I took my final ski run at Mountain High West on a nippy February day with bright sunshine. That run was no different than the uncountable tight christie turns, skis locked tightly together, made over 55 skiing years. I was still in good physical condition at the time and had no inkling that it would be the last run on the last day of the sport that had been so much of my life for so many years.
But at home my wife's deteriorating health dictated that I must now devote my time for her care.
With Mountain High's generous policy of giving seniors my age a free season pass my skiing days had become shorter and shorter. As always I was always on the hill as soon as the lifts started but with a couple of my peer group we would take a few runs to enjoy the uncrowded slopes, then a break for coffee.
Then back on the hill till lunch time. The final two seasons I rarely skied after lunch. The luxury of a season pass gave the sport a new sense of casualness and a leisurely attitude on when to "call it a day."
I admit that I have given thought to go again for one more final run but have not. There comes a time in everyone's life to move on and the sport did change in recent years. Snowboarders have made skiing more unpredictable. The style and rhythm of boarders is very different and the predictability of their turns made it less relaxing for me as a skier. I am speaking for myself only.
A new vigilance was required and this was not just my opinion but also that of most long time skiers I know. My last seasons I always chose the least popular and crowded runs to get that true feelings of freedom and elan that was always the essence of the sport for me.
Now there are still the memories and enough of them too. Of all the interesting people I met on the slopes and apre ski that followed. Many of them are now gone forever and all too few of us are left for times and events which will disappear forever like last year's snowfall.
For me most of the memories are happy ones. Elsewhere in this chronicle I have told about some that were not. But it is almost impossible to think of what my life would have been like if I had not fastened that $10 pair of wooden army surplus skis on my feet one November day so many years ago.
I met the woman who has shared my life for so many happy years on a ski trip. And again it is impossible to think what my life would have been without her.
When I started skiing we were few in number and most people considered skiers, at best an oddity or worse slightly mad. Perhaps we were a little of both. Over the years everything has changed, the equipment, the ski resorts, the popularity of the sport and now all of it mainstream.
When snowboarders first became a fact on the slopes I noticed that same exuberance and elan that we possessed and enjoyed in those early years of skiing.
One thing never changed, the joy of standing on top of a mountain with the challenge and excitement waiting for those first exhilarating turns. If it was unmarked deep powder the joy reached ecstasy.
I admit that when I look at a snow clad mountain I still instinctively mentally map out a possible ski run whether down a couloir, snow chute or natural clearings that appear in tree covered slopes. And in even this there is pleasure in knowing that yes once upon a time I could have made that run very nicely.
There is a West Point song that says 'old soldiers never die but just fade away'. Perhaps for skiers like this Writer we just melt away like yesteryear's snows.
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