Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Diaries Of A Ski Bum

There any many reasons why people choose to ski, be closer to nature, get some physical exercise, or to hang out with ones friends. Yet, there is only one honest answer: Because it is incredibly fun. It's really as simple as that. The feeling is exactly comparable with the same kind of addicting thrill and satisfaction that others experience from sky diving, surfing, scuba diving, or any similar pastime that never gets old to those who get sucked in. This uniquely satisfying thrill inevitably brings people together, and that shall be the topic of this post: The bonds formed through skiing.

When someone mentions Squaw Valleys in my presence, a smile automatically occupies my face. Growing up, Squaw was my Disneyland, a place were my friends and I could freely explore, were parents and consequences simply disappeared for a few short hours. Through 8 years of ski team, I explored every inch of that mountain, yet with that time investment, I did not just improve as a skier. No, I felt like I had truly been welcomed into a unique and loving community.

The only way to aptly describe the Squaw community is to image you have a myriad of older brothers and sisters. These siblings will curse and swear in front you, but will also genuinely be interested in how your day is going. Will race you to the fingers on a powder day, but will also be excited just to share a beautiful afternoon with you. In short, they are the most competitive yet loving siblings in the world. When it is an epic powder day, make no mistake, Squaw skiers will race you up the Palisades. However, once at the top, they will gratefully help you with your line, and will emit deafening screams upon you sticking a difficult line.

Yet, as enthusiastic as the Squaw community can be, its most touching accomplishment is the level of support it shows during times of great tragedy. I'm going to be honest here, Squaw has had a depressing couple of years. Since 2008 we have lost Randy, Shane, Arne, CR, and a member of ski patrol. These death simply should not have happened. The people too good, their souls too pure, but sometimes shit happens to the best of people. You can make arrangements, plan for the future, but in the end, life will just happen. These deaths imposed upon the entire Squaw community an emotion that can only be describe as being trapped in an out of control flaming car, helplessly speeding down the side of a mountain. Yet, as I attended Shane's memorial service a few short weeks after his death, I realized that in that my fiery piece of speeding wreckage, I wasn't alone. Not only were other people in the car with me, going through the exact same thing, there were people on the hill watching it happen. That is where the comfort and the joy comes from – even though it felt like I may have been alone, I realized that I wasn't.

These deaths had a tremendous impact on every Squaw skier, yet the level of outreach and support present after each of these tragedies was awe inspiring. From the memorial fund set up in Randy's name, to Shane's touching memorial service on Sun Deck. It was instantly apparent that we all loved these people as brothers, because in a sense, that's what they were, family.

Squaw, I will always love you and your people.

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