Sunday, January 31, 2010

Skiing the Steeps

The most recent issue of Skiing Magazine has an article entitled "Conquer Any Run - Steeps Made Easy". Full of interesting commentary on how to ski the steeps. Perhaps the thing that amused me most about the article was the advice about falling. First the advice was - don't fall!! From there it went on to give advice on what to do if you do fall. One - don't lose your skis. Two- if you do lose your skis dig in with what ever appendage you have available. Three- if you are going head first, turn around to a feet first position.

As I reflect on the prospect of skiing steeps of the nature described in the magazine article, I am inclined to say I don't need to take the risk of maiming myself on the steeps that they are describing. I have reached an age where I am prepared to use my senior wisdom to manage the level of risk I am willing to take. On a good bright day with forgiving snow I am prepared to get a bit more excitement in skiing the black diamonds. But for the most part, I am happy to ski the slopes that offer me a good ride with assurance I can handle the conditions. Living within my limitations is fine with me so that I'll be back for another day on the slopes. I am looking forward to achieving the goal of skiing into my 90's. Lord willing that I live that long!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Home Ski Area - Love/Hate Relationship

I first started skiing at Greek Peak in 1968. Although I had skied in on old hickory boards as a kid, I didn't really get into downhill skiing until I was 33. So for the past42 years Greek Peak has been my home ski area. This long history includes children and step children that have learned at the Peak and several of them have gone on to high level of expertise as instructors. Thus the Peak has produced some fond memories of fun and frolic.

There are many other old timers at this area now that skied at the Peak when it opened in 1957. After skiing at the same area for over 40 years you learn to both love and hate the place. Apparently this is common among the locals at any ski area. For a while I skied about half my season at Toggenburg and heard many of the same complaints that I hear at Greek Peak. We know the warts of the place as well as the things we enjoy. I guess when you ski the same area for over 75 days year, there is the potential to become bored. I fight that boredom with skiing a variety of slopes each day and appreciate that the conditions can change from run to run. Also, there is always the opportunity to vary your technique to see what happens.

When I talk with occasional visitors to Greek Peak, I get a refreshed view of the area. About a week ago I was talking with some Long Islanders who are repeat visitors. For them GP is a great family friendly area within comfortable driving distance. For me, I consider myself fortunate to live close to a fun ski area frequented by a gaggle of geezers. We do have our complaints but we are lucky to have this ski area in our backyard.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lift Attendants - Unsung Heroes

Essential personnel for operation of a ski area includes lift attendants. They probably are the persons of most frequent contact with the ski public at the area. Likely they are also the least appreciated persons. At Greek Peak we have some great people serving as lift attendants. For those of us that ski many days a week, it is a pleasure to be greeted as an old friend and to exchange pleasantries as the day starts and as it progresses. It is not easy to stand out in the cold hour after hour watching the progression of chairs and constantly loading the assembly line of people. These folks also have to be alert to the occasional ski tip caught or a dropped pole, or an awkward novice. In addition some of us more senior folks get distracted too and may need assistance.

So as my friend Pat Ryan reminded me this morning, let us be more appreciative of their service. Geezer skiers I leave it to you to find ways to express your appreciation. Pat brings them donuts on occasion. I make a mean batch of brownies so that's on my to do list for next week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


At tennis today my doubles partner tripped, fell on the court and whacked the back of his head. Fortunately he was not knocked out but did see stars. He spent the rest of our tennis time sitting out with ice on his contusion. Our group concluded it might even be good to wear a helmet for tennis.

At this point in my skiing life I would not think of going on the slopes without my helmet. I am an avid advocate for helmet wearing. There are numerous merits for helmet wearing. As today's Syracuse Post-Standard article pointed out, one trip to the emergency room avoided would easily pay for the helmet. As a bald eagle, I also find the warmth of the helmet satisfying and with the venting I am not too hot in the spring. I am convinced that many injuries can be prevented. I well remember one of our TOGS falling without a helmet and getting a significant head cut. That was enough to make him a believer of helmet use.

Among the geezer skiers, I can't identify but one or two hold outs from helmet wearing. The debate whether helmet use should be mandated continues. Fortunately without the mandate the rate of helmet is rising. However, among the most vulnerable group of beginners and the more risk taking teens helmet use is the lowest. Who knows how helmet use will evolve for skiing and boarding. I am betting that at least in some venues helmet use will be mandated. Note that seat belt use in autos has become a mandate, helmets for motorcyclists are legally required in many states, and bicycle helmets for youth are required now. Meanwhile, I will remain a vocal advocate for helmets for skiing and boarding.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Night Skiing

I can't remember the last time I went night skiing. Today that was the best alternative. With a heavy rain this morning it was clear that although I could tolerate skiing in the rain, going to the office at Cornell was a better choice. Also a more intelligent choice. I have volunteered to advise engineering students entering my department after three semesters and I have just been assigned a half dozen new recruits. Thus I had a different routine. It was good to see geezer colleagues in a different coffee break setting and to catch up on the current news. Later in the afternoon I was able to visit grandchildren for a late lunch with many of the family gathered.

This afternoon the rain ceased and by 5:30 PM I was anxious to ski. I expected that the conditions would be horrible. To my surprise, conditions were reasonably good - almost approaching frozen granular of spring conditions. The moon and stars even appeared briefly. So with my prescription goggles in place I had a pleasant couple of hours on the slope. No other TOGS present, so lots of contemplative time. Ski passion satisfied!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fitting Into a Culture

I have always been interested in the nature of culture. Whether we realize it or not, we are always functioning withing a cultural context. There are many definitions and descriptions of the nature of a culture. For the most part the elements of a culture include shared values, goals, practices and attitudes. This all gets played out in the myths, heroes and rites of the culture.
Recently Nancy and I have affiliated with a new church community. In the process we are learning to respect and appreciate the heroes, practices and values of our new environment. In respecting this established culture we have been welcomed and included in a very compatible way.

As I think about the Tough Old Geezer Skiers, I believe that this group has its own culture too. There are the heroes who are remembered. Many are those that skied well into their late eighties and some who skied into their nineties. There is appreciation and admiration for the outstanding skiers. For those not so outstanding skiers by accepted performance standards, there is appreciation for a variety of skiing styles that fit their experience and skill and brings them enjoyment. We all value a good story and the daily locker room ritual greetings. Each day has its rhythm of skiing, coffee breaks and debriefing on the conditions of the slopes. Some of us are willing to publicly identify ourselves with our Tough Old Geezer Skier name tags. I would like to think that we value serving the GP community by bringing a smile to the strangers we encounter.
Cultures have a way of sustaining themselves by adaptation as conditions change. Or if the adaptation does not occur the culture disappears. In my history of skiing at Greek Peak, there have been cultural changes. In the current model most of the TOGS exit the area around noon. A few years ago the daily ritual included a significant group sharing a picnic lunch often followed by a brief afternoon skiing session. That has almost completely disappeared. A few years ago I was skiing regularly at Toggenburg where the TOGS equivalent usually arrived about 10 AM or so, broke for lunch at 12 Noon and then skied briefly in the afternoon.
If anyone who reads this is an aspiring TOGS here is a possible blueprint for entering the culture. Come aboard!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Which New Ski?

Every time I read the Ski Magazine review of the new skis and boots and other gear I check the qualifications of the reviewers. Typically they are hot shot skiers ranging in age from 30's to perhaps late 50's. They give cutting edge evaluations of the performance of the skis and boots based on their trials with gear in various conditions. As a tough old geezer skier I am wonder if it wouldn't be nice to have a geezer evaluation of the skis. Perhaps some of our contemporaries could give us better insight to which would be the best ski for us than these experts. The producers of skis should consider the geezer market. I notice that many of my geezer friends are frequent buyers of new skis. Some as often as every year a new ski.
Meanwhile, probably the answer for geezers is to demo a range of skis and talk with friends about the skis they are using. I usually seek the advice of my son-in-law and two of my children when I am considering a change. One has a bias for Rossignol and the other Atomic. So right now I have a pair of each. However, there are so many different models, lengths and styles it is a complex business to select a new ski.
Maybe the TOGS should volunteer to rate the new skis for Ski Magazine. I'm sure we would welcome their offer to fly us to the test destination and provide us with a week of test skiing. Any volunteers?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jolly Good Fellows

Day 35 at Greek Peak for me for this season. A splendid day of bright sun, great snow and lots of laughs. A great part of the geezer skier group activity is sharing stories and having laughs over coffee and the start up in the morning. I salute all these good folks as a community of upbeat people. They brighten my day. They truly are jolly good fellows.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chair Lift Therapy

I think that if I were a Clinical Psychologist I would use a ride up a chair lift as setting for a counseling session. I am amazed how much exchange can occur between the two riders in a six minute ride up the slope. This seems to be true whether it is a couple of old geezer friends or a chance pairing when you are solo skiing. In six or seven minutes I have learned more about perfect strangers lives than one could imagine. My experience with a chance companion on the lift is that usually the conversation starts with where are you from and do you ski here often. Quite often if there is family skiing at the area the conversation will drift to family and then on to what you do or are you retired. If someone has a pet peeve or something bothering them it will come out too. It must be that riding up a lift is a non threatening situation with no chance of a long term relationship with any obligations since it is a chance encounter. Maybe it is like speed dating, but not having had that experience I have no first hand comparison.

As a Tough Old Geezer Skier with a name tag to that effect, perhaps people find it amusing and intriguing to talk to an old geezer. Whatever the case, I find that I am continually amazed how entertaining and interesting a ski lift ride with a chance seat mate can be. As far as old friends and acquaintances go the same old stories often get repeated ad infinitum, but from time to time real problems get hashed out.

Maybe I should set up a stand like Lucy did in the Peanuts Comic Strip by Charles Schulz. The sign reads,
"Psychiatric Help - 5 Cents".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tennis Intersects Skiing

Today it was a pleasure to play doubles tennis with a great bunch of tough old tennis geezers. I hope that they aren't offended by the geezer identification. They are a great gentlemen and I have had the good fortune of in the past few months to have been graciously accepted by the group. The most senior of the group, Jim is 93 and holds own along with the youngster 70 and 80 year olds. We enjoy an hour and a half of competitive doubles play with both a few groans and lots of laughs. For me today it was a chance to pursue both of my athletic passions in one day.

Post playing tennis this morning, I hurried home to change gear and travel to the ski slope. Most of my geezer skier friends were near to wrapping up their day when I arrived. However Allan was still going, so I have the pleasure of at least one lift ride and run before he had to go. The recent snowfall was somewhat integrated with the underlying groomed surface so the conditions were variable. However, it was a day to adapt to the variable conditions and experiment with skiing the hill with different styles on each run.

Now that my wife Nancy has become the interim associate pastor at the United Presbyterian Church at Cortland, our life has become even fuller with the interaction with the church community. We indeed are blessed with good tennis, skier and church community friends.
Life is good!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Family First

The passion for skiing can be trumped by family activities and surely that's a good thing. This weekend has been a great family time. Youngest child, daughter Yo (Pseudonym to protect privacy) and fiance Matt are visiting from Long Island. And Matt's parents are also visiting the area so all of us could join in a tasting session at The Lodge in Skaneateles on Saturday. The Lodge will be the wedding and reception venue in September 2010. Our Saturday session was a delight of tasting all the good food and sharing family stories as our two families continue to get to know each other better. We all had a special time on Saturday Evening with a dinner at our home, followed by our favorite domino game.
This also gave us a chance work on the wedding planning as well as working together on addressing and stuffing Save The Date mailings for the guest list. This will be the fifth wedding of our combined children that Nancy and I have experienced. Each one has had a unique character. By far this one will certainly be the most complex and elaborate, but surely will be a great one. (This is indeed a wedding year of note since daughter Michelle will also be married in August). Nancy will officiate at the interfaith wedding ceremony that will incorporate essential elements of the Jewish and Christian faiths. We will trust that God will bless this union.
It was a pleasure to have Yo join us in worship at the United Presbyterian Church of Cortland today. This was Nancy's first official day as Interim Associate Pastor - so special time for us too.
And now back to skiing. I did get a chance for an afternoon ski at GP. Fair conditions and relatively few geezer skiers. Light was very flat. Raining tonight but we hope it turns to snow. Looking forward to tomorrow when Yo and Matt will join me for part of the day on the slopes. We will hope that the rain will have disappeared.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gaggle of Geezers

A beautiful day at the slopes. Sunshine, blue sky, great scenery and super snow. As Pat R. pointed out it was a day for a gaggle of geezer skiers to assemble. A great day for photos. Let me see how many geezers I can name,
Andy, Allan, Roger, Larry M., Gene, Cliff, Otto, Bob O., Bob F., Ed G., Ed W., Pat R. , Tony A., Larry ?, Peter, Tom, Stash - I must have missed some. Help me out GP Geezers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Geezer Skier Wives

Geezer skier wives are very special people. My wife is not a skier which is probably the best choice for us. She is a southern gal and I always have to remind her that spring doesn't come to New York until May and in the winter you have to put on many layers of clothes to be comfortable. She did try skiing when we first met and we mutually agreed that trees and skiers don't mix. I am truly blessed that she loves me so much that she can tolerate my daily trip to the ski slope and listen to the stories of my daily adventures and the coffee break and lift ride commentary. We are a couple that discovered each other after misfortunes of failed first marriages. The past 28 years have been a splendid gift of getting it more than right the second time and being blessed with a blended family of yours, mine and ours.
We are blessed with activities that we enjoy together (tennis for example) as well as individual activities that are our special passions. Nancy retired in 2008 after 20 years as a pastor serving several different congregations. However, her passion for serving and preaching didn't retire. So since then she has assisted three churches on an interim basis and after a six month hiatus has been appointed as an interim part time associate pastor at a local church. So while I am on the slopes, she will be doing the good work of the Lord. Does that balance off my play? Needless to say she is the light of my life.
Just a few thoughts about other geezer wives. Skied with Ed G. this afternoon. Ed is 82 and although he has health challenges he lays down beautiful tracks on the hill. His wife passed away a year or so ago after they had over 55 years of marriage. She was a skier when the children were young as a way of being a part of the family activity. Some of my geezer skier friends do have wives that still ski, however most of the wives have moved on to other things. Perhaps the greatest thing that geezer skiers and their wives have learned that giving each other the freedom to pursue their passion is one of the greatest gifts of love one can give.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Expanding Network

A Beautiful day on the slopes. Great snow, great sunshine and lots of good runs. Sunshine has a way of lifting the spirits of all the skiers - especially for the geezers since the visibility was great for the old eyes.
Seems like there is a continual expansion of the acquaintance with geezer skiers and aspiring geezer skiers. Met some baby boomer types today. If they become eccentric enough they can become tough old geezer skiers.
Had the camera out today to get some shots of old friends. I think it is time to post a gallery of skiers. It will help me remember names for next year.
Bottom left Tony A. and right Jeff (too young to qualify as a TOGS)
Top left Tom S. and top right Otto L. both true TOGS.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Geezer Gear - Retire that Jacket

Geezer skiers have a way of getting attached to a favorite piece of gear. Mostly a jacket that seems to become an old friend. Just the right number of pockets in the right place. A fit that feel like another skin. After a few years, however, the jacket begins to take on the appearance of the garb of a homeless person living on the streets. I have a yellow jacket that I still hang onto because I like it so much. I'll roll it out in the spring when the crud drips off the lifts.
Our friend Bob O. is about to retire one of his jackets and ski buddy Pat R. plans to bring a burn barrel to the slopes so we can have a ritual burning. Great idea. Maybe we all should contribute.
The picture with this blog today gives you a glimpse of the jacket to be retired. I'll get a better picture of it tomorrow so you can fully appreciate its character.

I might further comment that there are a few geezer fashion plates who appear with a different jacket almost on a daily basis. We may not recognize the jacket but everyone will identify themselves by their skiing style. No matter how technically proficient or not proficient one is, everyone has a unique character for their skiing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Geezer Support Group

Coffee talk among the geezer skiers often wanders off into the challenges of the senior years. As the medical statistics show most of us men past 50 develop some sort of prostate problems. Often starting with enlargement and for some progressing into cancer. In one way or another we learn to cope with this ailment and for some of us radical prostatectomy is the solution. As a skier I was fortunate to have a urologist that was also a skier. Often when a 70 plus guy develops prostate cancer the urologist will recommend wait and see or relatively non-invasive treatment. The thought is that something else will get you before the prostate cancer does. However, my doctor offered me the surgery solution. Since I was in good health at that time his attitude was to give me the chance to be hitting the slopes when I was ninety. So five years later I am looking forward to that 90th year fifteen years from now. At my ski area I have a model of this possibility. Skier Pret will be ninety soon and yesterday he was ripping up the slopes. It's good to have a hero for encouragement.

Meanwhile it is good to have a few laughs about our geezer ills and encourage each other to keep on skiing. We don't have to seek out a support group. We already have one. Here's to good health and more laughs.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Geezer Friendly Ski Areas

I received my 70+ Ski Club newsletter today with a listing of the lift ticket benefits for senior skiers. Nice to know that there are over 100 areas that offer free skiing and 300 that give seniors a break. A geezer friendly ski area is not just identified by ticket cost breaks but also by other attitudes and amenities that seniors enjoy. Among the things I can list that are appealing are,
1. Happy and accommodating lift attendants that give your a smooth transition to the chair.
2. Parking reasonably close to the lodge/lifts or at least transportation from the parking lot boonies.
3. A break on the cost of food/drinks.
4. Special days of free group lessons.
5. A reasonable number of groomers for the physically challenge.

If I were a ski area operator I would be thinking now of how to attract that bulge of baby boomers reaching geezer hood to my ski area. I think this demographic would be a valuable income source and a means of increasing skier days. Many would benefit from a season pass deal since most of us are inclined to ski 3 to 5 hours a day.

Today we had especially good loaders on the lifts. Nice to avoid the whack on the back of the legs!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do You Need a Checklist

National Public Radio today had a piece on checklists as a way to improve the performance of surgeons. The point was that experience and knowledge is great, but a checklist provides reminders and can improve the outcomes. Maybe I should have a checklist as a means of improving my skiing day.
I fall into a routine during much of ski season that means arising early enough to gather my gear, make sure I have my lunch prepared and warm up the ski boots over the register before departing at 8:50 A.M. This gets me on the slope by 9:30 A.M. start. However, unless I concentrate, I may forget my hand warmers, leave my cell phone at home or miss including my newspaper for my lunch break. So maybe I do need a checklist!!
Probably a check list would help improve my skiing. Am I edging properly, do I have my hips, arms and body in the right position? Did I finish the turn. Lots to think about.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Know Your Limitations

Geezer hood does bring limitations. Most of my buddies are checking out at noon at my local ski area. A few years ago we were gathering for lunch and exchange of stories followed by at least an hour or so of afternoon skiing. Today Otto was the only one of our group out in the afternoon with me. Some get their fix for skiing for the day with morning runs. I am still excited about getting in a few more runs after lunch.
Knowing my own limitations, I hope I will not push myself beyond my safety and health limits. Today was a fabulous day of powder skiing. We were blessed with about 8 inches of really light stuff overnight. I was still finding untracked lines even at 2:00 PM today. I knew enough, however, not to push the umbrella and cut out about 2:30 PM.
For those of us that have had a hard competitive edge all our lives, it continues to be a challenge to back off and just enjoy the ride and quell the desire to conquer the hill. A reminder we don't have to prove anything anymore.
Cheers Geezers!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hero Snow Day -Old Geezers Remembered

A fantastic day on the slopes at Greek Peak. Six to eight inches of new snow - mostly powder and the temperature hovering around 10 F. Great first tracks in the morning and still untracked spots in the afternoon. As one companion on the ride up said, "It's hero snow!"

Had a couple of chair rides with Carmen in the morning. We had a good time recalling a couple of geezer friends that no longer ski at GP. We fondly remember Bob Jenkins who passed away a year or so ago. Bob was a great guy who was a great skier and a great person. He had skied all over the world and the U.S. and I always enjoyed stories of his ski adventures. His philosophy for the tough skiing was pointer down the hill and go. I well remember the one day we did that in a heavy crusted untracked Olympian trail. Bob ended up on his nose. When he didn't show up at the lift I had to ski the same crud to see if he was all right.

We also remembered Jim Melia who now resides in State College, Pennsylvania. Jim would come into the lodge on many a day when we were having coffee and boast about the great stashes of deep snow he discovered in the woods or the edge of a rarely skied trail. We all thought they were exaggerations. So the joke in hearing reported snowfall was to ask whether it was true inches of depth or Melia inches.

All this reminds me that the geezer group at GP keeps changing. We will have to keep recruiting as some pass away or move. All you have to do is survive at least three score and keep on skiing.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Skier's Psalm

Tough old geezer skiers need all the support they can get to keep them safe and happy. Many years ago I was in Vermont and in a little shop where I noticed a coffee cup with the Skiers Psalm written on the side. To my surprise it was the 121st Psalm from the Bible. The opening of the Psalm is "I look to the hills! Where will I find help? It will come from the Lord, who created the heavens and the earth." As I ski daily on and in God's creation I enjoy reflecting on my good fortune and comfort in the words of this Psalm. My special license plate is SKI 121 as a tribute to the protection of God that I feel.

Here's to another safe and injury free year for all of you on the slopes and elsewhere.