In junior high, all my cool friends were skiers, and it took until 9th grade until I could join them up on the mountain. Our family did a lot of cross-country skiing, which I loved for the chance to revel in quiet, snow-covered nature, but come Mondays, I listened longingly to my buddies talk about riding up lifts and skiing down runs. I would never trade those family cross-country outings to Mt. Spokane’s Nordic trails or the golf course trails in town (back when there was enough snow in Spokane) – they taught me to appreciate the silence of winter in the woods and sparked my love of backcountry ski touring and interest in Nordic skiing as an adult. Yet the allure of downhill slopes kept calling my name.
Eventually, I answered the call of the lift-served ski hill. I had squirreled away enough paper route cash to break out into the world of downhill skiing. I think that first season pass at Mt. Spokane was something like $49. My ski set-up was a $15 disaster that one of my friends, a guy who was raised in a skiing family that piled into their tank of a Suburban every weekend to ski, must have pulled out of his basement. They were seriously old, long, skinny planks with no shape and paint that looked like they had been run over by a sanding truck. I brought them home, polished them up, and gave my new skis a fresh coat of glossy black paint, with bright flecks of neon yellow splattered over the black. I thought they looked amazing.
The boots were gray, or maybe faded blue, hard, plastic tombs for my poor feet that were close enough to the right size with a rickety, minimalist buckle system. The bindings looked like something you would find rusted and hanging from a tree at an old trappers camp. Straps attached to the boots served as leashes to keep the brakeless skis from taking off down the mountain on their own if they ever released during one of my many wipeouts (they never did, thank god). There’s no way you’d get on a lift with those things today, but there I was, dressed in my finest non-water proof, non-technical winter jacket and snow pants finally going skiing!
My cross-country background had prepared me for sliding around on skis, and soon I was spending more time upright than twisted in a heap of gray jacket, white snow, and shiny black skis with yellow flecks. Being a self-conscious teenager, by year two I had rallied my parents to get me a safer, less antique looking set-up. And I invested more paper route money in new ski pants and a real ski jacket (both bright neon green). I’m sure I looked like a glowing lime bouncing down the mountain, but there I was, finally doing what so many of my friends did every weekend in the winter, what I had been wanting to do. I was going skiing, and winters would never be the same again. //