Monday, January 12, 2015

Revisiting My Adolescence--Skiing at Age 66 on Big Mountain, Whitefish, Montana

My first time skiing was around 1962, as a Freshman at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland. We would go in a school bus to a ski area in Chesterland called "Mont Chalet." This was a  beautiful little hill, maybe a vertical drop of 250 feet (tops!), with a run of a couple of hundred yards. I have fond memories of Mont Chalet and our bus trips there. One time we actually started slipping backwards on a snowy Tibbetts Road (which connected to Caves Road). The bus driver put on the emergency brakes, and we escaped the bus and pushed it up the hill!

By the time I was a senior at St. Joe's, we started going to Alpine Valley Ski Area in Munson Township, Geauga County. That area had a higher vertical and longer runs--but really it was quite short compared to ski resorts in New England or in the Mountain West.

My real development as a skier happened the winter of 1967-68, when I studied in Innsbruck, Austria--Sophomore Year Abroad, a Notre Dame program. I took a week of skiing lessons at an Austrian youth ski school in the week after Christmas that year, along with my classmates Brian Wilson, Tim Forward, and Benny Thomas. We got a week of lessons in Obergurgl, Austria, plus room and board (Matrazen Anlagen--German for mattresses butted up against each other in an open dorm room)--the cost was an incredible $18.00, if I remember correctly. Anyway, that week of lessons paid off and got me in very good shape. The Austrian teachers did not believe in using ski lifts. We skied down the mountain and walked up--every single time. We worked on our skiing for about 6 hours per day. I was a pretty good skier after that week!

Below is a much more recent photo of Obergurgl, found using a Google search:

After my year in Austria, I skied very little. Occasionally I would go to Alpine Valley or Brandywine/Boston Mills. On two occasions, I made quick trips to Killington, Vermont (hilarious stories with those trips). In the 1990's and early 2000's I went to Holiday Valley or Peak 'n Peek in western New York State a few times.

About 6 years ago, when my daughter Carolan was living in Frisco, Colorado (and working at the Copper Mountain Ski Resort), I got to ski on that huge mountain. I was able to do OK, which surprised me. But I remember how my thighs burned the whole way down the mountain. You have to have very strong legs to ski on the the Rocky Mountains. You also have to put up with very cold weather. The day we skied on Copper Mountain it was about 10 below zero!

So after not doing any downhill skiing for the past six years or so, I went skiing a few days ago on Big Mountain, just outside of Whitefish, Montana. My daughter lives at the foot of the mountain and has a season's pass for skiing. So with rented skis and her ski discount, I skied with her and her friend Jeremy Rust on Big Mountain, an incredible skiing venue.

Below are some photos from our Big Mountain adventure:

Carolan skiing down the Hellroaring Basin (photo by Jeremy Rust)

Bob and Carolan hollering "Ski Heil!" Flathead Valley in the background. Jeremy took this one too.

Atop Big Mountain.

I made it down a fairly steep slope. I can still ski!

Carolan and Bob at the summit. Glacier National Park mountains in the background.

A better view of the great peaks of Glacier National Park, from atop Big Mountain

Carolan and Bob

Linda and Carolan

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