The first time I ever talked with Matt Lauer, I could barely hear him over the shouting. He's used to it: As co-host of the Today show, the nation's most popular morning program, Lauer is watched by 7 million people daily on NBC and by hundreds of fans who habitually chant his name in Rockefeller Plaza outside the show's New York City studio. Indeed, there we stood in ski boots that February morning, in the middle of the loud, adoring mob. We were about to do a live skiing segment from the top of Mt. Rockefeller, a tiny snow wedge that had been built the night before. The segment's director was anxious, to say the least. But surely Lauer, a passionate, lifelong skier who began his Today career in 1994 as news anchor, was calm...
ML I was terrified, actually.
SKI You looked relaxed.
ML I saw the tape afterward, and my turns didn't look too good. You know, you can get in the Back Bowls of Vail in more challenging terrain than you're used to-a little over your head-and pull off one perfect turn after another. But when you're standing on the top of a little bump made of soap suds and ice and you're worried about tumbling down the side with all of those people watching, it's a little harder.
SKI What's your first skiing memory?
ML I was probably 10 years old, growing up in Westchester County (New York). In the afternoons, my mom would pack me a brown-bag lunch, bundle me up in every piece of clothing I owned and take me to the bus stop. An hour and a half later, we'd be at a little area called Silvermine (now defunct)-one intermediate slope and a chute. Maybe 300 yards from top to bottom.
SKI In other words, not glamorous.
ML No, but to me, and to my friends, it was exotic: skiing at night, going fast. We'd get there at sundown, and it would be 3 degrees outside, and we'd ride the T-bar and ski 50 runs until we couldn't feel our extremities. I loved it.
SKI Sounds cold. Why did you stick with it?
ML The speed. I loved the speed. And I still do. I was a classic bomber. I had no form-I'd buckle my boots and go straight down. In fact, the speed and the camaraderie of it are still the reasons I love skiing.
SKI And now you have even more camaraderie.
ML That's right. My son Jack is 17 months old, and we'll take him out to Colorado this year. He won't ski, but it'll be fun to go with him.
SKI Your wife (Annette Roque Lauer) is also a very good skier.
ML She and I are about the same level, but she's much more graceful than I am. We love to go out there to do some cruising to challenge ourselves. We look at it as a tame adventure.
SKI But an adventure you share.
ML Another reason I love skiing: If I go off for a golf vacation, I'm gone all day. But with skiing, my wife and I can spend the whole day together.
SKI Last question: Any tips for effective skiing on Mt. Rockefeller? ML Lock your knees and hang on.