, one could ride the slide and control the cart at a speed that was dictated by the bravado and the skill of the rider. During installation, Mike would ask Annie and I to try different sections and see how fast we could go without flipping out of the concrete track. Based on our success or failure, he would adjust the bends and reduce the amount of straightaways. Annie and I ended up with some amazing crash rash on our elbows, thighs and various other body parts due to this experimentation and Mike would laugh hysterically at our failures which resulted in some colossal crashes on the adjacent ski slope. ” You better put a bend in there Mike”, I would yell out as I tended to my wounds while riding the chairlift up the mountain for another run at it. Mike would make an adjustment and tell Annie and I to go for it again with “no brakes”. Like the dummies that we were,we would comply and either make it or fly out of the track rolling in the grass down the hill with another failed attempt. Mike would put another bend in the track until we all could ride it successfully at high speed. I was never sure whether this type of testing was in the installation manual but it worked for Mike, and Annie and I had a blast doing it weathering the bleeding, scrapes, and blunt force trauma of it all.
Another form of summer carnage was the sport of grass skiing. These tank treads which had ski bindings mounted to them were an accident waiting to happen at picnics, and other weekend afternoons on grassy ski slopes. I had some of the first ones and many a friend at a picnic nearly killed themselves trying to maneuver these grass skis by physically making baby steps in the direction of the turn. Even with ski poles, the turns were not pretty and if you hit a rock or a stump, you went flying into the puckerbrush with crash rash galore. You could get your bell rung real well with grass skiing. At Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania, they even had giant slalom courses set up in the summer for grass skiing and at the top of the mountain was a large pan of soapy water to lube the grass skis for your attempt at the course. As the competitiveness of summer skiers heated up, the crashes were spectacular with many an ending in the local clinic tending to rashes and broken wrists and arms. I was fortunate enough to only secure cuts and bruises but the thrill of downhill skiing in the summer was intoxicating enough to bring us back for more and more at our local areas and parks as well as the mountain resorts. The grass skis were eventually given to some poor unsuspecting younger friend as I got older and wiser, but I sure got good use out of those ungodly machines of destruction.
Mountain bike crashes, road bike crashes in criteriums and road races and behind leaky garbage trucks have come and gone. In the winter, there have been many an edge caught with a resulting crash of spectacular form. But nothing like the raw egg beaters of working the Alpine Slide or racing on the grass skis. As I get older, some of those old egg beaters have begun to take their toll in stiffness upon waking. But I always look back and laugh at the bravado and the sheer insanity of utilizing the slide and the grass skis. No wonder I got clots and have to take a blood thinner. When you have no respect for your body and hurl youself into the abyss, things happen and they aren’t always pretty. But you have to have some fun in your life right? Nowdays, I take it a little easier. Not sure about Annie. Thanks for reading.