Hey, Skiing: I Quit

MAMMOTH LAKES – I once jumped off a chair lift to retrieve a child who had fallen off the chair in front of me, a metaphor for fatherhood, if ever there was one.

Understandably, the ski lift operator was not happy about this course of events. Generally, lift operators prefer that the customers wait till the top of the ski lift to disembark.

But my 4-year-old daughter weighed less than her skis, and her ski suit was  made of Teflon. Sffffft, off she went. Everything on a ski hill is so damn slippery – the sidewalks, the clothing, the stupid snow.

To tell the truth, it was kinda fun, plopping 15 feet off the chair lift and into the deep cotton below. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, Like, sane people for instance. Seriously, you sane people should all stay on the lifts.

It’s only parents and superheroes who should fly off a chair lift in hopes of retrieving a tiny redhead who had fallen off the ski lift, plopping like a pine cone  in the fluff and coming up –”Dad?! Daaaaaaaaaaaaad?!”

“Sir! Sir, you can’t…” the liftie yelled.

“Yeah, f-you,” I muttered to myself. “I already did.”

Best-case scenario in a situation like that is they kick you off the mountain and ask you, “Please, don’t ever come back here again.”

But they didn’t, damn it. I guess they understood that a dad does what a dad has to do – soccer, scouts, Pinewood Derby, school concerts, birthday parties, science projects, field trips, pre-school signups, emergency rooms. None of it is particularly pleasant, though the symphony as a whole has its merits.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from the magnificent sport of snow skiing. Coming on the cusp of the winter Olympics, you can just imagine what this does to the Americans’ chances in the downhill.

This sudden retirement follows my ginormous announcement about water skiing two summers ago. The last time I went water skiing, I tore my schnitzel from my shaft to my main jib, across my breast plate, through my wallet and deep into my appendix.

“Well, ouch,” I said calmly at the time.

The bruise on my leg looked like Batman’s PJs.

It was with great reluctance that I announced my retirement from water skiing, probably my best sport. I called a press conference; no one came. I went ahead with it anyway.

“This decision doesn’t come suddenly,” I explained. “I love water skiing more than football. I actually sleep with a football, cradling it like a Teddy Bear. So you know I really, really love football. (see strange video of Chris sleeping with a football).”

What else am I retiring from? Parking garages, never liked them either, never will. From here on out, I’ll park on a side street and hoof it after futzing with the damn parking meter app on my phone, for which I always have to look up the access code.

That I can handle – just another petty digital annoyance. But so long, parking garages. I will no longer swirl down your ramps as if flushed through the gates of hell.

I’d like to also say that I am retiring from LA freeways. They make me kind of jittery, now that the Highway Patrol seems to have completely given up – who can blame them? The daily free-for-all looks like an aerial dogfight over Nord-Pas de Calais.

Also, I can’t swing my head around when I drive, the way I used to back in the day when I was always jumping off chair lifts to retrieve the kids.

Note to young fathers: At some point, kids will just slip away from you, as if down a rabbit hole. There’ll be there, then they won’t. My baby sister once fell off the end of a dock while we helped my dad paint a fishing boat…splash.

Over the years, we’ve skied 8 different California resorts, including Mammoth.

Dad went over the side after her, and the Florida barnacles – half of Florida is  barnacles – scraped them both up pretty good. Soon, everyone was crying, except Dad, who calmly went back to painting the boat.

That’s just what dads do.

Back then, you were lucky a dad was around. Kids grew up on their own. If you fell, you learned to climb back up in the tree fort, or to get back on the bike. Back then, bathrooms were full of Barney Rubble Band-Aids and hay bales of gauze.

These days, dads are everywhere. Except now, the ski hill will have one fewer dad – me. I just don’t enjoy it so much. My schnitzel doesn’t rotate like it once did, and you can’t really maneuver through the black diamonds without pivoting.

I mean, what do I know about anything? My favorite team is the Washington Generals. My favorite scent? Stale beer.

So, this sudden retirement may be temporary. I change my mind every time I order a drink.

Over the years, the kids and I have skied all over California, 8 different resorts if my count is correct. They paid me back in smiles.

Yet, more and more, when I glide down a ski hill, I hear the raspy sonics of a snowboarder bearing down on me without regard to human life…probably smoking a joint, with a Budweiser in his pocket and taking videos of everything with his cell phone. He’s probably 4, maybe 5.

He can barely walk, but boy can that little weasel snowboard.

And when he crashes into me, my death would be the next big thing on TikTok – for like 11 seconds.

Such a legacy. Eleven seconds, then poof. Gone.

So, I will say so long to this big slippery hill that now costs $240 on Saturdays, and the lines are long, and the TikTokkers are ruining the place.

So long, lost mittens, $75 lunches and barking buttocks.  

Snow skiing will maim you financially, if nothing else. A pox on the greedy corporate goons willing to fleece families at the expense of the sport’s future.

Yeah, sometimes the views from the ski runs are pretty good. Here, Mt. Baldy.

Hey Chad, let me tell you a little secret you mighta missed at Harvard Business School: You lose the middle class, you’ve lost the war. Hope your annual bonus is worth the ruin you’ve caused.

Therein lies the problem – corporate bounties on bad behavior.

So, for many reasons, I bid adieu to the wonderful world of skiing, which mostly hurt anyway. Occasionally, almost always, you’d be caught in a whiteout blizzard at the top of Huevos Grande or Hangman’s Hollow, during which you’d question every judgment you ever made, especially spending 2 grand just to take the kids skiing for a couple of days.

Um, honey, have you seen the kids? They were here, then they weren’t. Like my money.

Sure, the views were good. But not that good. In truth, I never skied with much flourish. I skied so that I’d live long enough to say hello to the bartender at Canyon Lodge.

“Man, am I glad to see you,”

In all my years of skiing, the best moment was removing my boots, which was better than sex. Does anyone ever forget their first time removing ski boots?

Seriously, I’d rather be tied to a horse and dragged through the Century City Mall than to put on one more pair of rental ski boots.

Farewell, you painful, overpriced sport. So long, 45-minute lift lines. So long clunky walks to the restroom, where you had to peel off four layers of clothing just to pee.

Hello Bishop, where Schat’s still makes the best breads ever, out of a faux Bavarian bakery. Or is it Dutch? Who cares.

A stop at Schat’s was always the best part of a ski trip anyway.

Gimme some of your famed sheepherders bread, or the Holland Crunch Coffee Cake, 8 bucks a pop.

That’s my warming hut now – this bakery, soft and buttery. No chair lifts. Not a one.

The copies of “Surviving Suburbia” are going out today and Thursday. Thanks again. Been fun connecting with people. We may have a few leftovers. I’ll let you know. And there are other boxes of books in the basement. I’d rather they be on your shelves. More info on the way. Meanwhile, please check out ChrisErskineLA.com/shop/ for current books. An excerpt from “Lavender in Your Lemonade”: “Of all my captors, I love White Fang the best. As you know, she was born in a whisky barrel in an old mining camp. My wife Posh won her in a poker game, before realizing, “Hey, this dog’s a wolf!”

17 thoughts on “Hey, Skiing: I Quit

  1. Morning, Caroll. I’m only first because I’m in Central Time in Erskine’s old stomping grounds of Chicago. They have alternate temperature readings here. If you ask Godevilgoogle, “what’s the weather,” you get, “30, but 14 with the wind chill, and 9 is on deck.” Keeping kids alive should be in everyone’s Match profile, agreed. Long walks on the beach, picnics, and skilled in infant CPR. Brings back a bittersweet memory of my Da seeing me teetering on the San Francisco wharf, ready to go over. I was in frozen fright. I couldn’t take the step back. He immediately recognized it, and gave me his Colonel’s command voice, “Get back here.” And that broke the spell. Thanks, Dad. Thanks for the hundreds of times you protected us. And thanks for saving the world for democracy. We’re currently at it again. Spoiler alert: we win.

  2. Hi Maureen. Your comments are almost as entertaining as Chris’s column. Let me know when you start your own blog. Chris, this honest and amusing look at the downside of skiing vindicated my decision, made in my 30s, after my one and only experience on the slopes, to never, ever try that again. RIP Sonny Bono and whichever Kennedy both perished on the slopes. Thank God for Dads who are willing to jump off a ski lift to save their precious offspring! I wish you had been there to catch me when I tried to get off at the end of the lift. I nearly plunged to my death. Well, it felt that way.

  3. Welcome to the Windy City Maureen. But why visit in January? Yes, currently it’s 18 but feels like 1. Fortunately we have Tom Skilling whose affable banter and wisdom steer us through until spring beckons – all three of them…first Spring, fooled ya Spring and Real Spring which lasts 3 weeks. Bundle up..tomorrow’s high is 13. Chris, I endorse your retirement from skiing and agree you’d probably tear your düsseldorf AND your schnitzel. And hats off to the hero dad moment jumping of a ski lift to save your child. Epic. Dads are like that. Hero moments all through our lives. My dad saved my bacon countless times. Oh we lost ANOTHER Chicago legend…Bill Jackson the genius behind the BJ and Dirty Dragon Show, Cartoon Town and Gigglesnort Hotel. RIP

  4. Love this one and am sharing it with Susan, whose favorite part of skiing was the chair lift and getting to wear sweaters. And the long rides up to Mammoth when Will was little and we would listen to books on tape during the ride. Remember tape? Remember books? “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.” “Carter Beats The Devil,” read by a very young but even then, mellifluous, Stanley Tucci. Like you, I grew up in the Midwest, where the terrain was too flat and our family too working class to afford skiing. And I was not a fan of winter. Almost every New Year’s Day, after shoveling snow in heavy, wet wool and useless gloves I’d watch the Rose Parade and ask my parents why we hadn’t stayed in LA after that one glorious family vacation when I was six. Then one day I found myself a dad in LA with a California born son who wanted to go to the snow. I learned how to ski in my forties because of him and I loved it. Now I’m just about ready to join you at the bar, but I want one more trip down Broadway before I drop the skis, boots and helmet off at Goodwill, even though I know it’s always that last run that sends you to the emergency room.

  5. Welcome to the no-ski-for-me club. I quit when I needed two 10 year old girls to help me up after a fall. I’m now relegated to drop-off and pick-up duty.

  6. Chris- skiing was my passion, the only sport I was good at. Every year we took the kids to June Mt, later Mammouth. But Snowmass-Aspen every February was the best! I had 2 back surgeries & went back but after my 18 hour back reconstruction I have hung up my skis. Makes me sad that you haven’t experienced Utah or Colorado before retiring those lovely boots!

  7. There’s so much to miss….Many decades of this, starting in Colorado when I was at Boulder and streets in Aspen in front of the Red Onion were gravel and you could hear half a dozen languages in the air. Europe would always be in town for Winterskol or the FIS championships or something, and you could stand in the street at night, look up on the dark mountain, and watch Friedel Pfeiffer and his merry band of instructors ski down with live fireworks going off on the panniers on their backs.
    Then from that to many decades of terrific life at the other old and new Colorados: Berthoud Pass, Winter Park, Cooper Hill at Climax (rope toes only in the early days), St Mary’s Glacier( you climbed to ski down, in the mornings before the afternoon football games); and of course, later (when the old Camp Hale became Snowmass) Copper, Telluride, Keystone, (where the old ski trains from Denver used to disgorge carloads of skiers on the weekends, before it was Keystone), etc, etc., etc. ; and that.was just the beginning, when I skied with a peanut butter sandwich in my pocket for lunch, knew nothing, and had less, yet made it to Aspen every year ( Ed’s Beds, or The Aspen Bowl: straw tick mattress for your sleeping bag, $3 per night, nursing a beer in Guidos, a packed restaurant where all the waiters and waitresses were ski-bumming opera singers from New York, bursting into arias here and there all night long. . And then there were the countless lyrical drives and flights here and all around…Heavenly, Kirkwood, Jackson, Squaw, Mammoth (ceaselessly), Utah:Brianshead (tuneup) on the way to Cottonwood Canyon (Alta, later Snowbird, Park City, et al): and at the locals: I parked cars early in the morning at Wrightwood in return for a lift ticket for the rest of the day; Snow Summit (a fast minutes down, but good snow making) , Gold Mine ( rope tows, again), bypassing the jam at Snow Valley, and etc. and ever et cetera.

    This is a huge give. Unless you think it’s not. But it’s a comforting rationalization to think it’s anything other than a loss of some great beauty, even with the crowds and vapid lift lines (ski the back bowls, and on weekdays, etc) cold, bitter winds, whiteouts, runny noses, lift mishaps, sprained tendons, cracked ribs, and other dark sky events happening to most anyone who loves it, even on brilliant powder days. It is a loss of life. And…yes, I’ve done it too, when the joy finally went out of it. But ooooh the muscle memories. I could still do it; on the easy stuff, like lift 2, and even from the top, going the long way down, at Mammoth. Or June. And so could you.
    And you could teach Catty Cakes to ski. What a gift, never to be forgotten.

  8. Living on the East Coast, back in the early 70’s, I once took a trip to Stowe, Vermont, home of some mighty mountains and also the Trapp Family Lodge (of Sound of Music fame). While I never did hear Maria or any of the children singing, I stayed in another lodge, the Sans Souci (without care) Lodge with the incredible views and requisite roaring fire place, etc. In those days it cost a whopping 12 bucks a night ~ breakfast and dinner included ! We shared a bunk bed room with perfect strangers and, one morning, while heading down the hall to the communal bathrooms, I had to stop and patiently wait for the cadet boys from West Point finish their jumping jacks and calisthenics as they blocked up the hallway. While the trip was planned around cross-country skiing, one day we decided to hop on the chair lift up that mighty mountain, take photos of the stunning snowy vastness while teetering at the top, and then simply stay seated to ride the chair lift back down the mountain. Much safer this way !

  9. A thousand years ago, it seems, I made a fateful choice. I chose scuba diving in the tropics instead of skiing in the snow. Or is it on the snow? Just as expensive, a lot of heavy gear, clumsy clothing, lessons and special skills, and lengthy travel. The scenery underwater is awesome as is the scenery in the mountains. But the water is warm!! Lots of boat rides, thousands of dives, and plenty of environmental research trips later it, too, comes to an end. Maybe a few more though before it’s over. Want to join us? Did I mention it’s warm?

    Way to go on the swan dive into the snow. But that’s what dads do, and they don’t think it over before the jump. Proud of you, even if it happened in the last century.

  10. I’ve cross country skied, never downhill. There could be 1 tree on the whole mountain, & I’d run right into it & crack my head open. I’m sure the view would be great though!
    I bet your little redheaded daughter was never so glad than to see her dad, falling/jumping down, to save her!

  11. We loved skiing with our four boys, back in the 70’s and 80’s….only one skiis occasionally now so it didn’t really imprint on their future recreational choices but it was a great family activity that we saved up carefully for….probably wouldn’t do it at current price points!
    Really enjoy your writing…comparable to Jack Smith and Jim Murray in many ways.

  12. (Dang, I hate it when I get behind on commenting on Chris’ posts.) Chris, this is the year when I took a pass on skiing. Not to say that I’m quitting, but I’m not going this year. I took my perfectly good skis to my favorite outdoor retailer. They looked at my bindings, declared the bindings too old to tune-up, and handed my skis back to me. Now I’m faced with getting new equipment on top of the cost of getting to Mammoth and the cost of the daily passes. Big sigh. And of course, FB showed me a post from 2 years ago. The last time I went skiing and just before the world changed. So we both will see if we go back to that silly sport.

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