I can't remember exactly where I first met Dirk Anderson, but that initial meeting probably had something to do with bikes. It was back in the mid- nineties, before my skiing affliction kicked in, when my world was ruled by gear ratios and tire treads—and my ass existed in a more or less constant state of saddle-induced misery. It was more fun than it sounds.
Anyway. Dirk was an avid cyclist, too, so we started hanging at races and riding together occasionally. I immediately took to his easygoing manner. To understand just how laid-back Dirk is, all you have to do is watch him walk. Actually, walk is the wrong word: Dirk ambles. He has the sort of loose-limbed gait common to those in possession of either a lithium prescription or a steady source of really good weed. As far as I know, Dirk has neither.
When I started skiing regularly, it was with Dirk. I liked skiing with him for two reasons: He's an excellent athlete, one of those rare skiers who's so smooth that watching him is at once inspiring and relaxing. And yet, perhaps owing to his demeanor, Dirk never seemed to weary of waiting for me. He'd flow through a line of birches like a whisper, pull up at the bottom, and cool his heels while I took down more wood than a drunken lumberjack. These days, whenever I'm skiing with someone of lesser ability and getting impatient (impatience being a specialty of mine), I remember the countless hours Dirk spent idly while I threw myself against the ground.
At some point, my skills caught up with my ambition. This was good, because not only are emergency rooms expensive places to do the après thing, but they don't have Long Trail Ale on tap. It must have been a great relief for Dirk, too: Finally, I could keep pace.
Dirk and I have shared an awful lot of days on snow. We have skied choker powder, sweet spring corn, and ice the color of a clear December sky. Our skiing relationship has evolved to the point where we each play distinct roles: Mine is the voice of youth and inexperience (Dirk is eight years my senior), his is the voice of reason. These roles were cemented a few years back, when I convinced Dirk to jump a partially frozen creek on his Nordic skis. The injury kept him off the slopes for almost three weeks (in my defense, I must note that I goaded him only after landing the same jump).
All of which is to say that there are other people I love to ski with. I've had unforgettable days with Pete, and Howie, and Scott. But there is no one I'd rather ski with than Dirk. That, I think, is the difference between a ski buddy—and a buddy who skis.