"Why don't more people ski together?" a friend asked after four of us spent an enjoyable day skiing runs with varying degrees of difficulty, making turns with varying degrees of skill. The willingness to stick together from getting off the lift to getting back on it, despite differences in experience, speed, or style, is what she calls Social Skiing.
When we first moved here, we made friends with other newcomers and loners, couples and singles at Red Lodge Mountain. We keep track of each other on runs, stop to talk about how well (or badly) we skied a stretch, and take turns leading and following. Some of us seek out the loose snow on the edges and in the trees. Others of us wait while they dig their way out of a crash site--head first in bushes, skis stuck under hidden logs, pine branches poking out of their helmets like camouflage.
We learn from skiing with others--how they make turns, which side of a run is most skiable, where the rocks and drop-offs are. I have followed new friends into places I was afraid to ski, copying them turn for turn in the bumps on Thompson's and the ruts to Little Forest. Three of us got lost together in Ringer's Run, picked our way through the trees, and laughed over how relieved we were to find ourselves in Drainage. Without friends who knew the way, we would never have skied Big Bear Gulch. We still can't find it by ourselves.
One of our new ski friends, Bill Wetzel, died on January 29. A kind man who spoke thoughtfully and listened carefully, he skied well with others. His wife, Deb Fergus, is an inclusive person, and when facing a challenging run we like to quote her saying, "We'll ski this as a team." We were looking forward to doing that again with them this season. Instead, we'll ski some runs in memory of Deb's Bill.
Life is short. Let's stick together and ski hard!