OZBert 2024 Calendar
How We Play In Life Echoes In Eternity
There are amazing threads in your life trace back to the region where you were born, from your childhood and to you own children.
Upstate New York winters require that you like the cold and the snow. As a kid you could remain indoors so long, and with all your friends outside, you developed interests that got you out and away from the confinement and the chores your parents found for your.
Plus the Olympics were a big event, after the broadcast ended many times you grabbed your sleigh and were out that night. Or out the next day skating. Or skiing. Endless options that made you hardy and endure the dark winter.
New York Had A Long History of Skiing
With both the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, skiing and snow shoeing were a long tradition. Whiteface Mountain, where the 1980 Winter Olympics took place has many milestones.
Then The Olympics Came To Town
In January 1980, we were still under a malaise from the Nixon era fallout, and Jimmy Carter steering the country on a course of self doubt. Americans had been taken hostage in Iran. The Olympics have always favored the Europeans over the Americans, and as a kid I can remember the snobbishness of the announcers who would drool over athletes from other countries. The Soviets were regarded as superior skaters, superior hockey players. A metaphor for the triumph of collectivism over our sense of American spirit of liberty.
The 1980 Winter Olympics taking place in a town of 2700 people, similar in size to where I was living blew my young mind. The Thrill of Victory and Agony of Defeat that I saw on ABC World Wide Sports was going to be in place that could have been my town.
The Miracle of that time was of course, the US Hockey Team defeating the USSR. It was so miraculous that my minister made it part of his sermon the very day.
But even better was all the ski coverage. I couldn’t get enough.
The Skiers Mind
Why am I so taken by skiing? Because as a kid it had always been hard for me to get to “flow”. Being analytical and cautious, it took me longer to let go and enjoy many things, but in my teens there were a few moments where out on the slopes I cut over from being besotted with the teachers voice in my mind and embraced a learners mind. A teacher’s voice in your head is that voice that corrects you, that “helps” you think ahead by anticipating issues, by reminding you that can make mistakes. This voice, important, tears you down. It makes you examine each step as you make that step, and locks you into analysis. That translates to tension when you ski, and when your legs tense, you slip, you fall, you can even go off the trail like I did. I still succumb to the teacher’s voice even today.
The learner’s mind is the state of thinking that hears the snow as you carve, it feels the snow as you shift your weight and turn, it sees the trees in the glade as you fly by as the snow stings your face. The learner’s mind is more an “off” were you stop thinking, you just feel. Hitting that state is like a high, the adrenaline will make you quick, you’ll react knowing it as you move to scrape down a patch of ice. You love the run, didn’t worry about each turn in of itself.
Back in the 80s WGY 810 AM would sponsor an $8.10 night skiing ticket at Scotch Valley on Thursdays, so I’d drive out by myself and ski. That’s when I learned to ski the hill, just “flow” down the hill and not worry about not being able to see as well. Some of the skiing was on those nights.
Lessons From a Harsh Father
When my son joined scouts, the troop had a January ski trip, and while I was excited to get my son started, he was hesitant. To get him prepped I took him and his sister out in New York in the foothills of the Adirondacks at Christmas. Kids when they are 12 still don’t have the weight put on yet to really get hurt, so my daughter was a complete daredevil. My son was tentative, and yes, I got a little impatient. But he picked up enough to at least enjoy the day and be ready for the trip with his friends. In January, we made a long 4.5 hour trek in a snow storm at night to head up north. It would become SOP to that we would leave in the worst weather conditions, the troop outings, while a blast, always attracted the worst travel conditions. Despite being tired, we hit the ski center Caber Fae bright and early, got 12 young men outfitted with their gear and for the newbies like my son, we got them lessons.
Come noon, one of my son’s friends came to me and said my son was in the bathroom, sick. We had finished lunch and I told my son I’d take him up the easy slope now that his lesson was over. He was indeed in the bathroom, throwing up. He was nervous, and didn’t want to go. Now some parents would be worried that their child was sick and their instinct would be to comfort the child. As a kid I forced myself to do all sorts of things, and my dad and mom were relentless in getting us to get out there and try, to never turn away. So I told my son to clean up, and to meet outside.
The chair lift was a rickety wooden two-seater. My son was a little afraid of heights, and the lift chairs looked old, so to his mind they were about to fall off at the slightest breeze. It took me an hour to talk him onto the chair lift. He was crying, and yet I knew that if he turned away, he’d never try again. And the silly thing was he had been skiing two weeks prior. If he didn’t try, he’d be embarrassed in front of his friends, and most likely would to quit scouts. So tears running down his face and despite his trembling, I made him get on.
He had a great time. But that’s not the end to his tribulations for the weekend. That night, exhausted, after wolfing down too much food, he was throwing up again. And again. And again. I cleaned the bathroom three times that night at the scout masters cabin where we were staying. The older scouts took care of him, helped make it to the toilet so he would make a mess. Most likely they realized that if he puked where they were sleeping, they’d be miserable too. But they also acted out of kindness. My son made it through the night, got up to eat breakfast the next. The scout master, a Marine with a big booming voice, asked my son “You getting back out there today” so loudly the whole room heard.
My son looked up. “Yeah!”
That was a proud moment, seeing my son set aside his trouble to go back at it again. Years later he thanked me for making get on that chair lift.
My daughter is a different story, as she had no problems skiing when she was 12, she’s quite and athlete. But she stopped going for a few years, and as she got older and a little wiser she gained some caution. At 18 she picked up an irrational fear that she could turn at higher elevations, even though the slope and the top of the hill was the same as middle where she practiced. This was a debilitating fear, a panic that she’d manufacture. This came to a head at Bellyaire, a mountain where I had skied as a kid. I had taken my son several times and he was able to handle himself there with ease. My son was always a good listener, my daughter is like me – she doesn’t listen. And the entire morning and afternoon, she refused to accept any of my tips. Eventually she was skiing wonderfully at the mid range, and it was time for her to strike out. My son had been skiing by himself and I wanted her to join us so the three of us could be together and so I could get some “real”skiing” in. So I made her hop the longer chair lift with me and we wold start at the top of the intermediate slope.
As a I said, the grade was no different, we were just higher up. Bellyaire has a 1600 ft vertical differential, and while not at the very top, we were up fairly high. My daughter shut down. She insisted she couldn’t turn, at all. Nor stop. Yet here she was stopping, but she was in a panic. It was a melt down, but it was silly because the only issue she had was in her mind. I told her we could take it slow, that going fast wasn’t the end of all skiing, and that I would down a bit, she could ski to me, like she had when she first learned and like she had that morning at lower elevations. She was shouting at me, but not moving. There were two choices for her: take off the skis and hike down, or go slow and learn that things weren’t so bad. After 10 minutes of trying to reason with her, I left her and went ahead, then stopped. She wouldn’t budge, so I went further down. Eventually she started down and after a long period of me waiting, then leaving her and then waiting more, she made it down.
If she had been twelve I would have felt a bit sympathetic. She was 18 and this was panic that she manufactured, and by being so stubborn she made herself miserable. This was not a treacherous trail by any means, there were young kids and people of lesser skill who made down without the histrionics. So I told her that she should stop, go in the lodge and wait so my son and I could get some runs in together. So I left her.
Later that afternoon I was ending a run with my son and I heard a voice behind me. It was my daughter, who defying me as usual, decided to go back and do the same trail again, but by herself. She faced her fears, and to this day the three of us enjoy skiing together. So being harsh was the right thing to do.
Lessons From A Wonderful Son and Daughter
Life comes full circle in ways that amaze me at times. My love of winter sports offered things to my kids that I never would have imagined, things that were so important that you wouldn’t think they’d come from skating, skiing or hiking. My wife and I have always pulled our kids out of the “metro comfort zone” as I call it, we have always made them get out of their comfort zone. Skiing was unleashed my son in so many great ways, I’ve seen him go far beyond what I could do at his age, I’ve seen him come of the trail with a bloody chin and grin so wide you knew the adrenaline was still pumping through him. A few years ago we went back to the slopes where I had broken my ankle, and he took off, down an expert trail while I played it safe. That afternoon I saw something different in his eyes, so I asked him “Are you different, you look like you’re still out there”
He admitted he had changed. There are times when you look at your kid and you see a definite change in them, a strength.
January is my birthday month, and I had plans to take my son and daughter up north, but with so many things going on, I was going to cancel. Then I got this card from my daughter, who makes the funniest cards. “The Invitation” it read.
She wasn’t going to let me cancel the trip. On the inside she wrote:
I wouldn’t be a lot of who I am if I didn’t have such an amazing, stand-up adventurous and nurturing dad. Thanks for being you.
Pass It On
I’m lucky to have given my kids the right things, and they are not monetary. It was my time, it was a sense of adventure. I had no clue that skiing was going to be so vital to achieving that. I went on the birthday ski trip, and we were skiing at night, all three of us through a glade. It was like some movie, seeing my son cut the slopes like a surgical blade and watching my daughter be like a spider as she navigated by trees. I will never forget seeing both of them pass me, then didn’t need me to get down the hill, but they brought me to this hill to thank me.
And they got me on the hill.