In January of 1946, I was skiing at Badger Pass and staying at the Yosemite Lodge 12 miles away, down in the valley. It was there that I was motivated to travel the world with my skis and later with skis and a camera.
I had met and skied with a man named Pat Gould from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and he told me the following story: He was in the Army and stationed in New Delhi, India, when he heard about a ski resort up in the Himalayas. He realized that by taking several different buses he could get to that resort in 24 hours.
When he left New Delhi the temperature was hovering around 100 degrees. When he arrived in the mountains, the snow was deep but there were no rope tows or ski lifts of any kind.
Instead, the ski resort, and I use that word “resort” loosely, consisted of three or four small buildings and a barn. To get up the hill without climbing, the owner of one of the houses had a horse that he charged 10 cents a ride to the top of the hill.
The skis that Pat Gould had rented cost 25 cents American and had at least one-third of the metal edges missing. Of the four pairs of skis in the village for rent this was the only pair that had edges of any kind. Somehow, a pair of 10th Mountain Division stiff, wood skis had found their way to this distant location.
Pat was smart enough to realize that to try to turn these worn-out skis and bad- fitting boots would be impossible so he wisely decided it would be a traverse and kick-turn descent of this 300-foot, not very vertical, ski slope.
After half a dozen traverses and kick turn trips back and forth across the middle of the ski hill, he, the horse, and its owner arrived at the bottom at just about the same time.
Pat was really excited to have an entire ski hill and ski resort to himself. There was not a single person in the village who could speak or understand a word of English.
Two days of traversing and kick turning down the hill and riding up on a very uncomfortable saddle dictated that he could not handle another day of horseback riding to ski.
I don’t have the slightest idea why this story excited me as much as it did. I had already been halfway to New Delhi from Los Angeles when I was in the Navy stationed at Guadalcanal, but I never forgot him telling me all about it.
During my hundreds of trips to ski resorts all over the world while I was producing ski movies, I never did make it to the Himalayas. I did, however, send one of my ace cameramen, Brian Sisselman, to film a sequence for one of the films. Brian filmed the descent from there to the same small village that Pat Gould skied in so many years ago. It had grown considerably over the years.
Watching Brian’s movies of that small Himalayan village last night, I wondered how many memories of different ski resorts are buried somewhere between my ears. For Pat Gould, I know his ski experience on horseback in the Himalayas gave him lifetime bragging rights in the ski adventure category.
I skied and filmed quite a few mountains before they became ski resorts. Most of those ski trips and most of my life I have had good luck on my shoulder wherever I went.
The last time I heard from Pat Gould he had quit skiing and was holding court on weekends at the Heiliger Huegal ski club rope tow hill near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Right now, I am starting to pack up my computer and printer to put in the trailer. With my eyesight so compromised now by my macular degeneration, my wife, Laurie, will drive us to our winter home at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana, for another adventure-filled winter. My hope is for you to have as many adventures as I’ve had.
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