Joel Reichenberger: A different kind of ski snob
November 16, 2008
Steamboat Springs — I wake up every day with the goal of not getting punched in the face. I almost always succeed.
But I may be pushing the envelope with the following statement: I like water skiing more than I like snow skiing.
I took to water skiing when I was young. My parents owned a ratty old boat, and they would drag me all across the lake behind it – at least whenever they weren’t towing it to and from the repair shop or using skis to paddle its lifeless corpse to shore.
There was a nice-sized lake 5 miles from my house where we spent plenty of summer nights, but from my first pull – my mom in the water behind me, fruitlessly explaining not to stand up on my own and to let the boat do the work – I’ve been a ski snob.
The nearby lake often was shallow, usually windy and always stained with disgusting red-clay dirt. Lake of the Ozarks, a massive and winding lake in the central Missouri hills, however, was a different story. The water at Lake of the Ozarks was often perfect – smooth as glass. We had our favorite spots, and we still take an annual vacation there.
But my snobbery has even crept into that Eden. Many of our “secret” coves now are lined with homes and docks, and it can be as difficult to find smooth water in the Ozarks as it is to find fresh powder in Kansas.
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I’m willing to work for it, however, and every time I return to the lake, I make sure to set the alarm clock, wake up with the sun and slide on my slalom ski before the lake’s traffic can ruin my day.
To me, nothing compares to skiing on water so smooth you can see your reflection as though you were looking in a mirror. You cut through the wake and swing wide, tilting as hard and as far as nerves will allow, staying just ahead of the 15-yard plume your single ski cuts. The ski produces a light buzzing sound on the still water – like the sizzling of a steak or the tight whine of a sharp electric saw. It might as well be Mozart to the ears of any lake bum.
My restrictions and my current circumstances – I have no boat-owning friends within a 10-hour drive – limit me to just a few water skiing opportunities a year. But it’s worth it, and I don’t plan to lighten my rules.
I am not, however, a snow ski snob. And I’m intent on proving that during the next month.
I’ve heard some call opening-weekend skiers “nerds.” I know some who refuse to even think of skiing until late December.
As for me, I am writing this column Friday so I can hit the road Saturday for my first trip of the year, traveling to join what I can only imagine is far too many people trying to make the best of far too little snow at Copper Mountain.
I’m OK with it. Black eye or not, I save my snobbery for other things.