, Newburyport, MA


February 6, 2013

Opening a window of possibilities

I’m always interested in the back stories, so I opened up the conversation with an older gentleman at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, N.H., on an early morning chairlift ride to the summit.

I noticed the “Golden Pass” on his arm, so I asked him what that entailed.

“You have to be 75 years old and a resident of Belknap County,” he said, “and you can ski for free — anytime.

“When I started skiing in high school in the late 1930s,” he continued, “it cost 80 cents — 40 cents in the morning and 40 in the afternoon.”

As he was talking, I was doing some mental math.

“If you were skiing in the 1930s, you must be in your 80s?”

“Yes, I’m 89.”

I told him that I was staying active for two young grandsons who already ski and a new grandson who is perhaps a year away.

“I ski with a great-grandson,” he countered. “He’s 6. Next year I’ll probably have trouble keeping up with him.”

That would be at age 90.

A window of possibility opened before me.

My father, too, skied in the 1930s, but he died unexpectedly in the 1970s of viral pneumonia just five days after skiing in Vermont. In the late 1940s he had been the ski coach at Norwich University. In the 1950s he was an instructor at a small rope tow area in Vermont, for which the family received free skiing. In the 1960s he continued teaching near his home town of Athol.

“Pete taught many area skiers the fundamentals of the sport, and we used to enjoy watching his easy manner and his patience with the new skiers,” wrote a local columnist. “He still lives on in the skill and the pleasure of skiing he implanted.”

“He was happiest when he was skiing,” commented my brother. “He was very contented to be out on the hill, having a good time.”

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