Solace on the Mountain

by Renee King
The chatter of tourists surrounded me and invaded my ears.  I tried to block it out, but, truth be told, even my own travel companions were taking up space in my head.  I closed my eyes, took slow deliberate breaths, and cleared my mind.  When I opened my eyes,  a vast white valley spread itself out before me – inviting me to take in its pristine beauty.  Towering majestic mountains on either side bookended the sea of ice before me.  Awestruck and breathless,  I tried to comprehend that I was seeing was nature – raw, unforgiving, awesome for all my senses.   As I heard questions from either side of me, I was able to deflect that unwanted noise.  I breathed deeply and found something just for me on the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, France.

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Alcohol, Altitude And The Middle Class: I’m out of my depth.

by Martin Nolan

Growing up on a council estate in England, there wasn’t much opportunity to strap two pieces of wood to my feet and slide down a hill. There were plenty of hills but not too many skis. In fact, there was only one person on the estate who had gone skiing. He was the guy who had fancy tea bags and premium range biscuits. In England council estates are areas where low income families reside (like trailer parks but with bricks, mortar and no tornados). They are for working class families, who work all year to save enough money to go on a package Holiday to Spain. We didn’t indulge in expensive tea and we certainly didn’t indulge in skiing. If it was Victorian times, we would have been the good natured chimney sweeps and everyone knows chimney sweeps don’t ski. 

Council Estate, England. Photo file via Wikipedia Commons.

In the intermitting years, I had become wealthier and skiing had become more affordable. Although only ever so slightly. So it wasn’t until my early twenties that I was able to go skiing. It was an attempt to expand my horizons beyond my football loving, gambling, sun seeking past that lead me to book a trip to St Anton with Crystal Ski. I pretty much chose the resort because the people there seemed to like a drink. So in hindsight, it may not have been that big a departure from my usual ways.  A leopard can’t change his spots and all that.  So I packed my bag and went to the capital of Après Ski.

Travelling by myself did not come naturally. I’m basically a socially inept, mumbling wreck of a human being. Mumbling became a way to avoid my ill timed comments from being heard. My jaw was starting to ache from constantly having to dislodge my foot from it. Since my filter wasn’t capable of stopping the words passing through my teeth, I could at least say it in a way that they wouldn’t properly hear it. People being offended were replaced by nods of politeness. No one ever wants to admit they weren’t listening properly.

So booking a shared chalet may not have been the greatest of ideas. Strangers, small talk, me. A potential melting pot of problems. “Have a few drinks... you’re really charming when you loosen up”. That was my well thought through plan. Use social lubricant to slide your way into the group.

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Montana on my mind

words and photos by Jules Older


When I teach skiing, I suggest to my students that, to establish and hold a rhythm, they find their ski song.

Truth is, my ski songs find me. My usual one is Sweet Georgia Brown. When I skied West Virginia, it morphed into Miner’s Lifeguard. When I crossed from Switzerland’s French side to the German, my song suddenly switched to Springtime for Hitler and Germany.

See? My song finds me.

So, I shouldn't have been surprised when, about a week before a trip to Whitefish, Montana, a new song came pounding into my head… and out of my mouth enough times to drive my wife crazy.

It has a couple of names: Leaving Cheyenne and Goodbye Old Paint. Here's how it goes…

I ride an old Paint

A leadin' old Dan

I'm goin' to Montana

For to throw the Hoolahan


Woody Guthrie sang it. Roy Rogers sang it. And now that I'm skiing Montana once again, I'm singing it, too. My wife can't wait for the big yellow taxi to take me away.

And I can't wait to get back to Montana. For a devotee of the beautiful and the peculiar like me, the state’s a double treat.

Montana is known for forested mountains, wide-open spaces, abundance of wildlife and absence of people. All true. It’s gorgeous.

It also has one of the most polluted cities in America; a history of bitter, sometimes deadly, labor disputes, and an over-abundance of weird villains including the Unabomber. It’s insane.

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Skiing and Me

by Jules Older

Growing up in 1950’s Baltimore, outside of movies, I’d never seen a ski.

When I left for college, in cold and mysterious Vermont, my mother’s friend gave me a pair from her college days. They were ancient even by 1958 standards: taller than an NBA center, primitive beartrap bindings and lacking that newfangled invention, steel edges.

But they were mine. And I was heading for the snow.

I had no idea what to do with my new/old skis. So my freshman roommate trudged with me to the top of Hospital Hill, a steep slope ending at the curb of a busy Burlington street. He helped me strap into those outmoded bindings, held my arm as I steadied myself at the top of the hill, and pushed.

Fearing a fall onto the icy snow, I skied.

Been doing it ever since. Sliding on snow has been not only a major theme of my life but the way I've earned much of my income. More than that, snow-covered mountains have given me enormous pleasure, satisfaction and spiritual uplift. Skiing has been a huge and hugely wonderful part of my adult life. Hello, mountains. Farewell, Baltimore.

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