Warren Miller: Time to get in skiing shape
Vail, CO, Colorado
This is the time of year when any health club worth its mortgage is advertising “Tune up your body for the ski season, enroll now!”
Most people who already belong to a health club are in such good shape that they don’t need that extra tuning up, just to stand in a lift line.
Those of you who don’t belong to one, it is already too late for this season.
Large groups of the needing-to-get-rid-of-the-flab congregate this time of the year at sports bars. They are drinking toasts to the passing of the bikini season and talking about how they used to look forward to good-looking people skiing in stretch ski pants.
As I have said many times, skiers today are dressed so baggy that they look like a sack of cats on the way to the river.
Some of the health clubs’ get-in-shape groups are sponsored by a local ski shop or led by a tour conductor who has gotten a free season’s pass at nearby Mt. Perfect.
The catch is that he only gets his free season pass if he’s able to get enough people to buy their own season pass and five roundtrips on his bus for the 150 miles each way every Saturday, whether there is rain, sleet or only man-made snow.
The tour conductor can usually bench press at least 450 pounds, finish in the top 25 in the Iron Man triathlon in Hawaii, and is probably the Little League baseball coach in the Sleepy Hills subdivision, blonde, and answers to the name of Othmar, Klaus, Otto, Steve or Chris.
What happens to all of the fat that disappears from all of those exercising people? All I ever hear about is the 11.5 pounds that a former friend lost while he was on a diet of cabbage and beets for three months and working out for at least an hour and a half a day, three times a week with a personal trainer at $100 an hour.
The only thing that much exercise will get you ready for is to die healthier.
There are all types of exercises that will get you in shape for skiing, those that you can read about in articles in any skiing-specific magazine, hundreds of different get-in-shape-videos, soft aerobics and hard aerobics, Yoga, push-ups, sit-ups, and jogging. But the one that most people do is remote control TV channel surfing.
If you have good hand-eye coordination, a precise mental time clock, and the capacity for remembering channel numbers, you can click from one sporting event to the other and miss every commercial during a weekend of endless football games.
Regardless of what exercise you do, what does “being in shape” mean when you have to compare yourself to someone else?
Can you ski a couple of thousand vertical feet nonstop? If so, you are in better shape than 95 percent of today’s skiers because most of them can barely ski a thousand vertical feet without stopping.
I don’t know whether people stop because they are not in good enough shape or they just don’t want to get too far ahead of someone who might be watching them.
At Boyne Mountain, Mich., which is a little over 400 feet high, I have heard people standing around at the top talking about where they should meet on the way down.
“I’ll meet you halfway down by the big pine tree” seems to be the most common place to stop and talk about how the run has been so far and without getting too tired by skiing more than 200 vertical feet.
In their own minds, every one of those skiers is in great shape.
At the other end of the being-in-shape-syndrome is Super Chamonix in France, where the two gondolas rise 10,000 vertical feet. This is a place where the locals think nothing of skiing non-stop from top to bottom.
The first time I skied there almost 40 years ago, I rode up on a construction tram, which consisted of a patchwork of wood about the size of a sheet of plywood. James Couttet, and I balanced each other on either side of the cable as we rode up, and we were the only two skiers on the mountain that day.
On the way down, I probably stopped 45 times to take movies of almost every turn the former world champion made. I also stopped a lot of times because I was just plain tired.
I was in better shape then than I am today because I was 40 years younger, and though my mind is still willing, my body isn’t. But I have to say, being a 14-year-old kid trapped in a senior citizen’s body is sure better than the alternative.
And now if you will excuse me, I have to go and start my first workout of the pre-ski season. I won’t go skiing until the 18th of December, so I still have a lot of time left to get in shape, so I can do more than three sit-ups at a time.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff log onto Warren Miller.net