Friday, March 20, 2020

Levels-Breaking Through

    When you can't sleep what do you do?   I have had interrupted sleep for over 20 years so I have learned to adapt by think about things I might write about when I have my awake intervals.   Last night I began to think about levels as they relate to achievement in all kinds of activities.    Most of us are familiar with going through various levels of achievement when learning something new as well a struggling with breaking through to higher levels after we have practiced our skills for a long time.  In my shelter in place isolation after the abrupt closure of the ski area there is  time to reflect on a lot of things.
     Here are some of my thoughts on breaking through to a higher level in some of the activities I have participated in.    ( I just now finished practicing playing my clarinet.  The instrument has languished in my closet for too many years.  I never did become an accomplished player but did enjoy my days playing in my high school band even making to first clarinet.  I guess the competition wasn't that great in my small school!   To say the least I am really rusty.   Fortunately my wife is tolerant of my squeaks and squawks as I hone my skills.  The maximum level I hope to break through to is smooth enough to amuse myself.)
    At the finish of the ski season on this past Monday I had a great day skiing at a high intermediate level.  At least I thought that was the case.  My buddies will have to verify that.  I have always aspired to ski at a higher level, but have now reached an age where the body does not have the reaction time to tackle the moguls.  I was lured into some easy tree skiing this season but quickly recognized I was pushing the boundary for my own safety. 
     When I retired at age 60 I pursued a life long desire to learn to play the piano.   Our ten year old daughter at the time was taking lessons so I engaged her piano teacher to give me instruction.  We had weekly lessons with exercises to be practiced during the week.   Of course we both started at a very elementary level.   While her progress was amazingly swift, I would take a month to accomplish what she did in a week!   I took lessons for over 6 years but never was able to break through to a very competent level.   No matter how much I practiced I kept hitting a wall.   (The desire to make music on the piano has not left me now some 24 years later).  Even though I know I am not likely to move beyond an elementary level I  recently sat down to work on some simple tunes.     
      This brings me to thinking about tennis.  I has been a life long sport for me and I both enjoy playing and watching the matches.   The pros often talk about breaking through to a new level.   Even the number 1 players will keep striving to up their level of play both in the short term in a match as well in the long term of their career.  Often as the pro rises through the ranks they will speak of moving to a higher level.   Breaking through doesn't always happy and staying the high level inevitably fails.   Thus I conclude that working hard to improve is a laudable trait, but at some point one has to face reality!   Do your best,  make sacrifices that are healthy and then for your mental health accept your fate.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Geezer Skiers 10th Anniversary Lunch - 2020

      Our self identified Tough Old Geezer Skiers celebrated our 10th anniversary with a lunch this past Wednesday at the Trax Restaurant of Greek Peak Ski Resort.  Traditionally we have had a near end of season gathering to reflect on the season, enjoy food and drink, swap stories and speculate on what going to happen next season.   At our tenth we had a dozen in attendance.  A few regulars were missing.  At least on due to the corona virus issues.  Yes, we are the vulnerable group in this world pandemic.
    To spice things up,  I administered the following quiz.   There were ten ballots that I was able to collect.
GEEZER SKIER 10 YEAR QUIZ
(Circle True or False, or fill in the blank)

1.     I have fallen at least once this ski season.                                        True    False
2.     I started skiing at what age _____________.
3.     What Geezer Skier do you think has been skiing for the most years? ____________
4.    At least one of my grandchildren is a skier.                              True     False
5.    _____________ probably has the most days of skiing this year.
6.    I have had a joint replacement.                                                      True      False
7.    My biggest ski fantasy is __________________.
8.      I have had no surgeries.                                                              True       False
9.    What Greek Peak Staff person would you elect MVP this year?
      10.   How many former geezer skiers can you name?  

We shared our responses while waiting for our food and enjoyed hearing the different responses to the open ended questions as well as the numerical tabulations for the true-false questions. 
Question 1.   70% percent had fallen at least once this season.
  
Question 2.  The age of starting skiing ranged f rom 4 to 72.  However the most dominant age for starting was late 20's to early 30's.

Question 3.  I know that Allen B. probably took the cake since he started shortly after WWII and is now 92 but hung it up this year.  Numerous others were mentioned where many of them have been skiing over 50 years and still going.

Question 4.  50% have at least one grandchild on the slopes.

Question 5.  Among our group I have had the most ski days this year.   As of yesterday 85.   Among our group over 40 days of skiing  is common.

Question 6.   Only 2 of the 10 have had a joint replacement.  Nice statistic.  However I know of at least one not in attendance that has had a hip replacement.  And note that all with these replacements are regular skiers.

Question 7.  This was dream time.  Some were looking to ski to 90+.   Those that had not skied some of the big mountains would like to ski Vail, Stowe etc.   We have one young geezer who really loves tree skiing.   Many yearn for endless days of powder skiing.   My fantasy is to be able to  go helicopter skiing in untracked powder of British Columbia.

Question 8.   90% of us have had at least one surgery.   I don't know who the lone soul that hasn't had a surgery.  But God bless him for being so fortunate.

Question 9.  Over many years we have made a plaque award to Greek Peak staff whom we most appreciate.  No physical award this year but several people were identified as providing  outstanding service from cleaning to lift loading to management.  We like to encourage excellence at our home ski area.

Question 10.   This was memory time for all those that have passed on to the moguls in the sky or have simply aged out of the sport they loved.   We miss those friends with whom wet spent many companionable days on the slopes along with coffee breaks and lunches.  If we were to compile a list of these bygone skiers it would likely add up to 30 to 40 individuals.   This is a reminder we need to recruit the next generation of Tough Old Geezer Skiers.

      We had our cake at the end of the lunch and we were happy to share a piece with a young lad of 5 or so who happened by our table in company of his mother.  She was pleased to take a picture of the cake to share with her parents or maybe grandparents who  were skiers in the geezer category.  A delight to know that there a youngsters out there who will some day remember in their geezerhood a bunch of old guys having fun on the slopes.
     It looks like we are done for the season.  Much too early to suit me, but we will scatter to our off season activities and look forward to gathering again on the slopes in November!   May global warming begin to be mitigated!   
Great Tasting Marble Cake

A Line Up of the Crew

Cutting the Cake - Doing the Honors


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

I Want a Handicap!

   Over the last year or so I have become connected with a website Seniorsskiing.com.  They have an interesting weekly news postings focused on issues for the over 50 skiers.   The articles range from weather to equipment to history to accident and safety issues.  In addition they also have recognition of skiers who ski more days than their age.  For the 2018-2019 season I met that standard and was a recipient of their Trail Master Badge.  Like a Boy Scout, I have tried to attach it to my jacket but haven't yet found the right glue.
    As one might expect the criteria to get the badge becomes harder and harder as one gathers the years.  At age 84 this season I am on schedule to make the required number of ski days tomorrow if I can tolerate the ugly conditions at my local ski slope.   However, in the coming years it is going to be a challenge to meet the award criteria.   In the sport of golf handicaps are awarded, so why not give those of us over eighty a handicap of adding some days from previous seasons when we were younger?   I have kept of the days I ski for the last 22 years.  For almost all of those years my ski days far  exceeded  my age.   Some year in the future I plan to use those banked days when I simply don't have the get up and go to ski something like 90 days!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Do We Ever Learn?

   One would think if you have lived into your 80's you would have learned to avoid perilous situations.  However, when it comes to skiing, I still have a lot to learn.   My avid pursuit of skiing sometimes overwhelms my common sense.  I wonder if that is true for other geezer skiers?  Probably many of them have more sense than I do.
    Case in point is my ski adventure today.  I have been wanting to go to a change of venue at Toggenburg Ski Area in lieu of my usual day at Greek Peak.   Over night we had a snowfall of several inches of fairly wet stuff.  In my stupidity I thought that it would be skiable.  Several of my companions decided to bow out of the excursion so the intrepid Tim was the youngster that joined me. 
   After donning boots and gearing up we headed up the slope.  Although the snow was wet the skis were not sticking.  However,  this geezer  immediately became tentative and  I  found I was having a tough time turning even though I really had the right skis for the conditions.   Unfortunately I really didn't have it and had an early but mild crash.   Tim helped me unlatch the boots and I was able to collect myself enough to get down the slope.  A one and done day.
      I hope I have learned enough of a lesson from today to know when fold them and avoid going beyond my capability.    I should be thankful, that I can still participate in the sport at my age.    But I still have some of that  20 year old invincibility that drives me to do foolish things.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ski Lift Evacuation- The Unexpected Experience

    A few days ago I wrote a piece about taking things for granted after we had a water shut down in our home.  In that blog I mentioned how we take for granted that the ski lift is going to get us to the top again and again without a hitch.  Wow!  Would you believe a few days later I experienced my first lift failure in over 50 years on the slopes.  Today I was stranded with two companions in my chair on the lift for over an hour until we were safely and efficiently evacuated by the Greek Peak staff and Ski Patrol.  When the lift stopped and then began to freewheel backward, I did have a moment of gut wrenching panic.  Thankfully the safety brake kicked in and we were brought to a halt.  Friend Tim and wife Anne were near the top and noted it was apparent quick action by the lift attendant that brought things to a safe halt.
    The photos below give you a sense of what happened as during the evacuation.  Kudos to the staff and Ski Patrol at Greek Peak for rapid response and a calm and effective guidance for all of use as we were lowered to the slope.  For the younger riders it was fortunate there were companions that helped them with the evacuation procedure.  When I landed, I challenged the rescuers find anyone on the lift that was older than my 84 years.  I have yet to hear!
      I could not have had a better set of companions on our chair.  We swapped stories and generally developed a unique collegial relationship.   For three people who had never met before, it was delightful endorsement of the collegiality of skiers as a rule.  There is a unique bonding that takes place when you are mutually facing and crisis or emergency.  Dianne and Graham are pictured below.  Dianne who was the brave first one to be lowered, photographed both Graham and me. 
        We were provided with a shuttle for transport to the lodge. However, Graham has driven to the bottom of the lift, so he kindly transported Dianne and me back to headquarters.   We bid adieu and I enjoyed coffee and warm up with friends Tim and Anne.   Thanks to  texting Tim and I were in communication during our ordeal!
       Not problem for finding inspiration for writing this blog!
Youngster Lowered Ahead of Us

Dianne and Graham

Me Midair Shortly After Launch

Approaching Landing

Successful Landing
    

Monday, February 3, 2020

Taking Things for Granted

     We were shocked recently to have a failure of our municipal water system.  All of of a sudden there was no water flow and our neighbors were exchanging panic calls wondering what was going on.  Our outage was about the time we were preparing dinner so anything you handle in food prep would normally require some hand washing.   Oh how much we take for granted the delivery of water, gas and electricity.  It was a reminder how much we are blessed with the reliability of these systems.
     This got me to thinking about the things I take for granted in my skiing life.   For one thing, I expect to safely ski everyday without any minor or major catastrophe.  However, this past Friday I had the unexpected crash on a slope that I have skied a thousand times.   The crash was precipitated by glue like snow under a leaking snow maker!   This year we have had a plethora of snow makers operating on open slopes.    We know that these areas can be treacherous and  we have our antennas tuned to avoiding gotchas!  Perhaps we get too complacent thinking we have all under control.   Too much taking it for granted that we will always succeed.
    You can be sure that skiers take for granted that the lifts will operated safely and reliably.    This means not only delivering us to the top without a hitch, but also loading and unloading us without issues.  However taking this for granted has given some of use a rude awakening this season.    My companions have experienced or observed some disturbing incidents this season.   One was loaded on a chair where the seat was an open hole.   Another's granddaughter was launched on a chair without a companion.   And of course, two of my companions became tangled with a third person and crashed into the bushes.
      We often take for granted we are not too vulnerable in the sport of skiing.   For the geezer crowd we are at an age where we are not so adept at dealing with the unexpected.   We should be thankful that we continue to function and plan for the day when we will have to transition to another activity.   We must face the fact that one day we no longer will be taking it for granted we will be whisking down the slopes like the days of our youth.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

On Being a Disciplined Blogger

    I have been remiss for the last few weeks about writing this blog.  Probably there are at least two reasons that has happened.  One is that the ski season is in full throttle and six days a week on the slopes soaks up my energy and time.  The second reason is that I am not convinced I have a significant number of regular followers who think I have something to say.  However, I was surprised to hear from Pat (one of my ski buddies) that he regularly logs into my blog looking for something new.   Well, Pat, here it is! 
    For the rest of my readership, I also want to muse about being a disciplined writer/blogger.    Since this blogger is aimed at geezer skiers I strive to write something that is relevant to that demographic.  This takes time, thought and getting inspiration for a topic.  This takes  discipline.   One has to work at it to be a good writer, just as one has to work at being a good skier.  Part of discipline is to do something in that venue every day.  Guilty on the writing front lately.  On the skiing front, Pat keeps all our group on target to steadily maintain if not improve our skiing.  He is a man with frequent tips and analyses and shared Facebook posts of skiing videos.  Oh, that I could as disciplined about seeking out tips and advice on writing.
    Seeking improvement in a skill does require daily attention.   And practice makes perfect or if not perfect, better.  Another aspect of practicing your discipline is to explore new opportunities.   We all need refreshed perspectives.   Yesterday many of our group trekked to Elk Mountain (Pennsylvania) for another skiing experience.  A delightful day for all at a resort catering to our generation with outstanding grooming and facilities.   What a welcome change of pace.
     As an end note I would say to become a better disciplined writer, one has to read a lot to get unique perspectives.  Our current geezer group has Tim leading the pack to get us to read a number of books of varying genre.   That in itself if a discipline.   Finally, I have always been taken with the writings of Garrison Keillor.   I am now reading  his Writer's Almanac daily.   I find inspiration in the poems and the stories of current and deceased authors and poets.  I know that I am not a writer in those leagues, but it is nice to dream.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Day

My local slopes are losing snow!
A proliferation of signs saying thin and bare spots.
Angst over missing a day of skiing.
Anticipating more snow next week.

Useful activities for the day?
Not 12th night, but outside decorations need to come down.
Recumbent bike exercise substitutes for skiing! Yes it is done!
Write my blog!

Reflections on 2019.
A healthy year!
Losses and gains.   But gains outweigh the losses.
Swift passing of time.  Where did the year go?

Accomplishments of 2019.
Finished my memoirs entitled From Farm to Academia.
Hiked in15 New York State Parks. 
By Spring 2019 I finished 90 ski days.

Looking forward for 2020.
Visit more parks, ride more miles on our new e-bikes
Celebrate more with family and friends and welcome another grandchild.
Ski more days than my age by the end of ski season.