Comfort Zone

By Beacon Staff

Everyone has a comfort zone of some size and in some places. Wherever yours is, it gets more comfortable with each visit. My first comfort zone on skis was established on the Big Hill at Badger Pass in Yosemite.

I was uncomfortable eight years later when I made my first run down from the summit of the Parsennbahn cable railroad in Davos, Switzerland, because I was blindly following the crowd of skiers to somewhere that I had never seen before.

Any time you expand your horizon there is always an uncomfortable moment and then it gets better the second time.

When the first chairlift was invented in Nebraska and then installed on Dollar Mountain in Sun Valley, Idaho, it became a very uncomfortable zone for people just learning how to turn on long stiff skis with low soft boots.

It would be five years before ski lifts were built on nearby Baldy because it was perceived as too difficult for most people to turn skis on.

Most of the people who develop a comfort level of any kind at one of the small resorts will likely never ski anywhere else. Why should they? As long as they get comfortable, why go anywhere else?

I was filming at one of these small resorts when a ski patrolman proudly told me that he had skied there every day it had been opened and logged 67,819 lift rides since he started. He’d never skied anywhere else. Why should he?

Can these small resorts produce good skiers? Of course they can. The best female ski racer America has ever produced is Lindsey Vonn. She honed her skills on a very small, rope tow hill just outside of Minneapolis.

The list of small hills stretch all across North America from Maine to Seattle. Names such as Twin Bridges, Ligonier, Nubs Knob, Green Valley Lake, Snoqualmie Summit, Boyne Mountain, to mention just a few of them. There are other people who are comfortable skiing anywhere and have laid down tracks wherever there is a ski lift and many places where there is no ski lift, only a helicopter.

I would hesitate to put a number on how many ski resorts or places I have skied and/or filmed that later became ski resorts.

When I made my first ski movie in 1950 there were, to the best of my knowledge, only 13 chairlifts in North America. Today the Kircher Family who own Boyne Mountain in Michigan, also own and operate a total of 160 different chairlifts across America and Canada. Wouldn’t you like to be able to say, “I have a comfort zone on that many ski lifts?”

I have always been most comfortable wondering what is over the horizon. If you own a pair of skis and use them, you have to get to the top of the mountain to see what is over the horizon. Years ago when someone opened a ski shop next my studio in Hermosa Beach, he got permission from the city to grind up big blocks of ice and spread it on the small hill, under the street light in a nearby public park. It quickly became a target for my camera and there I watched and then filmed the young man. He was very comfortable being filmed under the lights in the park in Hermosa Beach. He was obviously an excellent skier.

However, when it came time to interview him for my narration copy points, I needed to know where he had skied and how he had gotten so good. He had never skied anywhere except under the street light in the park in Hermosa Beach, two blocks from his parents’ house on the Strand two blocks away.

I have always taken the position that if people do something athletic that involves freedom, then I should be able to do it too. Maybe it is because I overestimate my ability or underestimate their ability. At any rate, I am still curious about what is over the horizon so I can expand my comfort zone into new territories.

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