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by Joe Harkins - Nov 25, 98
A few weeks ago, the flight path of the plane carrying me back from Europe went directly over the ski resort at Killington, Vermont. The pattern of snow trails 10,000 feet below sparkled so attractively in the midday sunlight that I wished I could have climbed down the wispy ladder of cloud layers and stepped out onto the slopes.
Killington was my first, and almost my last, ski experience. The system then, decades ago, was the infamous "snowplow" technique taught by what I took to be fugitive war criminals still extracting revenge for a defeated blitzkrieg.
Failure to keep your knees bent, butt centered over your heels, toes of your treacherously skinny, 6-foot-long skis pointed sharply inward, got you a heavy-accented critique that only an inmate at Stalag 17 might appreciate. Things there have mellowed, but for a while, it drove me out of skiing.
Fortunately, I re-encountered the sport, years later, at Aspen, Colorado in the form of the highly effective Graduated Length Method that had me "weddeling" (that hip-swinging, weight-shifting wiggle that maintains control) and "shussing" (aiming straight down hill and letting it fly) within a half-hour.
I was so excited, I soon forgot to stop shussing and start weddeling, fell and broke three ribs. Had a wonderful time.
Over the years, as evidenced by sites such as Ski Pros, the teaching of skiing has become much friendlier, as well as more professional. It even includes an almost no-longer-hip metaphysical concept borrowed from playing tennis without a ball or net. A quotation from the Right Insight and Natural Motion page explains:
"Right Insight and Natural Motion, as with most things, can only really be understood by 'doing'. The following overview of the Seven Insights of Right Insight gives no concept of the required 'on snow' exercises."
The seven Zen-ish "insights" offered might be appreciated best, perhaps, by those with superior mental and spiritual skills. Me? I'll settle for not falling down.
Skiing, and its finally respectable relative snowboarding, are now available at hundreds of resorts that range from budget to spectacular. Finding one online that's appropriate to your needs is as easy as sliding downhill.
As usual, The Mining Company site, one of hundreds under the direction of a theme-dedicated guide, offers a thorough, well organized, easy to navigate tool. Robin Colliander delivers an excellent survey of valuable money-saving discount card and club memberships, links to the major online ski zines, and packing advice. Mountain Vacations describes ski packages for 26 of the top resorts in the United States and Canada.
SkiNet, another super-site, invites you to browse the amenities and select a resort from Ski Magazine's Top 60. You simply click through a series of choices and the Finder does the rest.
Great Outdoors promises access to a database of reviews, stats and live cams for more than 400 destinations worldwide. If snowboarding interests you, don't miss the free instruction video. You also can forward a copy to a friend.
World Ski & Snowboard Association claims to be the world's most comprehensive discount savings program and backs it with a 30-day membership-fee return guarantee. Other major resources include Ski Directory, Ski Central and Resort Sports Network.
GoSki promises data and packages for more than 2,000 ski resorts in 35 countries and adds the appealing suggestion, "Quit your job; go skiing." Before you do, to be sure your gesture will not be wasted on bare slopes, check out Ski Conditions.
If you should wind up unemployed, SkiFree advises, "Never buy your lift tickets at the resort ticket window." And continues, "Discount cards are available for most ski resorts. Some are free and some are for a nominal fee . . . Call or email the resorts you are interested in and ask for details on their discount card program."
Still can't afford a lift ticket, even after the discounts? Visit SkiPass. They have passes from more than 200 resorts there, ready for copying using your color printer.
Just don't phone me asking for bail.
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