Peter Shelton

Saab Story

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Personal History by pshelton on February 13, 2016

You are what you drive. With the family gathered over Christmas, I told the story of Footsie’s car-alarm tantrum in the ski area parking lot. It was snowing. It had been a beautiful, soft storm day on Mt. Bachelor. I was heading home in a glow. (more…)

Summit Day

Posted in Personal History, Ski evolution, Uncategorized, Weather & Climate by pshelton on January 4, 2016

The wind was not so loud I couldn’t hear the words of the volunteer patrolman at the top of the Summit Chair. My hood was cinched tight, and for the last thousand feet of the lift ride I’d held my gloved hand up to shield a bit of exposed cheek. It was a sunny morning, single-digits cold, with the wind ripping out of the southeast, rivers of snow like airplane banners streaming from the peak, gusts rolling over the mountain’s ribs like waves breaking over jetties. (more…)

First Snow, October 26

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Ski teaching, Weather & Climate by pshelton on October 30, 2015

At last, weather.

It’s a relief after being lulled, seduced, strung out on perfect clear days, day after day, in Bend. Can’t even remember the last time it rained. This morning I lay still in bed and listened to the fine patter on the roof, the sweet gurgle of water dripping somewhere.

Twenty miles up the road Mount Bachelor’s live web cams showed a coating, thin to be sure, but a rather complete blanket of white, down almost to the parking lot. White roofs on lift shacks. White hors d’oeuvres on hemlock branches. White giving shape, finally, to the dark, volcanic folds above treeline. It’s still early. The season has really just begun. And temperatures remain warmer than one might like for solid base building. But, hey. It’s a start.

And it’s a tiny bulwark against the El Niño roar. (more…)

Fear the Duck

Posted in How the West was Lost, Life in Central Oregon by pshelton on October 7, 2015

How small the gap between the sublime and the ridiculous.

Ellen and I went to the Oregon coast for a quick overnight on her birthday. (more…)

The Airplane View

Posted in How the West was Lost, Personal History by pshelton on September 20, 2015

You can’t go home again. But I was going home to southern California to help my mother following her total knee replacement, an elective trauma none of her children was sure she should undertake at 90. She had made up her mind, though, and she’d made it through surgery and was about to return to her own home. I’d carved two weeks out of my calendar and prepared for a stint as Nurse Peter. (more…)

Largemouth Bass

Posted in More Sport, Personal History, Ski history by pshelton on July 31, 2015

We were waiting for Dick Bass. That was normal – waiting for Richard D. Bass: never-say-no human magnet, whirlwind of positive energy, Texas oil tycoon, builder of the Snowbird Resort in Utah, conceiver of the seven-summits project, first man to climb the highest mountain on all seven continents, and at that time (1985) the oldest man, at 55, to climb Everest. Life was a feast too big even for his prodigious appetites. He was constantly suffering, he would tell you, in his raspy Dallas drawl, from “the tyranny o’ the urgent.” (more…)

Obvious on the Pacific Crest Trail

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Personal History by pshelton on July 26, 2015

The other day I was hiking a piece of the Pacific Crest Trail west of Bend. Not a through hike ala Cheryl Strayed in “Wild.” Just a quick out-and-back to Matthieu Lakes. On the way out I stopped to greet a couple coming back. They were in tank tops and urban sneakers. He had a camera on a neck strap banging his collarbone. Neither one carried so much as a water bottle. (more…)

Dream Field

Posted in Confessions of a Grandpa, Life in Central Oregon, More Sport by pshelton on June 16, 2015

When we got over to the first base side where Vinnie the Elk was posing for pictures, Alex wormed around my leg and said he no longer wanted to say hello. The Bend Elks mascot knew what to do. He held up a fuzzy-hoof high five to which Alex, suddenly relieved of his shyness, responded with enthusiasm.

The other big distraction was the loud-clomping girl. She was tall and gangly, a pre-teen in short shorts, part of what looked to be three generations of a tall, rangy family sitting near us in the stands. The rest wore cowboy boots. She was in flip-flops and somehow made more noise coming and going on the metal bleachers than the rest of them combined.

Of course, there was baseball too. (more…)

All Go Anywhere

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Personal History, Road Trips West, Ski history by pshelton on May 11, 2015

In December 1973, at the beginning of my second winter teaching skiing, my father gave me a slim picture book from 1936 that he’d rediscovered in his parents’ garage. SKI FEVER by Norman Vaughan. Fifty Cents. Fifty pages. Nipples on wooden ski tips. Pole baskets like personal-size pizzas. An unabashed paean to what was then the new sport of downhill skiing. My dad’s note read, in part, “I remember that my buddy Eugene and I devoured the contents before our first big ski weekend at Big Bear, where reality submerged fantasy.” He would have been 13. (more…)

The opposite of play is not work, it is depression

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Ski teaching by pshelton on April 24, 2015

On my last day teaching with the Gravity School at Mt. Bachelor, I got a tip from New Hampshire Daniel.

I should know what Daniel’s last name is. I’m embarrassed I don’t. He’s one of the most stalwart ski coaches on the staff, has been for years. He works every day. He teaches a lot of kids, and he’s very good with them. I see him in the cafeteria surrounded by whatever tribe of little Indians he has that day, and the vibe is super mellow. The kids are free to be themselves, be silly if they want, but Daniel is in charge. And on the hill he has pockets full of tricks to get his troop skiing, playing at skiing – making skiing play.

With his thrift-store skis, white hair and slow smile, he’s brilliant at it. But he might not have been the first pro from whom I would expect to get the skiing tip of the season. Out of the blue, standing together on the ski school deck, after it was clear there would be no lessons that final afternoon, he told me he’d improved his own skiing with a trick that helps him keep his inside hip higher through a turn. Focusing on this one thing had put him in a better stance on his skis and allowed him to carve a clean arc with almost all of his weight on the outside ski, the working ski.

I tried it, and it clicked. I couldn’t do the arm thing that Daniel said triggered the positive response in his skiing. (It was something about raising your hand as if to ask a question.) But it was enough, the zeroing in on that anatomical link. It led, later that day and in days since, to my assuming a taller, more forward position, which led to more control, more playfulness, as if a delighted puppet-master were floating above my descent. It is a feeling I have treasured without always understanding it when it came my way in the past, by accident or other design. Now here was a direct-action tool to get me there more often.

Daniel’s hip tip joined a handful of technique gems from the season, my first at Bachelor. Instructor trainer Mike Philips led a clinic early in the year that focused on two-legged carving – railroad track skiing. His insight had to do with patience, the patience to stand in balance while a turn develops, gradually.

Then there was Greg Dixon, another clinician, who played with the idea that all turns fall somewhere along an intensity spectrum, a spectrum he defined with a nautical analogy. At one end would be your “submarine” turns, diving, pressing deep into an etched groove. At the other end, imagine a hovercraft skittering lightly atop the snow. There was lighthearted argument within the group about whether our between-the-extremes boat impersonations should be jet skis, or cigarette boats, or . . .

These late-spring weeks the submarining has been splendid. April storms turned Mt. Bachelor’s volcanic ribs into huge ocean waves the better to lean into a bottom turn followed by a soaring, weightless cutback off the lip. It’s a good thing I’m a goofyfoot. Most of this wind-deposited snow has filled in the left sides of the gullies. As a goofyfoot kid on the California coast (whose natural stance is right foot forward on a surfboard) I was always looking for left-breaking waves, frontside waves as it were, where my toes, my chest and my hands were facing the green wall of water. As skiers, we have no frontside or backside, in theory. We face forward, down the hill. We go left and right, foot to foot, not toeside to heelside. But still . . . the old love affair with big, left-hand walls remains, and this season Bachelor’s wave-like furrows delivered.

Now the teaching season is done. The beginner-area “magic carpet” is shut down. All but three of the chairlifts are closed. Still, there is top-to-bottom skiing. Some days very good skiing, other days not so much, as a high sun works its fingers deeper in the snowpack. The most exquisite snow might be on the ridges where, earlier in the year, a rain/freeze cycle set up regions of glassy ice polished smooth by each successive wind event. Skittering slick and loud, these places were to be avoided, until now. Watch, ski school supervisor Chris Smith told me one day last week, those pods of ice (I see them sometimes as breaching whalebacks) will turn to “silk.” And they have.

Getting to these delicacies can take some doing. You might need to traverse rock-hard chunks of cornice fall. And you’ll likely have to punch through half-baked remnants of the last powder storm – like a switching yard of frozen tracks. It’s worth it when you get to the silk, the quiet, smooth Yes! of easy. Technique, after all, is about more than aesthetics. It is, or should be, in service to where you want to go, to what state of play.

New Hampshire Daniel told me he’ll be attending the annual PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) giant slalom camp the last weekend in April. (“I just try to stand up,” he said with a self-deprecating grin.) Then he will head back across the country to his home state and a summer job tending bar. Come fall, he’ll get in the car and migrate west again for another winter on skis.

Meanwhile, the season in central Oregon isn’t quite over. I’ll be out there as long as the snow lasts, submarining where called for, skipping like a stone where possible. And watching my hips.

Thanks, Daniel. When the snow is gone I’ll rewind, and press play.

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