“Expert” an Overused term in Skiing by Gary Bell

January 14, 2016

What do you suppose would have happened to us if all that rain (yeah remember the rain?) had been snow? Bliss or agony or probably both, you know; just a little agony for short periods while you are trying to get the snow from your driveway to the top of that six foot high pile that lines the full length of your driveway.

Then the only sounds you hear are your heart pounding and the snow hissing as it passes around your knees as you float effortlessly dropping a couple thousand feet of the most pure bliss that exists on this planet! Well that rain was ugly and worrisome for a bit, but we still got our bliss anyway, right!?!

Right in the middle of one of those storm sessions during the holiday I found myself at a resort, working the singles line and then of course sitting on the chairlift next to this couple that had suddenly appeared in my bliss. How’s it going she asks me. “WONDERFUL, how else could you be on a day like this?” I answer just as her male companion and I turn to look at each other, which is when I realize he is looking at me through his clear prescription glasses with one lens fogged so badly that I couldn’t actually see that one eye. He had that shoulder slumped forward I’m freezing posture, his hair white with the snow steadily building up on the top but not on the sides because he had his HEADBAND on just right! His jacket looked fast, you know nice and tight, form fitting, the bottom of it almost met up with the top of his ‘90s stretch race pants, yeah buddy. My jaw had probably dropped at that point but you couldn’t tell because my face gaitor was pulled up nice and warm. Now keep in mind that it had been snowing some of the day before, all night pretty much, and all morning so far so this weather was no surprise!

That was when she said they were hoping to find some nice powder runs and maybe I knew where they should go. What level skiers are you I ask. Expert he says, yeah we can ski black diamond runs she adds in. Right then one of those wind gust hits us, you know the type, the snow is going horizontally, the chair gives that swing that makes you reach to pull down the safety bar, and you are so happy you don’t have one bit of skin exposed anywhere. Suddenly that gust took me far away as I watched the snowflakes race from right to left across the field of vision through my goggles, the sound of the wind somehow went silent in my head and all I could hear was, “We are experts…experts…exp…”.

Wow, what a misused word in ski world. Yes perhaps you can ski or board down some black diamond or even survive some double black diamond “expert” runs. But doesn’t it mean something completely different to be an expert? It has always seemed to me that an expert skier/boarder would also have a very good understanding of their equipment, how it works, how it differs from other stuff out there, why they are riding that gear and not something else. Some knowledge of waxing, maybe not doing it yourself but understanding the importance of it and the difference between cold and warm waxes. An expert would be a good snow hunter which means they understand a great deal about snow, what affects it in the air and once it is on the ground, which means they can go find that snow condition they desire. Some knowledge of snow safety would be important as well. An expert would have a good understanding of weather and probably keeps an eye on it way too much. There are so many more aspects and so much knowledge that should combine to make one an “expert”. Oh did I mention being able to dress for the conditions?

Suddenly the sound of the wind returns to me, I had all but forgotten where I was for a minute or two there. Oh yeah my two chair mates, he is asking if maybe they could tag along for a run. It would be really fun to turn these two on to a nice little bit of bliss somewhere. But would old fog eye be able to see where we are going? I agree to let them follow for one drop. We start off down a run, where shortly I hook a left off and into the trees, knee deep and completely untracked, oh yeah blissfulness. I glance back just quickly enough to see the two of them standing there at the edge of the run looking down where my track went, oh well, I never even got their names anyway. Go get a hat and some goggles and maybe next time! Oh yeah, an expert should know better than to ride the trees on a storm day alone, hmmm.

Well if that start of the season was too much agony, you just might get a little break for the first couple of weeks of January, but after that, let’s get going again, blissfulness.

Enjoy Earth,

Gary Bell

Gary has owned Sierra Ski and Cycle Works in South Lake Tahoe since 1980.  He’s having a 30th birthday bash in 2011, so stay tuned at www.sierraskiandcycleworks.com

Sierra Ski and Cycle Works
3430 Lake Tahoe Blvd
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

OPEN: 8ish to 6ish – 530.541.7505

Right next to Safeway in the middle of South Lake Tahoe

Big fun in the small shop since 1980.