I got to Buck Brook in the fall of 1969 and it wasn’t long before the snow was gathering. Having been raised at the base of a ski mountain in the West, the staff and students figured I’d make an excellent ski instructor.
“Just take the kids out to the hill in front of the farm house …” was the Head Master’s solution to finding a place to get ski legs under folks from ten to twenty-two.
Well. The “hill” in front of the farm house was about fifty feet long. The snow by this time was close to two feet of powder. Less than a third of the the “hill” in front of the house was steep enough to pull skies through that much fluff.
But you ski what there is to ski. So we got together on a sunny afternoon after rounding up boots and skis and poles. Kids and staff figured out the double-laced leather boots of the time and got somewhat used to tromping through snow in stiff boots while carrying awkward equipment to the front of the farm house. They struggled with the cable bindings, the bane of “safety” requirements until step-in bindings were developed. And we lined up on top of the hill.
I don’t remember having much to say but am sure I explained some principles of the snowplow turn. Mostly I remember just pointing my skis downhill and letting ‘er rip.
I’ve never been much of a powder skier and don’t know why I didn’t think to have everyone sidestep down the hill to pack the snow. The run was perhaps fifteen seconds long but enough to have me thinking this just might be a lesson that turns everyone off to skiing.
I stopped and turned and watched as Chaney, another staff member, turned to the hill, held her poles out, and started to slide. Within two feet she was in trouble and within four she was making a spectacular display of flying snow covering her face and getting into every possible opening of her less-than-ski-worthy warm clothes.
A complete disaster. What was I doing? What to do now? Failure, failure, failure.
Then Chaney popped up out of her white lump in the snow and declared,
“THAT WAS FUN ! ! !”
Everyone immediately pointed their skis downhill, held out their poles, and let the snow fly.
By the end of the day I was looking for the closest ski hill for a soon-to-enjoy outing.