By Keith Liggett
Skiing is an extreme sport.
Last night in the grocery store, I flipped through the ski magazines. Guys jumping off cliffs. Ripping steep ribbed Chugash pitches. All backed by blue skies. The Powder photo annual is out with a centre section of adrenaline fueled shots similar to covers on all the other rags. Big air. Big steeps. A couple of scenics (of steep mountains).
In ski school the other day, I was assigned four people in a Level One class. To categorize the skills of skiers coming in for lessons, there are six levels. Level One is never, never ever on skis. Fifteen minutes after starting a Level One class you magically become Level Two. The levels continue this loose categorization up to Level Six–you ski the whole mountain. Maybe not ski everything in such great form or with confidence, but you ski the whole mountains.
Back to my Level Ones.
The class consisted of two single women and a Dutch couple. The two single women were friends from Great Britain over here to learn to ski. The Dutch couple lived in Calgary where he worked in the oil industry and she was a teacher.
In half an hour these four people are turning left, right and stopping. They are skiing. We continue down to the Poma where I take the spare Poma platter and show how it works, repeating and repeating, “Don’t sit down.”
I send the Dutch couple up first and follow the two Brit women.
At the top, I explain, this one time, the slope will appear to be an ice covered cliff ending in a parking lot and in a couple laps it will be passé.
The looks of disbelief appear once again. There’s no way this will ever be passé. “I may die in the next few minutes” can be read in the eyes of each of the four.
We start down. First one turn. Stop. The next turn. Stop. Four, maybe six turns stopping at the end of each turn. Then we start linking. I talk about rhythm, making even smooth turns. Not leaning, staying upright and we take off.
Bingo. They are turning in nice round even arcs. We stop half way down to answer a couple questions and then continue down to the Poma. The lap takes about 20 minutes.
The second lap takes 10 minutes. The third less than that. On the fourth lap, I ask, “How’s the cliff?”
The smiles are broad and the laughs easy. “This is no cliff.”
Skiing is portrayed as extreme.
We all ski at our own level. What we each determine our own level of extreme. There is nobody painting lines and stretching a net across a clay court saying, “Stand here and hit the ball.”
We push off, turn left, turn right, sometimes we stop. Smiling all the time.
And that’s extreme skiing.