I recently interviewed a biker named Matt who once had a doctor reconstruct his knee without using anesthesia. Matt regretted it, but you have to appreciate his old-school approach. Why embrace progress, Matt seemed to say, when you can just bite the bullet?
The same goes for me and skiing. I really miss skiing's good old days. I miss the Killington chairlift on frigid, mid-January mornings in 1977, when they handed out olive-drab Army blankets like sympathy cards to uploading skiers. And I miss the clanking, 25-minute ride to the top.
High-speed quads? Those are for sissies. Never mind that by the time we reached the summit, we all looked like Spartacus extras limping to the restaurant for a cup of hot chocolate.
And about those hot drinks: When an Eastern bloc lunchroom lady throws a Swiss Miss packet at your head and charges you $2, you know you've been served. The grainy powder islands that floated around in my Styrofoam mug were reassuring. Today, when the chefs up at Deer Valley ladle out lobster bisque, I'm speechless.
Enough of the "good ol' days." There's just no denying the incredible improvement in equipment and the corresponding growth in thrills. In other words: Today is better. From head to toe, from waterproof, breathable fabrics that keep the weather out to shaped skis that let you carve turns in a matter of moments, to snowmaking guns that make dry winters skiable, there's almost nothing regrettable about skiing's progress. We do it for fun, and there's simply more to be had, more quickly.
Let's paint a picture: You slip on thin synthetic socks that let you feel the snow and still keep you warm. You step into a ski outfit that beats the elements and doesn't elicit laughter in the supermarket. After a couple of eggs, you hop into your ski boots¿custom footbeds supporting those fading arches¿and hop onto your shaped skis. Now it's time for the high-speed ride to the summit; heads up, you're already there.
As for the way down, you choose: Go fast. Go slow. Bumps, groomed corduroy and the backside (left wild for your freeride skis) are all there for you. So with all due respect to those lamenting the passing of the old days, I ask only this: Is it nostalgia ... or amnesia?