Create all the good memories you can and treasure them; because in the end, you don’t always get a chance to re-create the moment.
— Diane O’Shaughnessy
Winter Follies by Diane O’Shaughnessy
Of all the things I have loved about my life, my fondest memories are from those good old days when I was young and adventurous; when I still had enough vision to enjoy skiing and horseback riding. When I think back, I often wonder how I have managed to still be alive and healthy, but life was crazy-fun then.
I have never had good vision, but when I was younger, before my progressive eye disease had really began marching on, I got by alright during the daytime, and just OK at night in the dark, so I was game for anything…whether I should have been or not.
In the winter it was all about skiing, and the summer, all about riding horses. As you read on, you may also wonder why I am still here and in one piece.
Holy Ski Poles!
It was December, 1964, when I took my first shot at downhill skiing. It would have probably been a good idea to try this during the day, but my three wild and crazy girlfriends, Germaine, Jane and Sue, decided that we should go to Afton Alps one evening. They said it would be just fine, as they had lights on the hills. I thought about it, and agreed because I usually did things pretty well if there were lights.
So there we were, riding up a chairlift, which I could not for the life of me figure out how to get off of when we reached the top.
“Don’t worry,” said Jane, “When we get up there, just stand up off the chair, use your poles, and ski away from the chair. It’s easy.”
“OKAAAYY.” After we got untangled and got our skis back on, and were relieved at the fact that the people behind us managed to ski around us instead of over us, we trekked over to the edge of a bunny hill that looked ominous to me, being the beginner that I was. As we were standing there thinking about it, I saw a guy come up on a chairlift, who must have been scared like me, because he just plain decided he was NOT getting off. Well, even I knew that you cannot do this, because as the chair goes around descending back down the hill, there is a little control house. There is room for the chair to clear the top of it, but not the legs of a passenger. So…the next thing I hear is “Fwapp!” as he fell forward and landed flat on top of the roof. It was an incredible scene! I felt compelled to stick around to see that he was alright, but I’ll never know for sure, because I wasn’t sticking around anywhere.
Instead, I was sliding on the ice…backwards, and I proceeded to ski down that hill just that way: backwards, poles sticking straight out to the sides, screaming the entire way to the bottom. I did not fall. I was just standing there stunned. The next thing I heard was my girlfriends laughing and yelling: “Wow! If you can do it backward, you can do it forward. Come on, let’s go again!”
After that incident, I learned to be a little more careful, but not too much, as you will see as you read on.
In January, 1965, Jane, Germaine and I decided to try Trollhaugen ski hill, and I was delighted to discover that it was a bit easier skiing than Afton Alps was. The hills didn’t seem as steep. I went right to the bunny hill to practice, but also because they had a rope tow there, not a chairlift. It didn’t take long for me to realize that if I didn’t grab that rope just right and my skis were not aligned properly, that rope could pull you right out of your skis. Ouch. Once I got to the top though, it was a friendly hill to ski, and that is where and how I really began learning how to traverse the hill, and to stop properly, and a few other life-saving tricks. This worked well for me except for one time when I was going too fast and actually skied up on top of a large snowbank. There I stood, surprised and looking so silly; well, that’s what the girls said when they came to rescue me.
Now it was time to graduate to another hill. Not a really great idea, but how was I to learn anything by snow-plowing the bunny hill all day? The next lift we came to was the Poma lift. I’d like to know who designed that piece of work. Long story short, when you leave this lift, you need to ski away from it really fast so as to not get hit with one that is coming back down the hill. I guess I forgot that part, and it hit me…in the face. That hurt…and took a small chunk out of my upper lip. After a little recuperation and a glass of wine, I knew I had to go back up there, or they would call me a wuss; so back I went.
Isn’t it amazing, I thought, how many different ways you can fall and not get hurt or break anything! It really did surprise me because if there is a way to fall, I have done them all and still no broken parts. This theory (and I do mean theory) pushed me to become more brave and daring…as you will see.
Attacking the Alps
In late January the three amigos made an uneducated decision to return to Afton Alps, not knowing how icy the hills were. It was a long drive and we didn’t want to waste the trip so we decided to take a shot at it, and a shot it was. A quick shot down one hill and a quicker shot at another, with some questionable stop/slides at the bottom. Feeling lucky, we went back up again with intentions of taking the easy road, down our favorite hill. Just a note about my friend Germaine: she was the goofball of the bunch, insanely daring and fun to boot. As Jane and I were preparing to go, we couldn’t help but notice that Germaine was strangely missing.
“What? Where’d she go?” I said.
Jane said, “Oh she always wants to be the first one down. Let’s go catch up.”
“Well, that won’t take long on this icy mess,” I said.
As we skied and slid down the gradual hill, we heard this little tiny voice coming from somewhere: “Help…help.” And there she was — Germaine— stuck between two small, skinny trees, body and skis in between, arms and poles wrapped around the outside of the trees. By the time we got to her she was giggling softly. At this point, Jane and I fell right over on the ground laughing. It all just looked so silly. Then we thought it would be nice if we got up and helped her out of her precarious position. She was fine, it was all good, and besides, it was just her turn that day, instead of mine.
By the middle of March 1965, we had all skied enough that we felt comfortable being a little more daring, so we decided we should be racers. Of course we were only racing each other, because the other people on the hill were sane. There was a hill that had a pretty steep vertical drop so the plan was made. At the bottom of this hill, if you were going fast enough, the idea was not to stop, but to jump the narrow creek over to the chalet. Now, I need to add, we had had some warm days so the creek was not totally frozen at this time.
Jane: “Get ready.”
Diane: “Get set.”
We got down on our haunches, poles pointed to the back and shooshed down the hill. As fast as we were going, both Jane and I chickened out before the creek and came to an abrupt stop. Germaine, however, did not. She came flying by us, headed for our final destination, and suddenly: kerplop! She almost cleared the creek. She had a bruised ego and, oh, yes, a bruised, wet behind, but otherwise she was kind of okay. We celebrated her near-win with a glass of wine in the chalet. She had two.
All three of us, now feeling good and warmed up, went back to the mountain for the last run of the day. They raced, just to the bottom, but I did not. I decided to take one nice, easy last run down the hill. I was headed fairly fast down what had seemed to be a relatively smooth hill…the last time I did it. Not this time. There was a good sized mogul that I missed. By that, I mean I did not ski over it; instead, I skied right into it. Two somersaults later, I was lying on the ground, on my stomach…giggling. Two ski patrol men came up the hill with a toboggan to get me, and both said, “Oh, my God. How can you be laughing?”
“Because I am not hurt, and I don’t know why!”
“Well, good,” one said, “but you might as well get on the toboggan, because your skis are toast.”
“Where are they?” I said.
“Down there. You’ll see,” he said.
When we reached the bottom of the hill, we saw what was left of my skis: both of them broken off right in front of the bindings.
Well, that was it for me…until the next year, when I bought a brand new pair of skis, which, by the way, were way too long for me; and I acquired a new boyfriend to ski with, who was…way too good a skier for me. That’s a story for next year.
Wait for Me
After skiing for a day we were all wound up and did not really want to go home, and we listened up, and began hearing about different places to go after leaving the chalet. When we skied Afton, we would go to the Bungalow restaurant/bar, where a lot of skiers would hang out by the warm fireplace, have some wine and conversation and food. It was a great way to end a good day. Trollhaugen, however, was the best choice, because you could stay right at the chalet, which had a restaurant and bar, and have a good time; or stop in Somerset, at a fun place, which, 40 years later, I can’t remember the name of.
Our favorite, though, was to stop in Hudson, Wisconsin, and go to Dibbo’s bar and grill. They always had a good rock band there, and we loved to dance, so the habit was formed: ski, Dibbo’s, ski, Dibbo’s, ski, Dibbo’s. The thing was, we were 19 and 20 years old at the time. We didn’t drink much, but we still needed IDs to get in. I actually can’t remember how or why we had fake IDs. But we had them. Jane was the “cool” one of the bunch, and I am quite sure that she was the one who got them for us.
So, one night, as we were going in, I was concerned because it was very dark, and the girls were getting away from me, and, without thinking, I yelled, “Jane! Wait for me!” If looks could kill, I’m sure Jane’s panicked look would have done just that, because the bouncer had just looked at her ID, which said “Ida Lopano.” Since she was forced to leave, we thought it would be nice if we all left. We just went next door, which was no fun at all, so we went home. I knew they would get even with me for that, and don’t you know…they did.
Two weeks later, we were supposed to go skiing at Trollhaugen, but I couldn’t go, so they went. I was home for the day and had gone to bed at around 10:00. Sometime that night, right in the middle of a good dream, my phone woke me up.
“Hi” Jane said.
“What? What time is it?” I said.
“12:30. You need to come to Hudson and bail us out.”
“What?” (I was still half asleep)
“We’re in jail.”
I got up, got dressed, and drove down to Hudson and went to the jail, to find that Germaine had backed out of an angled parking spot the wrong way, and that’s all it took. Don’t mess with the Wisconsin police if your license plate says Minnesota. Two hundred dollars later, we were on our way home. Oh…they did pay me back. So, life went on: ski, Dibbo’s, ski, Dibbo’s, park right, pull out right, etc.