Skiing is not like other sports. For a runner, the next endorphin high is just outside the front door. For a golfer, the next sand trap is only a few miles away. But a skier, a skier is the Carly Simon of outdoor sports. Skiers understand anticipation. Even the most rabid snowsliders get 30 or maybe 50 days a year (ski-town locals excepted, of course). And unless you're ready to hop hemispheres, every year there's an endless summer to endure. So, when we cannot ski, we do the next best thing: We fantasize about skiing.
Research from the National Skier/Boarder Opinion Survey shows the average skier spends six days per year skiing. And according to a soon-to-be-released landmark study by the not-for-profit research group, Skiers Concerned About Money (SCAM), skiing has a fantasy-to-reality ratio (FTR) of 761:1. That figure is exceeded only by the FTRs for Sex, World Domination, and The Beer and Pork Rinds Diet. As a participant in this study, I've kept a skiing-associated daydream diary (SADD). The following is an excerpt, dated August 10, 1999.
7:32 a.m. Ouch. As I am walking downstairs, en route to a bowl of Cocoa Krispies, I feel a twinge in my right knee. To call it a pain is to overstate the case. But it triggers a knee-related flashback. Suddenly I see a mogul field with Dr. Richard Steadman hiding behind every bump. He wields a scalpel in one hand and a book of HMO billing codes in the other. I recoil in horror. I try to remember the last hamstring curl I did. I cannot. I vow to go to the gym. Today. (Epilogue: I do not.)
2:43 p.m. I am in the checkout line at the 7-Eleven. I spy a package of Hostess Sno Balls. You know, those little pink, coconut-covered marshmallow confections. To every other red-blooded American male, they look like a C cup. Not me. I see Mt. Bachelor, and I'm skiing the run I skied the time I took a wrong turn and ended up at the bottom of a closed lift. But this day is different, better. The sky, perfect bluebird; the powder, as deep as Kierkegaard. This time I take the steeper line off that cornice and stick the landing like Kerri Strug. (Bela Karolyi, however, is nowhere to be found.) "Next," says the cashier. I look again at this little mound of flour, sugar, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil now sitting in my basket next to the Gatorade. C cup. What would Freud say?
8:03 p.m. I am putting my two-year-old son, Ethan, to bed. I have convinced him, after much persuasion, that wearing a diaper is a good thing. He approaches my wife, Sally, who's lying on the floor. He stands on her shins, facing her upturned toes, and proudly announces, "I'm keying!" In the King's English, he's "skiing." I ponder the nature-versus-nurture concept¿after all, he was born in January, and we did that Utah trip the April before.... Suddenly, it's the 2020 Winter Olympics in Nepal, and Ethan's in the starting gate of the Super Skiercross. I watch the Mega JumboTron as he completes a run that makes Franz Klammer look cautious, Hermann Maier look slow, and Jonny Moseley look downright grounded. To my left, Bob Beattie is poised for a postvictory interview. The DaddyCam is trained on me, with millions, no billions, of viewers across the globe watching my every move. I'm about to say something witty and urbane, yet homespun, when...I sneeze¿all over the lens, the mike, all over Bob Beattie. It will go down in the annals of broadcast history as The Snot Heard 'Round the World.
11:34 p.m. Seinfeld is over and just as I'm ready to reach for the remote, a rerun of Friends comes on¿something about David Schwimmer and a monkey. Just before the screen goes black, I catch a glimpse of Jennifer Aniston. The hair. The smile. The sweater. I remember seeing a paparazzi photo of her at Vail¿or was it Aspen? I'm transported to the Rocky Mountains. It's a powder morning, but miraculously she and I are the only ones on the hill. Brad Pitt is nowhere to bbe found. We ride the chair together, exchanging small talk. She even giggles when I ask her about the time she filled her purse with chicken wings from Mel Gibson's party. At the top, I bend down to help her buckle her boots. "Actually, I'm a little cold," she says with a smile, "and, you know, there's a hot tub in my condo." I look at the acres of untracked snow. I look at Jennifer. I look back at the snow. "It was really nice meeting you," I say as I ski off.
12:17 a.m. I do not count sheep. I don't even like sheep. In my last semiconscious moments, I make imaginary GS turns. Big and fast, athletic and effortless, like Alberto Tomba on his way to a big bowl of pasta and a bottle of Lambrusco with Katarina Witt. Turn. Yawn. Turn. Yawn. And then I begin counting the days until my first real turn of the season...100...99...98...97.