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January 25, 2009 — I’ve been accused over the course of my career of letting skiing creep into everything I write. The politics of skiing. The business of skiing. The crime and punishment of skiing. Even, occasionally, the skiing of skiing.
Our old joke at the local paper was that no matter who we interviewed the last two questions were always, “What do you think of Vail … and do you ski?”
So I imagined myself last October interviewing the various presidential and vice-presidential candidates: “I’m sure, Sen. Biden, that Scranton was rough, but did you ever make it over to Seven Springs, Whitetail? I grew up skiing Blue Knob over in western PA myself …”
Or, “So, Gov. Palin, how about those Chugach Mountains? Your Ski-Doo-racing hubby ever hauled you up one of those on his 1200cc sled for some top-notch freshies? Course a heli’s really the only way to go in AK.” Then I would have winked by way of an icebreaker.
“Sen. Obama, you grew up on Hawaii. You ever make over to the Big Island? I heard in February or March some years you can ski Mauna Kea.” Then, turning to his opponent, in a town-hall-forum kind of way: “How about you, Sen. McCain? I know I’ve seen you in Vail, doing cruisers in your Bogner one-piece, yelling at snowboarders.”
To me, you see, you can really tell everything you need to know about a politician by how outdoorsy he or she is. To heck with mavericky, I’ll take mountainy. And if you ski, you’re for me.
So in the Vail Valley’s off-season, aka shoulder season, aka mud season, aka mud-slinging season this past fall, the stakes seemed so high and the rhetoric ran so rampant that at some point long before Nov. 4 I developed post-presidential campaign stress disorder (PPCSD).
I think it was sometime shortly after the second McCain-Obama debate, or maybe the only Palin-Biden dustup, that I slipped into a sort of semi-catatonic trance, impenetrable by even the most elevated and ambitious oratory. I may have been hypnotized by the Palin wink or Biden’s gleaming teeth, I’m not sure.
So I set out to find out who among the major candidates had the best chance of replacing former President Gerald R. Ford, who set up his Western White House in Vail in the 70s, bought a home in Beaver Creek in 80s and helped put us on the international map.
Strangely, e-mails and phone calls to the two campaigns went unanswered. Granted, they were fired off during the heat of the financial bailout debate, so skiing may have seemed at best a secondary concern, but ski-cred matters to me and many other ski-town exiles.
Anyway, I still hadn’t heard back by Election Day, and given that the suddenly resurgent Russians are led by PM Vladimir Putin, a skiing-obsessed autocrat who clearly has no qualms about invading breakaway Republics to secure his snow sports agenda (Georgia is very near Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics), I could only hope I helped pick the right prez to deal with the pugilistic and P-texed puppet-master Putin.
Clearly we made the right call. McCain in 2006 enjoyed a day of jet-skiing on the Black Sea with his pal Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia. It wasn't much of a stretch for me to imagine a McCain administration taking on Russia for the jet-skiing … or the snow skiing.
World wars have been fought for more trivial reasons.
But Obama’s a hoopster, more young and vibrant. clearly capable of jumping into any international conflict with abandon. If he ever wants to jump into the Back Bowls (or even a terrain park), my lock-off is always available for his Western White House.
For a small fee.
This column originally appeared in the holiday issue of Vail Beaver Creek Magazine
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