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April 5, 2013

Never know who will be on a ski lift

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The Daily Star

---- — It was a strange winter, but actually, the skiing has been good.

It wasn’t because of the huge amounts of natural snow that Mother Nature dropped on us. She has been a little lax in that department over the last couple of years. But modern methods of snow making have changed the face of the skiing industry. Thick, heavy bases of man-made snow have kept me skiing at least one day every week.

The other day, I went down to Belleayre Mountain. Super Chief — the main chair lift — was broken, so I had to use another lift to get to the top of the mountain. As I skied up to the chair, an elderly lady stood waiting to board the lift.

“Can I join you?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied, “if you can behave yourself.”

I smiled and we sat down as the chair came around.

Lift 7 is a lot slower than the new high-speed quad, so it gives you plenty of time to talk. This lady was 84 years old and lives just down the hill from the ski area. She told me that she skis every day the mountain is open. Sometimes it’s only a single run down the slopes, but sometimes she skis most of the day.

I asked her what she was going to do when she couldn’t ski anymore.

“Play tennis,” she said. “The nets are already up and I’m getting ready.”

As it turned out, this woman was involved with the Senior Olympics and had traveled all over to compete. And she wasn’t about to slow down at her age, either.

I wish I got her name, but you often ride up the chair lifts with different people throughout the day. When we got to the top, she went to the right and I skied to the left. I saw her going down the slope as I was going back up later in the day. She wasn’t wasting any time going down the mountain as she maneuvered her skis back-and-forth on the snow, acting like a person half her age. She was living life to the fullest and wasn’t about to give up gracefully.

Later in the day, I was on the lift with a man from New Jersey. We talked for a bit when his cell phone rang.

“Hello ... I’m skiing up in the Catskills. I told you I was going to go skiing,” he said.

Then he turned to me and asked: “Would you tell my wife where I am?”

He handed me his phone.

“He’s on a chairlift on Belleayre Mountain. ... Yes he’s skiing. ... He’s wearing a black jacket and dark green ski pants. ... “I’m Rick and I just happened to be riding up the same lift with him.”

I handed him back the phone, shaking my head as he continued to talk.

Can you believe that? When we got off the lift, he was still talking to her. I was glad to get on down the mountain away from all that drama. I have met some very interesting people on the lifts over the years, but that takes the cake.

Skiing is quickly coming to an end for this season. With temperatures continuing to rise, the snow will soon disappear. I hope that in the end, we have one of those days in the high 60s so I can ski in shorts and a T-shirt. That would be a great ending to a wonderful year on the slopes.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.