Monday, January 09, 2006

Skiing and Drinking

Now Bode Miller is in hot water due to his public comments about the partying among ski racers. The racing association in response of course has to put its back up, pretend to ignorance, to insist on hypocrisy.

I want to assure one and all that skiing and drinking have always been associated in my experience. As a kid I saw movies of skiers carrying wine skins. Oh, man, those free souls take their own wet bar with them wherever they go.
By the 1960s, 1970 it was much less true. For one ascent to Tuckerman’s Ravine I packed a quart of pure alcohol and a few vials of scotch flavoring, knowing I’d find good cold water and plenty of it at the top of the tree line: I’d be able to make two and a half quarts of scotch, but have only one quart and a couple of ounces added to my back pack. When I arrived, ready to drink and ski, I found that the bulk of my ilk had carried no scotch at all, no alcohol; they’d merely carried an ounce or two of boo, a sheet of tabs of acid, a teeny vial of cocaine ...

Skiing at resorts I was well familiar how the best ski instructors raced to the bar toward afternoon’s end. I saw them pouring down the first couple of cocktails to get a fast start on that evenings debauch.

One ski patrolman I knew at Sugarloaf told me that he and his crew had been blind on acid since the beginning of the season, expected to stay blind till the end of the season.

Hilary was my companion my second time on skis. Then Hilary was my companion my third, fourth, fifth ... times. Years went by with me tearing my hair as I waited for her to catch up. Ah, but one fine day we were skiing in Switzerland, Grindlewald, near the Eiger, and we stopped for a brew. I bombed the slope, paused, prepared to wait and wait, but I heard her skis edging practically in my tracks. She’s stayed right on top of me through the whole of one hell of a plunge: had never happened before. That’s some beer they make in the Alps. I’d just never before had her boozed enough: to not give a hoot about life and limb.
Good God: our son was already two by then. Maybe neither of us should have had the beer.

I got away with it. Never got hurt. Once, on skis, but that time had nothing to do with booze. I survived riding the motorcycle drunk for decades. I survived the car, and all the other drunks on the roads. But you don’t have to know much to know an awful lot who didn’t. Bad business.

Maybe hypocrisy isn’t all bad.

Still, one has to chuckle. How is it possible that the ski race association didn’t know the skiers liked to party? Is it possible that the Marines in A Few Good Men didn’t know that marines sometimes beat up on each other? that torture among soldiers is older than the US or Cuba or Britain? If so, they must not know it the way baseball didn’t know about steroids until yesterday.

Which is worse: skiers partying? or a racing association that knows nothing about skiers partying? pretends that the standards are different altogether from the behavior?

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