As the quad chair cleared the loading ramp and accelerated to 2,800 feet per minute, the fellow sitting next to me said, "Look at all those oddballs on those funny short skis and snowboards down there. Skiing sure wasn't like this in the good old days." His comment started me thinking. Just how good were the good old days?
Most of the things we take for granted today had not been invented when Ward Baker and I spent the winter of 1946-47 living in the Sun Valley parking lot. The good thing about living there for three and a half months in an 8-foot trailer was that we skied every day for 18 cents a day. But I get ahead of myself.
Here are a few of the things we didn't have in those good old days:
In the good old days you got to drive narrow, icy roads without snow tires, power brakes, power steering or four-wheel drive. In the good old days you got to stand in those 45-minute liftlines with itchy, wet long johns because your gabardine ski pants weren't waterproof. You got to feel the water seep in through the holes in your lace-up ski boots. You got to peer through foggy goggles as the ski patrol hauled another skier off the hill with a spiral fracture caused by bear-trap bindings.
So give me skiing as it is today, on runs that were groomed to corduroy perfection the night before, riding up the mountain on high-speed quads, comfortable in layers of waterproof-breathable clothing, plastic boots with heaters, thermal socks and underwear that wicks away sweat, insulated gloves, fog-free goggles, releaseable bindings tuned to my weight and ability, lightweight poles and soft-flexing fat skis to carve up yet another postcard-perfect slope.
I started making turns in 1937 on a pair of $2 pine boards with leather toe straps. Since then, fortunately, the inventors of ski gear have kept ahead of my need for equipment that makes the sport easier on my body. For me every day is a good old day, and each day is better than the last.
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