Skilaufen, from Alston Mabry

February 28, 2008 |

I don't ski, but I do like to watch it on TV. And just about everybody I know is at Big Bear or Whistler or some such right now. Which makes me think of skiing as a market analog. You take the chair to the top, and that's the overnight gap up/down. And then you slalom back down the slopes. And there are bunny runs, and intermediate runs, and those black diamond runs — I've hiked them in summer, and man, some of them are way, way steep. Each class of run has a certain risk/reward ratio. You gotta know what you can handle and what might wipe you out. And when the pros do it at the World Cup level, they use every bit of leverage they can get.

David Wren-Hardin recounts:

David W-HAlong with knowing what your limits are, you have to know what run you're actually on. I went skiing last week at Snoqualmie pass in the Cascades east of Seattle. I'm an intermediate skiier, and have never skiied west of the Mississippi or anything as big as Snoqualmie. I was there with a friend, and we headed up to the top, intending to take a blue trail (intermediate) across the top to some blues down the left side of the mountain. The top of the mountain was engulfed in cloud, but we headed off to the left, looking for signs of the trail down. Soon the trail was hemmed in on both sides by trees, then went off to the left. It looked a little steep, but we obviously had gone as far as we could. Off we went. Bam, I went down and slid down almost 200 yards. One ski joined me at the bottom, the other was two thirds of the way up. My friend lost one ski altogether.

Ski patrol came along, and helpfully went to the top and brought my ski down. Meanwhile my friend found his. As we brushed our egos off, we asked ski patrol "Just what did we go down?" "Oh, that's Free-Fall, a black diamond (expert)."

When it cleared up, and we could see where we went wrong, it became even more laughable. The trail we meant to follow was broad and clear. But in the fog, we had drifted left, hitting a fairly small clump of trees at the top of the diamond runs. But with our view obscured by fog, our unfamiliarity with the slopes, and our preconceived notions of where the trail we were looking for was, we launched ourselves down a trail that was much beyond our abilities. For what it's worth, during the entire rest of the day, I didn't see a single person go down Free-Fall.





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