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Snow boots are better than none

Daily Staff Writer

Many years ago, I was ski school director at the Red River Resort in New Mexico. Red River was a minuscule ski area that ran on a small but efficient staff. In the days before modern grooming, we only had two snowcats to pack the snow, and one of them was usually on the fritz. We also had at our disposal a large contingent of migrant workers at the resort who made up the packing and grooming crews.While usually meaning well, the migrant workers were notoriously unreliable when it came to showing up for work. One day they would show up, the next day they wouldn’t. One morning, we had over six inches of new snow, so I thought to myself, “I’d better get up early and plan on running the snowcat myself or we won’t be ready to open on time.”When I prepared to board the snowcat, I was warned by the maintenance foreman that the cat had a peculiar habit of unexpectedly quitting. He suggested that I bring along my skis in case I needed to get back down “on foot.” After several hours of packing the freshly fallen snow, I decided to head back down to the bottom of the mountain. Sure enough, without warning, BOOM. The snowcat lurched to an abrupt halt, miles from nowhere.After a number of futile attempts at starting the cat, I decided to leave it where it was and head down on skis. Looking down at my feet, I realized that I was wearing my after-ski boots and had neglected to bring along my conventional ski boots. Contemplating my situation for a few moments, I adjusted the bindings to my after-ski boots and headed down the mountain.On my way down, I passed an instructor teaching a class of intermediate skiers. Being the ever-present public relations man that a ski school director should be, I stopped by the class to say hello and to introduce myself.While chatting with the instructor, I noticed another class further down and headed over to schmooze with them for a few moments. At the end of the day, I ran into the two instructors down in the locker room. I asked them, “Say, did you happen to notice anything unusual about my equipment today when I was talking to your group?” The two instructors looked at each other quizzically and answered, “No, not really. Why?”So, I told them, “I skied all the way down the mountain and stood in front of your class wearing after-ski boots.”The two morals of the story: First, if you’re really a great skier, it doesn’t matter what type of boots you wear. Second, ski instructors are not as observant as they think they are.Eric Windisch, VailNote about the instructor: Eric Windisch, who is 87, is still teaching at Vail. A trendsetter, he was the first person to launch himself off a ski jump in the more aerodynamic “arms to the side” position. He did this because he’d injured his shoulder on the night before the big competition. Vail, ColoradoVail, Colorado


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