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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Dave Dubuque: Reflections and observations on another ski season

By Dave Dubuque For The Spokesman-Review

At my home hill, Mount Spokane, the lifts will be spinning for just 14 more days, and the nearing end of the season lends itself to reflection on not just the days spent on the hill, but also about the nature of the sport itself.

Following, in no particular order, are a few truths that have become clear over the course of many days spent doing what I love most.

The older you get, the less it pays to count things. I used to keep careful track of the number of days I’d logged, even making a few notes about the snow conditions and who I’d seen that day. In the 2017 season, I had the pleasure of spending an embarrassingly large number of days skiing. A number that I don’t have any hope of matching until I retire, should that day come. This year, I let go of the habit and am glad to be skiing “a lot,” without the worry that my happiness is somehow being compromised by an unsatisfactory day count.

The summer is long, and you will forget names of people you met on the hill the previous winter. Or at least I will. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best not to take your best guess. For some reason or another, people enjoy being called by their given name. Go figure. I love it when people ask for a reintroduction. It makes me feel better about my own lack of an effective storage system.

Every crash is different. Skiing at the edge of control is where the learning happens, and a good wipeout is a normal part of every ski day. Of mine, at least. A crash that sends you tomahawking down the hill in a series of flips and thuds may leave you completely unharmed. Take a low speed fall on the bunny hill, and you may end up tearing a ligament in your thumb. You just never know. Please don’t ski at the edge of control when there are other skiers nearby. And remember: Snow is soft. Trees are not. Aim yourself appropriately.

A couple of beers on the hill can be absolutely wonderful. That must be why they sell it there.

Chairlift rides are a great place to meet people who you wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise. I’ve met B-52 and F-14 pilots, freestyle champions, speed-demon finish carpenters, TV station technicians, former NFL linebackers, plastic surgeons, airplane mechanics, farmers, Shriners, and all manner of good-natured locals who live to rip. The fresh air, exercise and beautiful scenery force the body to produce endorphins, and folks tend to be at peak sociability when they’re skiing or boarding.

There are huts in them thar hills. With wood stoves, ski-in/ski-out convenience, and comfortable seating. You could be within 10 feet of one and not know it. Not that I’d know where they were.

Of all the colors one could choose for a helmet, metal-flake gold is by far the coolest. My helmet is black and white, and I’m feeling like I could have made better life choices.

Crowded lodges full of smiling people are the best. COVID is the worst.

The kids in your life who once wobbled and cried their 2-foot high frames down the hill will overtake you in ability in the blink of an eye. Each passing year for kids is a major percentage of their life, full of growth and development. I could take a moment to contrast that to adult life, but I won’t.

Avalanches are no joke.

Picking up skiing later in life is a great idea.

You’ll never be saddened that you can no longer pull off the stunts that you could when you were young and indestructible, because you’ll always be improving.

Getting kids started skiing early in life is a great idea. Sure, they’ll peak, and at some point, they’ll have to hang up their rowdiest tricks. But they will have some tricks that hang on for the long haul. I know a 62-year-old who throws massive 360s in the terrain park – a thrill I will never know.

Logic has only limited utility in skiing. Immersing yourself in the moment shorts-circuits the obnoxious part of your brain that’s involved in thinking, instead favoring regions more concerned with reacting and imagining.

Counting days and keeping a journal of ski days is a good thing to do. If you write down the name of a new friend, there’s a glimmer of hope that you’ll remember it next season.

On that note, please don’t take it the wrong way if I have to ask for a reintroduction.

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