Back in 1961, my mom and dad( who did not ski) took my sister and I for the first time to Seven Springs Resort here in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. It was a terrible experience of travel that cold March night on the turnpike and I remember clearly my dad white knuckling our car all the way to the Donegal exit. What transpired that weekend was a lifelong love of skiing that was made possible by the generosity and care of my parents. On a subsequent visit to Hidden Valley the following year, my mom skied for two feet. At the prodding of her friend Virginia Ruth, my mom put on the skis, slid for two feet, fell on her head and said,” That’s it- take the damn things off.” She never skied again nor did my dad who had back surgery and skiing was not in the picture.
Fast forward and I was a regular on the Friday night ski bus from the little ski shop in the North Hills Village shopping center. My dad made friends with the owner and she said she would look out for me with all the high school kids on the bus. How I skied with my wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather lace up boots is still a mystery to me. The slopes were icy, no grooming to speak of, early primitive snow making or no snow making at all, at night, cold as hell. But I loved it!!! The ski bug bit me and the venom of that bite still flows through my veins- 53 years later. I spent weekends after that at the Rich cabin on County Line Road and the weekly trip to the Laurel Highlands was the norm for me. I had a smile on my face the whole way.
I have skied in 108 different areas to date and still manage to take several trips per year out west and to New England. If you look at my bio, it shows my history in the sport and people ask me why I still ski at Seven Springs when I have the opportunity to ski elsewhere during the season. The reason is put best by a guy that I rode the chair with last weekend. As we braved the new snow on opening day at the Springs, I remarked to him that people asked me why I was going up to ski 3 slopes this early in the season. He said,” Why not? You make the same turns here that you do at Jackson Hole.” How true. I love to make turns- whether it is at Seven Springs or elsewhere, skiing is fun. What else should I do on a Saturday morning- watch cartoons? My friends from 53 years of skiing are still there and we all get together on opening weekend to catch up, drink coffee and tell each other about the new equipment we have and trips we will take. Skiing is addicting and it is a lifestyle not just something we do. I like to consider myself a skier and not just someone who skis. There is a difference. I also noticed this past Thanksgiving weekend that there were as many gray hairs and beards out there as there were young kids. When you are bitten by the ski bug, you are a skier for life. Whatever metaphor you like- bitten, hooked, etc, skiing is part of your life and that opening day no matter where it is excites you. I still can’t sleep the night before. Just like when I was a kid. Love the Laurel Highlands.
Returning back to last weeks post, ” Pay it Forward”, the ski bug or hook can be set by someone bringing new people into the sport. My friend JR who I work with, has taken the time to bring his son Isaac to ski. Along with Kate, Sydney, Joey and Jackson, they get up early, make the trek to the mountains, and ski together. JR is a good man. He is not wild about skiing but sees that Isaac and his pals and cousins love it and so he puts himself out there as the sherpa much like my dad did with us when my sister and I started. Sometimes a friendly word from an outside source such as yours truly helps the process. JR was skiing at Hidden Valley last spring and called me to tell me that he had the group there. I immediately went to my car, drove with my ski boots on( a real acquired skill as a skier), and located them at HIdden Valley. One of the boys was struggling a bit and I saw the problem and asked JR if I could intervene. He responded in the affirmative and with a few friendly pointers, the kid who might have quit for the day became hooked- or bitten, and this past weekend, he skied better than ever according to JR. You need a good start in the sport and whether you take a lesson or you learn from someone who knows, the initial experience is crucial. So many people go skiing with a friend, get hurt, have a bad experience because their start was not good. Take the time to learn properly. Kids acquire skills naturally and take to the sport reasonably well. But a few well placed words of instruction can mean the difference between someone catching on or someone quitting and never returning to the mountains again. Guys like JR, my dad, Bob Rose all took the time and made the sacrifices so that kids like me and this group, could take up the sport of a lifetime. I will always be grateful to my dad and Bob Rose- and this crowd will always be grateful to JR. In the immortal words of Oswald, the old mascot for Seven Springs in his Tyrolean hat and Leiderhosen- ” Leben Weider” – Live again!!! The excitement, the passion, the fun all reside on the slopes for me and I can’t wait for each season to start. 850 vertical feet and 3 slopes- you bet. I will be there!!! Thanks for reading and be passionate about something.