Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 2, No. 43, Ed. 1 Friday, February 28, 1986 Page: 5 of 24
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Vows are made to be broken.
Let’s talk about legs first.
There I was a smart-mouthed
teen-ager 25 years ago who
believed that snow skiing
obviously had to be second
nature to someone living in
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the “Land of the
Frozen Chosen” where winter seems to last 10
months a year.
Armed with a pair of skis twice my height that
my cost-conscious parents had found at a garage
sale, I cockily headed to the nearest ski area with
visions of becoming an instant virtuoso on the
Two hours later I finally made it to the top of
the ski lift, after falling on my face and southern
parts of my anatomy too many times to count.
Then I did what any “good” skier would do, I
figured—aimed straight for the bottom of the
Off I went at speeds—unclockable by any
measurement—only to find myself in the same
position as when I began the trek. But this time
a lot more was hurting than my southern
Hours later, with my entire right leg in a
heavy white plaster cast, I decided that skiing
was—quite frankly—a stupid sport. I vowed
never-ever to go near those long, skinny bone-
I kept that vow for 25 years, but then last
month those visions returned. The long, dull and
gray Dallas winter was getting the best of me.
I could see myself high in the majestic, snow-
covered Rocky Mountains. The sun was shining
brightly, the air was crisp and the snow was
sparkling. My skis were on, and it was just me
and Mother Nature. No two snowflakes were
alike; no two mountains, no two trails. Every run
was exciting and different.
“That’s me!” I shouted to a quiet office of
startled co-workers. “I am a virtuoso on the
slopes!” My adrenalin was pumping.
But you learn a few things over 25 years. And
I was determined not to let history repeat itself.
This ski experience was going to be done right.
The proper clothes and equipment, lessons, the
best location and facility—and most of all,
Weeks later, after a quick flight to Denver and
a relaxing and beautiful shuttle bus ride up into
the Rockies, I entered the spectacular canyons
leading into Copper Mountain resort. Nestled
between the Gore and Ten Mile Ranges, Copper
Mountain has a reputation as.one of the 10 best
ski resorts in the country.
Modern lodges and condominiums dot the
resort, with a skating rink sitting in its heart.
Guests wander through a pedestrian village
housing a variety of shops and restaurants.
There’s even an indoor athletic club. But above
the village rises the magic that is its mountain—
my mountain, or at least it was going to be for
the next week.
Copper Mountain was recommended because
of its dedication to providing the ultimate ski
experience for all levels of skiers. Described by a
U.S. Forest Service report as “a mountain that
had the terrain created for skiing,” Copper
promised to be ideal for beginners through
experts. Its ski school is nationally-known for its
innovative coaching techniques.
My first ski lesson was to start at 9 a.m. the
next morning, so knowing that I would need
plenty of time for a good breakfast and to get
fitted for equipment, I headed for bed quite
Maybe it was the absence of Love Field
aircraft soaring over my head, or the
apprehension of what I was about to do, but sleep
took its time coming. When the alarm went off at
6:30 a.m., I was having second and third
thoughts about turning my visions of me
mastering the slopes into reality.
But soon afterwards, there I was decked out in
my fancy new ski attire, checking out skis, poles
and oh-so heavy boots. Willing or not, my first
day on skis in 25 years and my first lesson was
about to begin.
A young blond ski instructor from New
Zealand quickly put the group of 12 of us at ease
with friendly chatter. We were of all ages, but
all beginners. We were told that the skiing skills
we learned on our first day were the same skills
used by all good skiers whether racing or
“Skiing is the one sport in which you learn all
the basics in one day,” Mike said. “After that, it’s
just refine and perfect, refine and perfect.”
We started out with the basics of getting in
and out of our bindings and maneuvering with
our skis on—and then progressed through
walking, sliding, gliding, balancing, edging,
turning and stopping. And getting up after falls.
I learned that no one on skis does anything
else. Oh, some do it faster and more gracefully,
but those basic skills are all there is to skiing.
At this point, I was doing all right but I
certainly wasn’t that virtuoso. I mean, I was
better than the 10-year-old kid but not as good as
the 60-year-old woman.
After a few hours, instructor Mike moved us to
a slightly steeper part of the “bunny” slope. It
had a natural run-out (that’s ski talk— to break
our speed, and we were taught to balance, stop
and turn going down hills. He also showed us
how to increase pressure against the edge of first
one ski and then the other, and how to shift
weight back and forth. I soon realized that
skiing requires an active, rather than a passive,
When we broke for lunch, I still wasn’t feeling
very coordinated or confident. I was just getting
by—and boy, was I ever getting sore and tired.
After a too-short rest, Mike instructed us on
how to safely use the tows and ski lifts—then we
were off to higher-elevation points on the
mountain. At this point, I knew why I had
wanted to learn to ski so badly.
As the chair lift took me higher and higher. I
marveled at the beauty of the snow-covered
Rockies. There are few sights as magnificent in
We spent the afternoon on steeper, but still
easy runs and trails. I performed, so-so. most of
the time in slow motion. I had a few successes, a
few more falls.
When our lessons were concluded. I was
convinced that I had just put in one of the most
tiring six-hour days of my life. I headed straight
for the jacuzzi in the athletic club, then back to
my lodge room to spend the rest of the night with
“Ben Gay.” I was warned by body was going to
ache, but muscles ached I never even knew I
The next day my traveling companion—an
experienced skier—forced me out of bed bright
and early again, and took over as my instructor.
We put in another full day of negotiating the
beginners’ and then more-advanced slopes from
top to bottom. But I still didn’t feel like I knew
what I was doing. My coordination and
confidence was still lacking.
Afterwards, more soaking in the jacuzzi and
back to bed with “Ben Gay.”
I don’t know what happened on the third day.
but after an hour or so on the slopes—even a few
difficult ones—all of a sudden my skis, boots, feet
and legs became a single unit.
I actually felt I knew what I was supposed to
do—and I was doing it with ease, coordination
and confidence. And it was fun! There I was a
mini-virtuoso (and I stress mini) on the slopes.
But I was in control—with an awareness of
edging, pressure control, balance and the focus
needed to ski powder, moguls and groomed
trails. (That’s more ski talk).
For the rest of my stay at Copper. I practiced
the art of “refine and perfect, refine and
perfect.” As my confidence level increased in my
ability as a skier, the more I was enjoying the
experience. Even my muscles stopped hurting,
so I felt like taking in some resort nightlife,
although I still would like to know why those
boots are so darn heavy.
Oh. I’m still a long way from being the
virtuoso of my visions—but I'm a lot better than
I thought I’d ever be. Actually. I was quite proud
of myself during my last day on the slopes.
I even caught myself thinking. “Hey, it would
be great if I could do this every weekend!"
Somebody point me to the snow-covered peaks of
Mount Dallas, please.
The Dallas Voice, February 28, 1986
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Ritz, Don. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 2, No. 43, Ed. 1 Friday, February 28, 1986, newspaper, February 28, 1986; Dallas, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth615647/m1/5/: accessed May 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.