My Favorite Season of the Year
As a boy, I loved summers because there was no school. I could do anything I wanted all day long. I had to report in for lunch and dinner unless I made other plans and kept my mother informed. My bicycle gave me enough mobility that I could go anywhere in Salt Lake City. I remember riding my bicycle to the zoo or airport from the East Millcreek area where we lived. Several years, during summer, a friend and I rode the bus downtown to take swimming lessons at the Deseret Gym. At the Deseret Gym, swimming suits were not allowed, and we had to swim naked for our lessons. It had something to do with cotton from swimming suits clogging up the filters, or something like that. Boys and girls used the pool on different days. I wonder how different life in Salt Lake City would be if boys and girls used the swimming pool on the same days. The American Association of Nude Recreation(AANR) would be doing a booming business here.
When I got old enough to have a job, summer lost some of its allure. School sucked, but working sucked even more. While working, I was confined to one place and had to follow someone else’s directions. Ever since I was old enough, I always had some kind of job—a paper route at about 11 or 12 years old, but not a job full-time during the summer until I was 16. Working brought in money but cost me the freedom I had enjoyed previously.
My mother married my stepfather when I was ten; my father died from polio three years earlier. My stepfather was a skier and taught me to ski. He was friends with the Engen brothers. Alf Engen developed the first ski resort in Utah when Alta’s Mayor Watson asked Alf to develop a ski resort at Alta. As a matter of fact, Alf gave me my skiing merit badge when I was a boy scout.
At ten, I was able to fit into my step grandmother’s skis and boots. The skis were the right length because they came up to the palm of my hand when my hand was stretched as high above my head as possible. They were wood skis, but good skis for their time because they had metal edges. The bindings were referred to as “bear claw bindings” because your foot would not come out of them if you fell. If you fell wrong, your leg would snap before the bindings would give. The boots were leather lace-up boots with a thick sole that would fit into the bindings. The bindings had a front section that held the toe of the boots and there was a cable that went through rear guides and around the heel of the boot. The boot had a groove in the heel to hold the cable. For cross-country skiing, all you had to do was remove the cables from the rear guides and the heel could rise up off the ski for easy walking.
Since the boots would not come out of the bindings, one of the first things taught was how to fall without breaking a leg. If you felt you were in trouble, you would just sit down on your uphill side. Skis were not as high tech then, and body rotation was taught for turning. It was not easy to get those long, straight wooden boards to change direction.
It took me about five years and a whole lot of patience on my stepfather’s part to get me to the point where I could ski any terrain on my own. By then, safety bindings had been developed, and toboggans transporting skiers with broken legs were not as common on the slopes as they had been before safety bindings that could release before your bones snapped. I believe it was safety bindings that made skiing much more popular in the sixties.
I was never all that good at team sports. I attribute that to the fact that my birthday was just four days before the cut-off date for the school year. I was younger than the others in my class, and therefore, I had less skill and coordination. I was always chosen last when teams were formed during recess and after school. Skiing gave me a sport that I was good at and I did not have to compete with my classmates. It also gave me freedom, speed, and a constant challenge to improve. I loved skiing. Skiing had not become popular when I began to ski. I only knew of two or three others in my school that skied. I was a better skier that my friends, and it as I began to teach my friends to ski, gave me a little badly needed confidence. I remember once, I was skiing with some friends who were just learning and I caught an edge and flipped over. Fearing embarrassment, I tucked and rolled back into a standing position and continued my momentum as if I had just performed a real cool trick. My friends were totally impressed.
When I was in high school, I became a ski instructor. The cost of a day pass had risen from $3.00 to $5.00. Teaching beginners to ski helped me with the cost of skiing. I would teach from 10 am to noon on Saturdays and ski the rest of the day for free. In addition I got a day pass to use another day and more than enough cash to pay for the gas to drive to the resorts.
Even after I was married with kids, I still taught skiing on Saturdays. The commitment made it possible to keep skiing at a high enough priority to trump yard work or house work. However, when we moved to Denver in 1975, 20 years after I began skiing, the ski resorts were too far away to make skiing a weekly event. It took four hours instead of a half hour to get to the resorts in the mountains west of Denver. As a matter of fact, for a weekend of serious skiing, sometimes I would travel to Salt Lake City to ski.
I did find the time to teach my kids to ski. I loved the time I could spend with them. I enjoyed having the undivided attention of my kids while I sat next to them on the ski lift. There was nothing else for them to do; they could not go away, and we could just talk.
The last four years, I have purchased season passes. That has given me a renewed interest in skiing. I can go for just one or two hours, almost every day. Last year I loved teaching four of my grand kids to ski. This year the five of us have already purchased season passes at the same resort, so I am looking forward to skiing with them a lot this winter.
I believe skiing had made winter my favorite season of the year. In addition to skiing, there is little yard work to do. Shoveling snow is not nearly as much work as cutting and trimming lawn, weeding and pruning. Cold weather has never bothered me. I am not usually aware if the temperature is too high or too low until someone else mentions it, and then I think, “Oh yeah, I guess it is.” Now, in winter, I get that one-on-one, undivided, attention with my grand kids while on the ski lift. Living in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I can be working in my office and then on the ski lift in 20 minutes. So when everyone around me is complaining that summer is coming to a close and the temperature is getting colder, I don’t say anything, but I begin to look forward to the snow flying.
Someday, when my wife retires and is no longer tied to the Utah legislative session during the best part of the snow season, she will be able to join me on the slopes with her own season pass.