At first I missed my Buddhist poet. He’d been with me on the slopes for the last five years. Inked in silver and black on the topsheet of my old Völkl Mantras, he walked, bearded and imperturbable, from the left ski to the right (two vertical, cloud-shrouded panels) up a mountain path toward a temple on the right ski tip. He was my Zen perspective on skiing as discipline, quest, mystery, obsession. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)