Growing up on Janey Way, we played sports almost daily.
In the spring, we played sand lot baseball. In the summer, we played basketball at St. Mary’s School, and in fall, we played football on the street in front of our house. Then, when we grew into the teen years, our interests began to expand.
In the early sixties, I watched the Winter Olympics and was taken by the skiers flying downhill at speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour.
I had to try that.
I told Dad that I wanted to learn how to ski, and sure enough on Christmas day, as if by magic, a pair of skis and poles appeared under the Christmas tree. Later the next week, Dad took me to buy ski boots.
I was ready to rumble.
Sadly, Dad had neither the time nor the money to take me skiing. I had to find a way to explore my passion.
It came to me in an instant.
My friend Dan Petrocchi went skiing regularly. So, I asked him to take me skiing with him. Dan said, “Sure, Marty.”
A few weeks later, on a crisp, but sunny day, we set off for the slopes.
I rose early that morning, eager with anticipation, made a lunch, collected my gear and headed four houses down the street to Dan’s house. There, he fastened my skis onto his ski rack, placed my gear in the trunk and off we went.
Two hours later, we arrived at the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe. There, we exited the car, grabbed our gear and headed for the slope. After buying our ski passes, we went up the hill on a gondola. As we ascended the hill, I looked down at the face of the mountain below us.
It looked ominous.
I hoped we weren’t skiing there.
Up at the top, Dan checked our lunches and spare gear into a locker and off we went.
I had never skied before. Dan was an expert. He showed me the basics: how to stop, how to turn, and how to get back up when you fell. Then we headed off to the lift.
Dan, explained, “When the chair comes around, reach one arm back to catch it, then sit gently down.”
I followed his instructions and all went well.
At the top, as we hit the drop off point, he said, “Now stand up and ski down the little hill.”
Again, all went well.
Dan set off on an easy trail and I followed him down the hill.
Wow, what a thrill.
We rode back up and came down again. On each run, he taught me a little more.
Sometimes I fell, but I got right back up.
After lunch, Dan went off to ski the face of the mountain that looked so dangerous to me that morning. I continued skiing on the easier hills.
I had a blast.
At the end of the day, I went back to the lodge and sat down around a circular fireplace for a cup of hot chocolate. Dan came in a little later and joined me. He talked of skiing down the “face” and then through a steep shute called the “gun barrel.” Maybe someday I would ski those slopes.
We chattered all the way home about the fun we had that day, and I arrived home, tired and a little sun burned.
When he saw me, Dad smiled.
After that day, throughout my life, I skied whenever I could and always enjoyed it. Once you have learned how to ski, you never forget.
This January, I turned 65 years of age. I no longer ski. Old football injuries have made it difficult to do those sorts of things. Now I play golf and cycle on my sleek, black road bike.
But I have not forgotten my youthful days of skiing. The shush of the skis on the slope, the wind in your face, and the quietness of the mountain, form images which linger in my memory.
Now the days of skiing with my friend, Dan Petrocchi are another exhilarating Janey Way memory.