Skis good for thrills, heartbreak
When I was 9, my parents astounded me at Christmas with a mighty pair of 7-foot-long pine skis. From my height of 4 and a half feet or so, those things looked as high as the telegraph poles that ran along the railroad tracks. But I mastered them, too, and my mother’s skis went to my sister, Christine, two years younger than me.
Besides delivering my greatest thrills, skis also delivered the greatest heartbreak I ever suffered as a child. In our efforts to find challenges on snowy hills, we kids had shoveled a ramp up to a large tree stump in the woods, the takeoff point for our longest ski jump yet. The landing area was not large, and the snow was hard packed. I flung myself off the stump, flew majestically (or so I thought) toward the landing, and then hit the ground heavily and fell. My left ski had snapped in half where the wood was mortised for the toe strap.
Determined to make that jump, I next convinced my sister to let me borrow the precious maple skis. I came speeding down the approach, rose off the stump too high, looked down at the world, then hit the icy landing. There was a sharp clap of skis followed by a snapping sound. My sister began to cry. To my despair, I saw that the tip of the right ski had broken off.
A bleak realization dawned: We were without a usable pair of skis, and the winter wasn’t even half over. New skis cost $20 a pair, a fortune at that time. It took me a full summer of wood cutting and lawn mowing, at 35 cents an hour, until I could buy second-hand skis, which were far shorter than my majestic 7 footers.
The following is the 13th installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter One, entitled “The New England Years.” TThe book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.