by Todd C. Harps


My skiing career almost didn't start that day forty some years ago. I was very excited and slightly nervous as I boarded my first ski bus, Sunday morning, heading to Snoqualmie Pass and ski lessons. As found my seat and lifted my ski boot carrier into the overhead compartment, it suddenly slipped out of my hands. Watching with horror in oh, so slow motion it fell like a large pot metal and leather snowflake before imbedding one of its pointed feet in the poor teenagers head sitting directly below. It's still a very vivid memory, the boot tree sticking briefly, balancing tediously before falling over into the isle. It's hard to feel much worse when you're ten.

He was taken off the ski bus by one of the chaperones, clutching his beanie over the bleeding gash and I never saw him again. As much as I wanted to leave the bus with him, my older sister calmed me down and I went skiing for the first time. Despite the traumatic start, I was hooked for life, skiing as much as humanly possible.

I bummed equipment from my best friends family who were life long skiers and my friend taught me how to keep up, while I learned how to turn on my own. I ordered ski brochures from around the world and studied them the way an archeologist would examine the Dead Sea Scrolls. To this day I still do, and might be one of the few human beings who if blindfolded and dropped in any ski resort in the world, could figure out where I was within a few minutes without any clues. Maybe I can get "Ripley's Believe it or Not" to bite. Maybe not.

I skipped high school as much as I could, especially when it dumped, keeping a journal of all my ski days on the wall in my bedroom. My mom, who had her hands full raising my much younger sister without any help, would write me notes as long as I kept my grades up, stayed out of trouble and didn't abuse the privilege. I then went to "Ski Bum College" for four years and wound up getting paid to ski as one of the 1st generation Freestyle/Free skiers. She always said that I would have paid them to ski and she was right. I met virtually every one of my (to this day best friends) in the mountains and still consider dozens of others "Comrades" even though we see each other infrequently. Shared ski stories have an incredible bonding quality especially when they include powder, sunshine and beer.

My ski days dwindled when I got married, started a business and raised my kids to ski age and hopefully an appreciation of the mountains and nature. But my passion never ebbed. Divorce, while painful did open up my calendar and soon I was back exploring the mountains and memorizing trail maps. It was only through the process of ending my marriage that I realized that I was just an old ski bum at heart and that I was also probably going to be an "Old Ski Bum."

Today as I reflect on the chairlift about another great bluebird day of high speed cruising, trashy chutes and chunky powder, I can't help but think about that famous "Buddha of Skiing" Warren Miller. Specifically, I recall his popular mantra of the last fifty+ years as I talk with my best ski buddy about what skiing means to us. "You aren't as old as you are, you are as old as you feel". Amen! Whether you are a ten year-old kid skiing for that first time, late 40's ex-ski bums or the 70+ year-old man with one crippled leg skiing magnificently below us on his one good leg, I truly believe that the common spark inside all of us as skiers feels much younger than the calendar would tell us.

While a lot of physical endeavors might trigger that same metaphysical time warp, for me skiing is the most magical and timeless. The speed, the flow, the environment, the fellowship, they all apply and can be shared no matter what the ability level. We participate as individuals in one of the most social of all sports. Not many activities compare on so many levels and that is why I've been willingly captured for one of the few times in my life for all my life.

From somewhere chronologically between ten and eighty and physically between the Shen table and the slopes, I look forward to sharing my stories about life from an "Old Ski Bums" perspective.