Tell me I’m not showing my age when I can relate to a Meanderings story in Watershed. I’ve skied in the Rockies and in the Alps, but my fondest memories are from the small Ontario ski hills where the familiar smells were pine tar and hot chocolate and the sounds were the muffled chugging of a diesel engine that powered the rope tow. The description of the Northumberland Forest Ski Club took me back to the times when our family would pile into our station wagon and head off for a day of skiing with six pairs of skis strapped to the roof rack.
In those days, the only way up the slopes was by a rope tow just like the one described at the Northumberland Forest Ski Hill. You let the thick rope slide through your leather mitts and then slowly tightened your grip because if you grabbed on too quickly, it felt like your arms would rip out of their sockets. On one occasion, my younger brother’s ski pole strap wrapped over the tow rope and we watched as he was lifted up by the arm towards the bull wheel at the top of the hill, somehow failing to trip the safety wire. The operator shut down the diesel engine seconds before my brother’s hand was mangled by the pulley. An adult flipped my dangling brother’s ski pole back over the rope, he dropped to the snow and we skied off, laughing as if nothing had happened. Safety was the last thing on our minds as we challenged each other to more and more daredevil moves, clocking as many runs as we possibly could. At the end of the day, we warmed our frozen fingers and toes by a wood stove and spent the ten cents Dad had given us on an unbelievable luxury – a chocolate bar.
I’ve never lost that love of skiing, the feeling of the complete freedom and exhilaration as you move effortlessly across the snow, whether it’s cross-country or downhill. My knees aren’t what they once were, but the most important thing is that I share that love with my kids and grandkids. I can still race a 9-year-old to the base of a hill, and I can hardly wait to put a pair of skis on my granddaughter, Virginia, and ski with her between my legs for the first time this winter.
Life is good!