Outdoor adventures: It’s all about embracing and growing skier, snowboarder lifestyle

  • Skiers and snowboarders have a variety of rituals both on and off the slopes. One that everyone should try is keeping the spark going. Embrace, participate and grow the ski and snowboard lifestyle, especially as ski season gets closer and closer. SUNDAY RIVER / Courtesy

For the Monitor
Saturday, November 19, 2016

Last month, a contingent of ski luminaries, enthusiasts and supporters gathered on a wintry night to pick at their plates during the 14th annual Maine Ski Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at Sunday River’s Grand Summit Hotel.

Nights like these can be filled with polite applause, long-winded, eye-rolling speeches and kicks under the table by a loving member of your entourage who may be giving a covert signal to exit.

It was not so on this occasion as cross-country Olympian Nancy Fiddler, father and son biathletes Walt and Andy Shepard, ski jumper Dan Warner, freestyling filmmaker Geoff Stump, Ski Maine’s Greg Sweetser, Pro Ski Tour visionary Ed Rogers and community spirited Orman “Sonny” Goodwin entered into the great snowy hall.

Passion and the community were common themes. There were some hilarious stories – like when Wamer talked about a coach who brought nails, marshmallows and a hammer to a contest. The coach hammered the nails onto his long ski tips and ate the marshmallows while in-flight during a jump as a way to get everyone to chill out.

Rogers spun a tale about a U.S. Ski Team member way back in the day who punched a guy at Sugarloaf not knowing he was a policeman. The ski team member was eventually caught hiding under hay bales, received a six-month jail term, which was suspended to three because, in prison, he became a model inmate – giving exercise programs that included the cop he clocked.

But it was something that Stump – who grew up hot-dogging in the 1970s at Shawnee Peak, then called Pleasant Mountain, and later went on to make ski movies with his well-known brother, Greg – that launched the careers of celluloid ski stars like the mohawk-wearing Glen Plake, said that got me rocking “Hallelujah, bro” in my head.

“Keep the spark going,” he said. “Carry the magic.”

Stump was talking about a ritual – “smelling the sun” – when you are out on the slopes. From little rippers to those with wrinkled foreheads as deep as sultry groomed corduroy, it’s all about embracing, participating and growing a ski and snowboard lifestyle.

Yes, it is ritual time again.

As we progress through twig season, we soon enter into our personal winter traditions.

“Think snow” we tell others when we talk about our hopes of a wintry world of white. “Pray for snow” others pontificate as if to ward off another devilish and lackluster winter like last season that made many in Snow Nation grimmer than grim.

Pagans call on Ullr, the Norse god of everything winter, to shine upon us with copious snow and cold. We dance in his honor. Some even burn boards as a sacrifice to his grace as if to sway favorable weather patterns our way.

Then we wait for the snow. Whether from Ullr or guns and hoses, we take part in custom even before we reach hallowed lift-serviced ground. We get a tune-up in a certain way whether from a favored ski shop or tech. We find that lucky, weathered hat for the drive to the slopes and stop at that breakfast place we haven’t seen for months. If there’s a choice, we choose our lodge and find our corner, or table. We see familiar faces again.

We tackle the trails in the way we always do, we put on our boots, the same boot first each time. We do the same stepping into the bindings.

We stand at the top of that first run and take in the landscape, smiling at that old friend rippling across the horizon, “It’s so good to see you again.” We see the mountains, trails and sky in winter’s eye. We feel invigorated and often shuttered by winter’s cold. We venture forth into the outside because this ritual called skiing and snowboarding is part of who we are.

We rip down the slopes and see those people we’ve never met, but recognize their gear. We round a corner on a trail we’ve been down hundreds of times and stop to see that stunning vista as though we’re seeing it for the first time.

We brown-bag it or stop for chili. And when 4 p.m. rolls around, it’s sipping time around that bar with all your friends to recap the day.

We hear the stories. We tell our own.

So think, pray, boogie and burn so that Alpine magic can start falling across ski country.

(Marty Basch can be reached at onetankaway.com.)