Every year around this time, the editors of this magazine send me a letter asking for a list of story ideas for the upcoming season. Every year my list starts with "Bottomless Pocketbook: A Year-Long Heli-Ski Diary." And every year, a story remarkably similar to that one is written by some lucky staff person. For some strange reason, most of the assignments I actually get aren't my idea at all¿the ones that involve skiing on mud, rolling around inside a giant beach ball, or simply standing around in my ski boots until my toenails turn Technicolor. But as Hyman Roth said to Michael Corleone in Godfather II, "this is the business we have chosen."
While my editors deliberate my fate for next season, I'll give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the editorial-planning process. Here are the ideas that won't make the cut¿the concepts too avant-garde, too cutting edge, too far ahead of their time to appear in the pages of Skiing Magazine. This year, at least.
Travel: "Fly Free...Really Free: A skier's guide to the best bargain in air travel."On June 14 Zoltan Voyonovich, a Croatian national with few if any frequent-flyer miles, was found perched in the landing gear of a 747 as it taxied to the gate at Newark Airport. Unfortunately, he was dead.
It's stories like this one that give stowaways a bad name. But if you use common sense and follow a few basic guidelines, stowing away is no more dangerous than flying coach¿and far more comfortable. First, you need a friend with good hygiene, a large snowboard bag, and some scuba gear...
Exposé: "Knee-Jerk Reaction: A new, money-saving alternative to expensive orthopedic surgery."
Why pay a high-priced surgeon to reconstruct your blown ACL? Let me do it. Yes, that's right: For three easy payments of $99.95, I will graft your patellar tendon onto the end of your femur and that other big bone¿you know the one. Am I a doctor? Well, no, but after a few milligrams of Versed, you won't care.
You know how on 20/20 they do those hidden-camera exposés about quack doctors? Well, the beauty of this story is that it cuts out the middleman entirely: I'll be the quack doc, and I'll expose myself. Unless, of course, I get good at it.
Profile: "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Skier: Hitting the slopes with one of Hollywood's most exciting young stars."
The mortarboards have been tossed, and the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" are but an echo. Now that the class of Beverly Hills 90210 has graduated, what's next for its dynamic young star, Ian Ziering, who, according to People magazine, "skis like a young Robert DeNiro" and "lights up the silver screen like Phil Mahre at his finest"?
For this feature-length profile, I'll spend a week, maybe two, in Aspen, finding out what makes this young Hollywood mogul¿get it, mogul¿tick. And his publicist has promised us the exclusive details of the TV biopic project Ian has in development: Did Not Finish: The Spider Sabich Story...
Equipment: "My Zeppa, My Self: The inside story of the piece of ski gear you can't afford to neglect."
Have you hugged your zeppa today? I didn't think so. So walk over to your ski boots, pull out the liners, and then shake the shell like a martini. That thing that just bounced under your refrigerator? That, my friends, is your zeppa. The zeppa, I contend, is the uvula of the ski world¿little known, little understood, but oh, so important.
Remember that ski movie where Doug Coombs makes that hairball first descent in Valdez? His boots had zeppas in them. Hermann Maier's gold medal¿winning run in Nagano? Ditto. Remember that guy at the beginning of Wide World of Sports? No zeppas. And I bet you didn't know that one of the world's greatest rock bands is named in honor of Jimmy Page's ski boots¿Led Zeppa-lin.
Instruction: "Woof, Woof, Turn, Turn: Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?"
Man's best friennd? Let's look at the balance sheet. Fido digs us out of avalanches. Fido brings us brandy when we're hypothermic. (Actually, you got a margarita in there, pup?) Fido even keeps us from stepping in front of a tractor trailer when we go snow blind. But does Fido get a chance to huck cornices, arc fatties, and experience bottomless powder? Is this a dog's life? Sadly, no.
This winter, I intend to settle the score and get Alison the Brown Dog off the couch and on the slopes. I'll buy her four little boots, four little skis (or could she get away with two?), and her own season pass. A ski jacket? She's not that kind of a dog.
Resorts: "Antarctica Story: A long, expensive feature story about Antarctica."I would like to go to Antarctica. I have never been there. I hear there's a lot of snow there. I would ski there and write a good story about it. A really good one. Honest.