Celebrating my 86th birthday on the slopes



Please excuse the personal report in this column.

In recent years I’ve made it a journey to ski on my birthday. While I’ve been skiing for more than 50 years, it is only as age has encroached that I’ve made it a ritual.

What is it about skiing that has made it so important as I’ve aged? It’s may way of saying, “I’ve survived. I can still do it and as long as I can. I can also write for a newspaper, for novel book readers and friends, and I can hold strong political opinions. Skiing somehow enables me.”

Last Thursday (two days before my birthday on Saturday) I met my friends David, Ron and Joe at Heavenly’s Stagecoach base. We were going to take some pictures and enjoy the snow and sun.

The day started out just fine — thin clouds, little breeze and a goodly crowd on the hill. We skied off from Joe’s condo at Stagecoach, which faces the slopes. I’ve skied the run hundreds of times and always enjoyed its longer stretches. Ron stopped maybe 100 yards downhill, set up the camera and beckoned me to ski toward him.

The run was fast and smooth; I felt good despite the years. We continued skiing down to Ron for the video, and about the fourth sequence I got cut off from behind by another skier and took a tumble. No damage except to my pride. I hadn’t taken a fall for years, not since I was hit from behind once by a snowboarder at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

After the first fall I took two more, with Ron helping me up; the old “easy up” wasn’t easy anymore. Three falls, more than I had taken in recent years on the slopes.

I found myself tiring quickly, and after the long run back to Joe’s condo I could barely pull myself off the snow and onto the highway.

Lunch and a birthday party followed — no wine or martini then. Just fine crab sandwiches made by Joe’s wife, Patti.

So what did I accomplish skiing two days before my 86th birthday? I demonstrated that I could still ski and that on days when I was going to ski, I should skip my morning exercise routine. It takes too much out of me.

I guess I take as a metaphor of life. Get up the hill and come down as fast as you can handle it and be ready to ski the next day.

Now if I can just face those videos Ron took before my first fall, I’ll have proved my point, whatever it was.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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