Monday, June 7, 2010

Off the Grid...

“You don’t have to grow up and be famous…you just have to grow up and make your Mom and Dad proud!”
Ms. Meryl Streep; Commencement Address; Barnard College, 2010

I spent the day working on my dissertation as well as some house cleaning. When done I pulled out the Warren Miller ski film collection and watched some extreme skiing in from my least favorite country….France! The video was a series of clips from the WESC (World Extreme Skiing Championships) over the past 10 years. A staple in those films was a great American hero…Doug Coombs…who died in La Grave, France in 2006 while trying to rescue a fallen friend skiing what is commonly known as “fall-and-you-die terrain”

Doug was a former extreme skiing champion and considered by many of his peers to have been the finest big-mountain skier in the world. He operated steep-skiing camps in Alaska, Jackson Hole, and La Grave prior to the accident. To put his contributions in perspective Doug Coombs was often considered the Wayne Gretzky of skiing.

If you’re looking for background on extreme skiing then there are two key pieces for your collection. The first is an excellent book on extreme skiing out by Bill Kerig’s…The Edge of Never. The second is the mind-bending film Steep and Deep which offers extraordinary footage of extreme big mountain skiing, historical background on the French roots of the sport, and glimpses of Doug Coombs’ dignified, fearless, and steadfast career.

I own both of these great works but I wish I was a better writer so that I could tell you just how good the book and movie really, truly do portray the extreme skiing world. Some of the greatest big mountain skiers laying it all out, dreaming up what they want to accomplish...and being brave!

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of skiing some extremely steep runs with Jake and Ian (and their good friend Travis) in Utah – the ski patrol had just cleared the area of avalanche threats when – after a short hike up - we “jumped in” at almost 10,000 feet…in some of the most challenging terrain in North America. It was exhilarating chasing the boys down the mountain as the first time they had ever been at the altitude as well as on that type of terrain…and they nailed it.

In watching the movie today something resonated with me that I had not thought about recently…I remember watching the boys help a young kid who had “crashed and burned” midway down that mountain run. After digging him out they helped him put on his skis and pointed him in the right direction to get down to the lodge. On the lift heading back up the mountain the boys commented on how that rescued kid will be a great skier someday … all I could think of was how proud they had me…and how hard I have to ski to keep up with them…and just like Doug Coombs…how they went out of their way to make sure that others were taken care of…first and foremost!


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