Peter Shelton

Lessons Learned

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Personal History, Ski teaching by pshelton on February 6, 2015

One of the first ski lessons I taught at Mt. Bachelor this winter, in my return to teaching after many years away, was a group of four first-time beginners. They were Chinese grad students: a brother-sister duo, a cousin of theirs, and a friend. Three of them were attending Oregon State University, in Corvallis, the fourth was at OU, in Eugene. Three Beavers and one Duck. Yizi and Jining and I laughed briefly about that as Jilin and Xuanhan stumbled up, rental skis akimbo, struggling as first-timers often do, to walk in stiff plastic ski boots.

Yizi did the introductions. Tall and smiley, he said to pronounce his name “Easy.” Jining told me she and her brother were from Inner Mongolia – so they knew about winter. The hardest name to pronounce, by far, was Xuanhan, the sibs’ cousin. Her shy attempts to help me say it right were all sliding swishy breathy sounds. Would that Xuanhan’s skiing experience had been similarly fluid.

Ellen has said more than once that it is “brave” of me to go back to ski teaching. She’s proud of me, for getting out of the house, for bringing home a little bacon. But behind the words I sense incredulousness. I’m 65. I’ve got two artificial hips. I like my skiing – indeed, after all these years I may be clinically addicted to it – but since the two of us gave up the ski-school ski-bum life in 1980, in Telluride, I have spoiled myself as a strictly recreational skier. No uniform. No morning line-up. No ski school bureaucracy with its certification levels, its priority lists, its tautology and fealty to the PSIA manual, the Professional Ski Instructors of America.

It’s a job for young people. Ellen and I met, as twenty-something ski teachers, at Keystone in the early 1970s, when that Colorado area was still in thrall to its founder and ski school director, Max Dercum. Max’s enthusiasm extended to projecting Super 8 film on the wall at his Ski Tip Lodge – film he had shot in Austria of the latest instructional innovations from Professor Kruckenhauser – to which all staff were invited.

We worked for three winters in the California Sierra, at a brainy, tight-knit ski school in Bear Valley. Then we went back to Colorado, to Telluride, for four years’ work during that resort’s promising infancy. Promising was the operative term; hardly anyone in the skiing public had heard of the place in 1976.

It was hard to make a living at it. And with two children by then, we knew it was time to move on. Ellen got involved in Telluride’s film festivals, and I launched a career as a freelance writer, which advanced in part because editors at Powder and Outside could count on my writing convincingly (not to say authoritatively) about the mechanics, the feelings of sliding on snow.

That was 35 years ago. When we moved to Bend last year to be close to our first-born and her two kids, I needed a job and thought for the first time in ages about joining a ski school. I’m not the oldest. Ray is 70, I think. And there’s another guy I haven’t met who is 72. I am at the bottom of the priority list. Mt. Bachelor is one of eight resorts in the Powdr Corp. stable. The powers that be didn’t care – didn’t know and by rights needn’t care – about my ancient history. I was brought on board as a “non-cert(ified) new hire.” I battled through the on-line application, submitted to the drug test, attended orientation (where we learned that a lost child is never a “lost child” but always, euphemistically, a “huckleberry”), signed up to have my minimum-wage pay deposited directly into my checking account, was issued a locker and my orange-and-black uniform. Brave was maybe not the word.

My Chinese millennials were all four pursuing advanced degrees in computing or coding – eminently practical things for their futures back home. By contrast, skiing is impractical, of the moment, all slippery feet and gravity. We started out with one ski off and one ski on, scooting gently back and forth across the snow. Yizi and Jining got it right away. They had the kinesthetic sense, the ability to lift their eyes, balance and glide. Jilin was more tentative, watching his feet. And Xuanhan was really suffering. She took tiny, mincing steps, with no glide at all.

She told me her feet hurt, so we stopped and investigated. Her feet were not the problem; it was her calves. She was a big girl with large calves, and the boots were cutting painfully into her lower legs. It’s well known – it’s been known for decades – that a woman’s calf muscles are likely to sit lower on the leg than a man’s do. Many women-specific ski boots are designed to accommodate this physiology. Xuanhan’s unisex rentals did not.

I tried loosening the buckles on the cuffs to little effect then unbuckled them completely. She tried again, gamely, but finally, near tears, asked to sit out the rest of the lesson. Her friends spoke to her in Mandarin (or maybe it was Mongolian?), but she insisted, sitting at one of the children’s tables in the ski school yurt and working through layers of long johns and tight jeans to get the boots off. For such a big person her feet were tiny. Yizi promised to retrieve her street shoes from the rental shop and bring them to her after the lesson.

The rest of us went back to the business of controlling, of crafting a descent over snow. They were quick studies. After a couple of successful, slow-motion turns we rode the beginner chair lift. Yizi and Jining especially took those new tools, their gliding wedge turns, and ran with them. They learned that turning was the key to speed control. They steered their ski prows downriver left and right at will. On the flatter sections Jining in particular was able to let go, give herself over, comfortably, joyfully, to gravity, wind in her hair. “So happy!” she beamed at the bottom. “I am a skier!” I was almost as pleased as she was.

Back at the yurt Yizi handed Xuanhan her street shoes while I repeated an offer from the rental shop folks to comp her next time around. No, no, she said, perhaps out of cultural reticence. Or maybe she was saying there would be no next time.

In any case, her final words seemed a kind of Taoist koan. After thanking me for my efforts, she said, “Where we come from, my name means ‘snow.’”

Be Nice Two

Posted in Confessions of a Grandpa, Life in Central Oregon by pshelton on September 5, 2014

What were the chances we’d run into Kelby on the Deschutes River Trail?

Bend is a big town. Eighty thousand plus. Big anyway compared to where we come from on the western slope of Colorado. There, the biggest town by far (we call it a city) is Grand Junction, currently an oil-and-gas boomtown on the Colorado River, bisected by Interstate 70, population 60,000.

I only know a handful of people in Bend. And yet here we were, my brother Tom and I, on this mountain bike trail running into Kelby, my grandkids’ baby sitter. She lit up in recognition and delivered hugs all around. Well into our conversation, the river burbling at our backs, Tom asked, half kidding but also genuinely curious: “Where is the dark side to Bend?”

It’s a question I ask myself all the time. Bend seems to a newcomer like a bright and happy place. A place comfortable in its own skin. A place with a built-in openness, a friendliness not exactly universal in other places we’ve lived.

At first I was reminded of “The Truman Show,” the scary-perfect Florida town that turned out to be an elaborate set in the 1998 Jim Carey vehicle. And Bend is indeed beautiful, flush with water, lush for the high desert, manicured, proud. But beauty and pride of place do not guarantee a good attitude.

We lived for the last 38 years within the physical and intellectual sphere of Telluride, a place as gorgeous as any on the continent. But something about that mountain valley encourages a cloistered vibe, a kind of protective defensiveness. Not surly exactly, but not exactly welcoming either.

I wonder about history. Both places were founded on extractive industries. Telluride’s miners started digging a full quarter century before Bend’s lumbermen unsheathed their saws. Bend is a very young community, incorporated in 1905. The timber heyday lasted only a few decades before the big trees became scarce and economics and environmental consciousness changed. But unlike a lot of other Oregon timber towns, Bend made a successful, a very successful, transition to recreation tourism, helped along by the launch in 1958 of the ski area at Mount Bachelor, and more recently by the proliferation of craft breweries.

Telluride faced the same prospects when the last mine closed in 1978. But its isolation (six hours from Denver; an hour and a half from the nearest airport) and the limits of its steep, awkwardly laid out ski mountain slowed its growth.

More significantly perhaps, Telluride’s box canyon denizens weren’t at all sure they wanted the scene a destination ski area would bring. The chant in the ‘70s was “Not another Aspen!” These new Telluriders were bi-coastal sophisticates, utopians, trust funders, mountain athletes, PhD snow shovelers and short-order cooks, and they did their best – continue to do their best – to slow anything that smells of a headlong, or insufficiently examined, advance.

I gather that was not the case in Bend. The city has grown exponentially since I first skied here in the mid-1980s, when the population hovered around 17,000. Some of the new developments have been higher-quality than others. Sprawl is, and traffic has grown proportionately. But city planners seem to have stayed a step ahead of the growth. Dozens of roundabouts (rather than stop lights) move cars, and bicycles, with remarkable efficiency. They (the city, county and ODOT) built an elevated “parkway,” a pseudo freeway with a 45-mph speed limit, to move traffic across town. There are bike lanes on almost every street, with cyclists of every stripe using them. And the network of public-lands trails is rumored to be somewhere north of 500 miles long, and counting.

Topography plays a part. Telluride’s tiny canyon is guaranteed to dial up the claustrophobia, and the home prices. Not to say the insular smugness. Bend sits at the low-angle intersection of the forested eastern Cascades and the sage of the Great Basin. The self-congratulatory air here is largely a “Lucky us!” reflex. There is room, generous room, in every direction. Room for a rather large, economically diverse population to build, to spread out on the trails, float the river, disappear from one another in the ponderosas, and . . . be nice.

I’ll never forget the phone call we got from our son-in-law Adam hours after he arrived in Bend two years ago. He had driven out alone from Boston ahead of the rest of his little family, with a pickup load, to their rental house. Adam is a born and bred New Englander. Not taciturn in the clichéd (“Can’t get there from here.”) way, but private in the sense that holding something in reserve is often the best policy. Adam told us on the phone that he couldn’t get over how happy people in Bend seemed to be.

“Everybody’s smiling,” he said in amazement.

Be Nice

Posted in Life in Central Oregon, Personal History, Ski history by pshelton on September 4, 2014

We’d seen the bumper stickers around town: “Be Nice You’re In Bend.” But sometimes it takes someone else to point out the obvious.

Ellen and I had been here for only a couple of months, enjoying what did in fact seem to be a preternatural geniality on the part of many Bend, Oregon locals, when my brother came to visit. He and I were going somewhere in his rental car, backing out of the driveway. Tom stopped mid-turn, aware that another car was approaching from up the hill. “He’s stopping!” Tom exclaimed, incredulous, eyes on his mirror. “He’s waiting! I could live to be a hundred and never see such a thing in Southern California!”

Boggled, Tom drove on, and I recalled a number of instances in our short time here where niceness prevailed.

There were the gas station attendants. Oregon remains the only state I know of where you don’t pump your own gas. Instead, you pull in, roll down the window and tell the man, or the woman, to fill ‘er up. If they’re not too busy they like to talk, commenting on our Colorado plates (now switched over to the Oregon evergreen tree), happy to give directions or advice, and nearly always ending the conversation, “Welcome to Central Oregon.”

Another time I was up in the branches of our sickly, curbside ash tree trying to prune out the dead stuff when a man we know only slightly came by on his bike and offered to loan me his extendable limb saw. He dropped it off that afternoon. And, if that weren’t enough, he invited us up to his place for a barbecue the next night.

We got another invite, out of the blue, from a young couple across the alley. Once a summer the denizens of 4th Street close off the street and celebrate potluck with their immediate neighbors. Sweet chicken smoke. Coolers full of beers. Kids with water balloons – shrieks of laughter, but never so wild as to get the adults wet. We met and had meaningful chats with almost everyone on the block. One reveler even drew up a schematic for us newer arrivals, with names and abodes, to show who lived where.

More? The mother of two across the street, the one we’ve seen tending her sidewalk garden of aspens and wildflowers, knocked on our door with a bag of peaches from her back yard tree. “Welcome to Bend,” she said.

Our bank, Umpqua Bank, actually strives to be “the friendliest bank in the world.” They refer to Oregonians as “folks,” call their banks “stores.” The tellers are almost disconcertingly cheerful. When I drop off a mortgage payment they ply me with little bags of their signature roasted coffee beans. Lesser occasions warrant a chocolate mint.

At Phil’s Trailhead, where a spider web of mountain bike single track fans out west of town, there’s a sign for what can only be called niceness etiquette. It reads in part: “Look, Listen, Smile . . . Have fun, and keep your eyes and ears open. Smile and say hello! You are in one of the best mountain bike areas in the nation.” In one of the few incidences of trail rudeness, or near rudeness, we’ve heard about, a friend had to wait to pass a slower rider who stubbornly refused to pull over. When he was finally able to squeeze past, he warned the obdurate one as he went by: “Watch those elbows, Buttercup!”

‘Goodbye to All That’

Posted in Confessions of a Grandpa, Personal History, Ski history, Watch columns by pshelton on May 30, 2014

Joan Didion opens her famous essay on her New York years with this: “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” She arrived in the city at age 20, from Sacramento, intending to stay six months and left eight years later. We came to western Colorado in our twenties expecting what? We didn’t know, beyond a new ski area and jobs with a new ski school. Now, 38 years later, I agree with Didion that seeing beginnings is easier than puzzling through endings, their tangles of reasons and meaning. (more…)

The Territory Ahead

Posted in Personal History, Road Trips West, Watch columns by pshelton on May 16, 2014

Ellen and I just returned from a month in Bend, Oregon, a month spent tearing the insides out of a downtown 1950s bungalow, and sleeping in the guest room at daughter Cloe’s place. She and her husband, Adam, and the two grandkids are the big reasons we’re moving to Bend. They’re all for it. They’re cheerleading the transition and helping to facilitate it, not least with Adam’s skill as a builder.

Yesterday an old friend asked how it felt to be back home, and the question stopped me. Cue Firesign Theatre’s faux-vaudevillian tune: “Oh, how can you be in two places at once, when you’re not anywheeeere at all?” Wasn’t there a Superman episode in which the Man of Steel desperately needs to be in two places at the same time, and he somehow pulls off the trick of self-division, but his superpowers are compromised? I think he tried to bust through a wall and hurt his shoulder.

Can a person have more than one home? Western Colorado has been our home for 38 years. Ellen and I, with Cloe in the oven, moved to Telluride in July 1976, just in time for the state’s centennial and the country’s bicentennial celebrations. We have moved twice since, to Ridgway in 1981 and then, in 1999, to this house, redundantly named Boulder Rock, as is the family custom, in a nearly empty valley south of Montrose. The San Juans are practically part of our DNA.

We didn’t consciously think of Boulder Rock as the last house we would ever live in, but we put everything we had into it. The design grew out of an intense, detailed, almost psychiatric collaboration, and the construction crew yielded at least two fond friendships. The house is unique, organic to its hill, personal to the point of eccentricity. The kitchen/dining area was designed around a table made for us, out of Oregon maple, as it happens, by my Uncle R.C. The fireplace we patterned after kitchen hearths we’d seen in France. Every one of the 33 windows and doors frames a view, either close in or grand, that was considered, imagined, with Ansel Adams-like focus. Ellen has said many times to me, whether I deserved the credit or not, “Thank you for building me my dream house.”

On our first night back from Oregon I lay in bed listening to the silence, one of Boulder Rock’s sensual luxuries. Toward morning coyotes yipped somewhere in the mile-wide dish of sage and hay. Bend is not nearly so quiet. It is a small city of 80,000, the biggest town in central Oregon, at the timbered edge of the desert and the Cascade Range. A handful of trains and their signature whistles rumble through every day, though the city’s history as a sawmill town – giant smokestacks on either side of the river – is mostly past. Now the vibe is closer to hipster Brooklyn with a lot of Northwest grunge thrown in. Crunchy hipsters, as it were, really nice folks for the most part, and commensurately happy. Lot of happy people in Bend. It is, of course, chockablock with breweries, coffee roasters, kayakers, mountain bikers, retirees, and kids going to Central Oregon Community College or the local branch of Oregon State University. Our aging hippie realtor described several properties in the neighborhoods we favored as “within walking distance of the Ten Barrel.”

Hipsters share the meandering Deschutes River, dammed into a series of “mirror ponds” through town, with a full compliment of carpenters and cooks, plumbers, electricians, dry-wallers, clerks, entrepreneurs, artists and ski instructors who have worked Bend’s growth surge over the last few decades. It reminds me a bit of Boulder: smaller, with a river running through it, a little less self-important, and without a Denver next door. Portland is four hours away over the range.

Sometimes I think this move is the stuff of madness. We’re too old to take on such a complete relocation, pulled up at the roots. Are we running away from something? Something unnamed and, apparently, unexamined? Is this some sort of delayed mid-life crisis? (I just read, and felt an uncomfortable identification with, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s essay, “The Crack-Up,” in which he describes with a kind of romantic horror his own breakdown, at age 40, laying bare the “finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.”)

But then I think, no, this is a forward progression. New momentum. Change is good, an essential preventative against the hardening of the soul’s arteries. We’re going to be close to family, three generations together, even if that comes at a cost of friends and familiar patterns. Energetic, bike-able, one-story Bend, we are convinced, will be a great place for the “fourth quarter.”

It doesn’t quite feel like home, yet. After a month, with that house stripped to the studs and this one rather urgently on the market, it’s no wonder we feel a near-constant frisson. No, it’s worse than that; it’s like having bees live in your head. We’re calling the new place Bend Corners. Maybe, as a Paonia friend suggested, it should be Bent Corners?

My circadian clock is still on Oregon time. I can’t go to sleep until an hour after I should, but I wake up, as always, at first light. I lie in bed thinking about the roof framing in the new place and where the wood stove and its double-wall pipe will go. The 2×6 rafters and 1×10 sheathing they used in 1950, the year after I was born, is beautiful lumber, probably milled right in Bend, the kind of straight, clear heart boards you don’t see at Home Depot.

I can’t lie still for long, however, because of the bluebirds. They’re up at first light, too. And they start in right away banging against the bedroom windows. This is no gentle rapping. (Both Hitchcock and Poe have come up in conversation.) Angry birds, a nesting pair, hurl themselves one after the other against the glass – so hard you would think they’d knock themselves out.

Google tells us they are attacking their own reflections – stubbornly, pointlessly, thinking them to be rivals for the territory they’ve chosen.

The Dogs of Nucla

Posted in Animal Dreams, How the West was Lost, Watch columns by pshelton on May 30, 2013

Twenty-one years ago, the microscopic town of Nucla (population 711), at the west end of Montrose County, garnered national attention for its Top Dog World Championship Prairie Dog Shoot. (more…)

In the Beginning

Posted in At the Movies, Watch columns by pshelton on May 23, 2013

I was there at the beginning.

But I think I can be forgiven my fuzzy memories of the earliest Mountainfilm festivals. (more…)

Aspen Is Telluride on Steroids

Posted in Ski history, Watch columns by pshelton on November 16, 2012

Well, the KOTO Ski Swap worked its weather magic again. (more…)

Compassion Fest: Grumpy Pete Hangs Back

Posted in Uncategorized by pshelton on July 27, 2012

My wife attended the Compassion Festival in Telluride last week.

I didn’t go. My mother’s maiden name is Cross. Enough said?

We Crosses are a critical bunch. We renamed a maiden aunt Grumpy Mae because she was so caustic. With her gravelly laugh, waving her ever-present cigarette, she went along; she knew the name fit. She was very funny in a Dorothy Parker, black-humor way, even to a ten-year-old. But very dark. Unforgiving.

And that’s what Ellen came home from Telluride talking about, forgiveness and empathy. These things, when you can muster them, are good for your brain, good for everyone, they said. And one way to foster compassion, to open the door to it, is to meditate. The audience at the Opera House was even led in a guided meditation. Ellen said she could see, with her eyes closed, that it could lead to good places.

My meditation is movement through space. I suspect a lot of people who have chosen to live in the mountains do the same. I’m talking about skiing and hiking and my current summertime favorite, boulder hopping up nearby dry arroyos.

I suppose one could get a related benefit from tennis or hockey. But the best out-of-body experiences, in my experience, happen beyond the courts, in the natural world with its surprising terrain and infinite patterns underfoot. These things are not games; they don’t have winners and losers. But they do have consequences. You don’t want to fall down out there in the wilderness.

So you pay attention, you give the task at hand – ascending this ridge, jumping this creek – the full engagement it deserves. The action itself wipes clean the chalkboard of verbal clutter. The combination of hyper-focus and continuous movement creates the blank mind. Or, as the Buddhists say, the mindfulness.

I like another Buddhist term I’ve heard: liberating discernment. You’re not just going through the motions out there. I haven’t talked to Hilaree O’Neill about walking on the edge at 28,000 feet, one foot in Tibet and the other in Nepal, but I’ll bet she feels pretty darned discerning while she’s doing it. And pretty liberated.

I went up the third arroyo today, and it was extra focusing thanks to the recent rains. Some of the streambed boulders had been loosened by the brief, violent flows; they weren’t as trustworthy as they might have been. Others wore a frosting of beige adobe mud. If you stepped on wet adobe, that sole was greasy slick until it wore off. Not good when you’re jumping from rock to rock and trusting your feet to stick.

The object is to hop from boulder to boulder without touching the ground in between. Lickety-split when possible, in tai chi slo-mo where necessary. Sometimes I can go a hundred yards without touching dirt. And on the best stretches, the bounding flows without stops, syncopated by the spacing of the spilled, gully-bottom boulders. My job is to keep going, unconscious, like water – water flowing uphill.

There are always awkward moments, balance gaffs, but the best sections move like a guitar riff that has no gaps in it, nothing extra and not a note out of place. Afterwards, I think about riffles in a river. Do the words have a common root?

Does meditating – sitting or bounding – make you a better person? I don’t know. Does it work to take selfish time in order to become a less selfish person? I’m not sure it works that way. Ellen does say, when I come back from carving on skis or rock hopping on the hill, that I am a happier husband.

It may lead to addiction. Look at those nut cases in the Arizona desert, on silent retreat for three years, three months, and three days. One of them murdered. The world left behind.

The Compassion Festival wants, I think, for us to be in the world, to try to improve our communities, and the planet, through listening and empathy and altruism. Their program listed an event called “Bodywork as Compassionate Service to Humanity.” The speaker was a Rolfer, so I’m pretty sure they meant that bodywork on other people’s bodies is compassionate, even noble work.

So, does bodywork on ones own body count? Given that we know the mind and body are one? And that endorphins, born of pointless, graceful movement, make me feel magnanimous and mellow? Even though I am a Cross?

Grumpy Pete.

Mastering the ‘Moag Holes’

Posted in Uncategorized by pshelton on March 31, 2012

When Ellen was teaching the Peanut group of tiny kids at Bear Valley years ago, her charges referred to moguls as “moag holes.” They were learning language at the same time they were learning to ski.

Most people have an ambivalent relationship with moag holes. Miss a turn, get back on your heels, and the hole will spit you out into a washboard traverse. Or worse. But knit a sine-wave line together in rhythm and control, and you will believe in the harmony of the spheres.

Telluride just placed four women in the top ten at the U.S. National Dual Moguls Finals in Stratton, Vt. Keaton McCargo, age 16, placed third. Sophia Schwartz, who grew up skiing in Telluride and Sun Valley, finished fourth. Lane Stoltzner, a graduate of the Telluride Mountain School, was seventh. And precocious 15-year-old Kealey Zaumseil came tenth.

With all the good bump hills across America, Telluride produced four of the top ten. That’s remarkable. But hardly surprising. Telluride is a bumper’s mountain, always has been. With its long, steep pitches, relatively narrow trails, and a continental snowpack that builds up in four-inch sips rather than four-foot Sierran gulps, the mogul you careen around at the top of Spiral Stairs on December 15 will be there for you, the old same shape, on March 30. Familiarity breeds bumpers.

This kind of familiarity is relatively new. Look at old ski movies and you’ll see that in skiing’s wonder years, from the 1930s through the 1960s, there weren’t very many moguls. There weren’t as many skiers, for one thing, and not nearly as many good skiers, to sculpt and re-sculpt the troughs. Lifts were slower (or nonexistent), so you didn’t get as many reps. Freestyle, as a word and as a way of approaching skiing, hadn’t been invented yet.

The go-go 70s changed everything. Faced with vast fields of pimpled snow, proto hotdoggers went crazy, relying on acid and athleticism to get them through. Then the technicians moved in. In a few cases, they were one and the same. John Clendenin made his name in stretch pants and big hair (also big air), winning early contests on reaction time and linked recoveries. Now in his 60s, he’s one of the leading swamis in the “Bumps for Boomers” movement. He’s a hero to those of a certain age who still want to ski moguls, but must now learn to ski them smooth and slow.

Lito Tejada-Flores is another one. He was the first person I saw do The Slow Dog Noodle. I doubt he could put his back down on the snow like that now, and get back up. But Lito is another advocate for, and lover of, the bumps – even late in life.

I think the first truly modern mogul skiing I witnessed was by gold medalist Edgar Grospiron, at the Albertville Olympics in 1992. He had big eyes painted on the knees of his ski pants, and those eyes, despite his legs’ sewing machine oscillations, stared Buddha-like at the straightest, fastest fall line.

Telluride’s stars have their distinctive styles. I remember watching Yukon come down Allais’s Alley, back when it was the Chair Six liftline, essentially not turning at all. He just skipped pile-to-pile down the soft tops of the bumps. He had the young back, and the elevator-shaft imagination, to pull it off. Now he weaves a circuitous jazz line – less percussive, easier on the joints, just as imaginative.

Hugh Sawyer taught a lot of Telluride’s first-generation bump kids how to be fast of hand and still of head.

Every-day skier John Roth is perhaps the quintessential Telluride bumper. He reminds me of a dancer in a Busby Berkeley musical, upright and deceptively quick in his unhurried descent of the white staircase.

The current bumper crop of hot-skiing kids owes a debt to all of them. Though I have to say what the team skiers are doing now on their micro-prepared courses, with shovel-shaved bumps and parabolic kickers, is like something from another planet. A planet where gravity can be manipulated with just the right piston action.

On any given day, moguls for me might be a bone-jarring riddle, or they could be a Slinky’s stairway to heaven. Dropping into chest-high bumps on the Plunge is a kind of inch-worm pilgrimage, extension and contraction on the tilt, like the Tibetan faithful prostrating themselves, folding up on the crests then extending into the troughs, one body length at a time along the path to Lhasa – the road (or in this case the snow) worn smooth by pilgrims that have gone before.