Storytelling is one of the things that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Cave drawings and other prehistoric clues inform us that storytelling predates written history. It preserves memory, forms order out of chaos, and binds people together.

It shows itself in every culture in the form of religion, entertainment, and politics, to name a few.

SeniorsSkiing.com is a storytelling vessel. For the past six years, we have delivered a weekly menu of stories about our shared interest. Volunteers write the stories, Mike and I included. 

I love making up and telling stories and have been doing it in one way or another most of my life. It formed the basis of my professional career, developing narratives that would help clients and employers present themselves in the best possible light or help them rise to the top in a field of fierce competition.

When my kids were young, they went to sleep listening to bedtime stories. Many were made up spur of the moment and probably lost to their young memories. One that stuck with me was the tale of the squeaky forest where trees made squeaky sounds when the wind blew. That was where the squeaky floorboard in one of their bedrooms had come from. They’re now in their 40s. I need to ask if they remember that one.

Two of our grandchildren 6 and 7, soon to be 7 and 8 are on the East Coast. When we’re together they love it when I tell them stories before they go to bed.

But now we’re separated for an indefinite time because of the virus. They’re in Rhode Island and we’re in a remote location on the Colorado Plateau. Thank God for Facetime. A few nights a week, we gather electronically, they in bed, me in the high desert, and I tell them a bedtime story. 

They always ask if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Sometimes I tell them. Sometimes I let them figure it out on their own. I always ask whether or not they liked it. And in the time between those bedtime stories, I’m thinking of another theme or plot or set of characters.

They don’t know it yet, but their next story will be a true one; about the odor of fresh baked bread from the Freihofer’s Bakery in North Troy, NY. I’ll try to paint a word picture of that warm and delicious smell, and I’ll explain how a few mornings each week when I was their age a horse-drawn wagon would stop in front of our house and the Freihofer Man would walk onto our porch with a large tray of freshly baked goods, and my mother would make a selection and ask me what I wanted. I’ll pepper the story with the hay-laced horse droppings that were left on the road. They’re of an age where that type of detail will add credence to the tale and help the story become a permanent memory of their grandfather’s childhood.

Perhaps one day it will influence them to tell their own stories to their own children and grandchildren about a time long ago when they could no longer go to school or play with their friends in the park or attend birthday parties. A time when they and their parents left their home in the big city and escaped to their summerhouse near the beach. A time when their grandfather, Poppa, told them bedtime stories through Facetime and kissed them goodnight over the phone.

US Ski Industry May Lose $2B

National Ski Areas Association, the trade group for U.S. ski areas projects that the season’s early close will result in losses approximating $2 billion, about 30% of season revenues. 

Ski Blandford Closes Permanently

Ski Blandford, about 25 miles from Springfield, MA, announced it’s permanent closure. The area was owned and operated by the Springfield Ski Club from 1936 until 2017 and was the oldest continuously operating club-owned ski area in North America. It was purchased by Ski Butternut which invested substantial sums in the area. Ski Blandford had 27 trails, five lifts and 465’ vertical.

Vail Furloughs Employees, Reduces Capital Improvements

The announcement was made in an April 1 letter to employees from Vail CEO Rob Katz. Year-round hourly employees in the US are being furloughed for “the next one to two months” without pay but with full healthcare coverage with the company paying all premiums. A six-month salary reduction is being implemented for all U.S. salaried employees. Katz is giving up 100% of his salary for six months. The company is reducing capital expenditures by $80-$85 million, “…with the intention to defer all new chair lifts, terrain expansions and other mountain improvements.” 

Goggles For Docs

Goggles for Docs is an effort to get used or new ski goggles into the hands of healthcare workers who currently have no eye protection as they treat COVID-19 patients. Click here, select a state and hospital, fill in the form, and ship your goggles. Some states have reached their capacity with donations. Others, such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are in need.

Cold War

Source The New Yorker Illustration by Thomas Danthony

That’s the title of an article about the science of avalanche study in the March 23 issue of The New Yorker magazine. Authored by James Somers, it starts in Alta, Utah and moves to Davos, Switzerland. The article covers some of the history of avalanche control, including a 1397 Swiss law prohibiting logging because old-growth trees helped minimize avalanche damage. For readers interested in avvys and what is being done to understand and control them, this is an excellent read.

R.I.P. Copper Mountain’s “First Chair Frank”

“First Chair Frank” Walter

Frank Walter, known as Copper Mountain’s most dedicated skier, died on March 5. He was 97 years old. Known locally as “First Chair Frank,” he was born in 1922, raised in Boston, graduated from Tufts University and served in WWII as a fighter pilot for the U.S. Marines Corps, rising to the rank of captain. Post-service he received a Masters degree in engineering from MIT and became a VP in the Chrysler Corporation. One year, Frank skied 160 days out of the 162 Copper was open. During another season, when he was in his early 60s, Frank skied 8.7 million vertical; about 45,000 vertical feet per day. A few years ago, Copper Mountain named a run, Frank’s Fave, in his honor.

An Idea

Some ski friends invited us to a Zoom Après Ski Cocktail Hour where we’ll discuss our respective ski seasons. We participated in a Zoom Cocktail Hour a few days ago with three friends. Two were nearby; the other was in Calgary. A very nice respite from this isolation.

Newest Issue of Skiing History Magazine

The March/April issue of Skiing History Magazine is now available online. If you’re a member of International Skiing History Association, the print edition may already have arrived. If you’re not a member, click on ISHA’s adjacent ad to receive a free digital subscription. You’re in for a nice treat.

2 Comments

  1. Jon,

    Thank you for sharing the Freihofer’s story. I only know of them as a large commercial bakery.

    My maternal grandfather wrote stories for me when I was little in letters he sent to my mother. Usually, they were animal related, a la the Thornton Burgess bedtime books. My parents saved those letters and in recent years my father (100 years old) typed them up and had them printed in a booklet.

    I have the Burgess books and am now sharing them via FaceTime with one of my granddaughters.

    Regards

    Bryan

    • Avatar Jon Weisberg says:

      Bryan, It’s great that you’re carrying your family tradition onto your granddaughters. Your comment got me thinking about sending handwritten letters to my grandkids. Given our times and the reliance on digital communications, I think they’ll enjoy them. All best, Jon

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