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A natural regression

Staff Reports

It’s been a while, yo.Over 10 years, actually, since I first began helping housebreak puppies on this page. But now that they’re all grown up, someone figured it was time to update my mug shot and give a new generation of dogs someplace to piss. The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.I reckon the same holds true for me. I’ve tried my hand at genuine news writing, municipal rot to environmental crusades, but for the course of my life up here in the ‘hood I’d say the aforementioned clich has held more truth than any other descriptive morsel I’ve encountered. The valley’s unyielding crush toward its own manifest destiny has undermined any remaining journalistic myths in my mind about the ability to affect change in our community, the so-called Power of the Pen. But perhaps that’s a job best reserved for real journalists, like Mike Cacioppo or poor Dick Carnes.So now I’ve returned to my roots, wielding my journalistic faculties to pontificate almost exclusively on the wee world of alpine sports, possibly the lone area of my life that has truly grown over the course of a decade in Vail.Thinking back, I arrived in the valley with little or no class at all. Now I’m Class V certified with sense enough to use a raft only when fishing. Somehow I managed to progress from a fairly mediocre skier in rear entry Nordicas to a black-diamond free-heeler in three-buckle Scarpas. Raging through the trees and terrain parks of Vail and Beaver Creek, I chuckle at the notion that snowboards once used to scare me.Other aspects of my life haven’t seen quite so much progress.Despite regularly arranged dinners with my parents’ favorite preacher, I’m still more inclined to ski to the Saloon on Sunday than to church. And since most of my favorite musicians are still dead, I seem to have stagnated artistically.I still have most of the hair I arrived here with, yet I still don’t have a steady girlfriend, likely due to the fact that I continue to peddle my wares for the same pitiful wages that kept me from capitalizing on the local real estate market a decade ago. I thought I might have been in love once, but now that she’s married with a beautiful baby, I realize that what we had was much better than love. For me anyway.And I see too that she was merely one of many elements aligning to point me down this, my rightful path.She, like so many of our happy valley’s beautiful people, was quite fit, and I was awakened in my own den of iniquity one mildly hung-over morning before the invention of Red Bull to a seemingly innocent suggestion: “Let’s enter the snowshoe race.”Sure, I thought. Why not? I play basketball, how different could it be? Never having entered a snowshoe race, I failed to realize the suffering I was about to endure was truly prophecy, the beginning of the end.I scraped the ice from the windshield and made my way to the Vile Nordic Center in time to find the last remaining pair of left-footed rental snowshoes. A perfect match. Like any warm-blooded mountain man, I shrugged off the handicap and laced up the shoes with a singular desire to impress a hot chick.When the gun sounded I darted from the starting line like sasquatch on crystal meth, negotiating my enormous left feet through a swarm of svelte black tights. It wasn’t until I hit the 5K cut-off (it was my first race) that I realized the fitness freaks I had been jockeying with up to then had all signed up for the REAL race, the 10K. But I could care less. One left turn and suddenly I was winning.But not by much. At the turnaround I could see my squeeze among a small posse closing in. Motivated by my surprising success, I kicked it up a notch, snowshoes flopping about on the groomed track like retread tires on the side of the highway. My chest felt like it might explode at any second, but the finish line was in sight. All that separated me from the object of my desire was 100 yards of stale powder crud that the race organizer included as a twisted finish-line challenge.Ten yards into the knee-deep crud and it was obvious that running was no longer an option. Heart racing, lungs heaving and body quaking, sasquatch was coming down hard.Using my freshly broken trail, the competition quickly gained. I reverted to my basketball technique to box out the racer behind me, retaining the slimmest of leads by shifting my body in front of him whenever he attempted a pass. It worked, for a while, until my two left feet got tangled and I tumbled headlong into the snowfield less than 30 feet from the finish.I wallowed in the heavy snow, exhausted, looking over my shoulder as I attempted to regain my feet and salvage a respectable finish. I made it to one knee as another racer passed me, moving to stand as my hottie rapidly approached.But rather than reach out and offer support, she stomped on my oversized snow flipper and once more sent me floundering in the crud, the vacant glaze in my eyes rivaled only by the frozen mouth froth glistening on my chin like the residue of a mag chloride truck in February’s cold morning sun.Eventually I got up, collapsing once more on the other side of the finish line before staggering into the Vile Nordic Center bar to sample the requisite free keg several hours before beer-thirty.I gave up on snowshoe racing that day, and falling in love in Vail soon thereafter. These days I live by a simple new motto: Tele ’til you’re smelly.But who knows? Now that my life here appears to have come full circle, maybe it’s time to take another crack at all those elements I abandoned somewhere along the way. Like writing this column. The more I change, the less it stays the same.$$Ten years after, freelance writer Scott Willoughby is reminded of a line from the band of the same name: Everywhere is freaks and hairies, dykes and fairies; tell me where is sanity? He’s not sure, but don’t bother looking here. Contact: scott_willoughby@hotmail.com.


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