This is not a report about the results at the Masters World Cup taking place this week in McCall, Idaho. Results for the races can be found at http://www.mwc2008.com/
It is also not a feature about notable personalities, of which there are many. Former Olympians are here as well as people who have been skiing only a few years.
My observations are made at my first Masters World Cup as a participant. I have watched as a spectator at other events. There are many different languages spoken here this week. The contingent of Russians is 122 skiers. There are 45 Norwegians, 152 Canadians, 58 Germans and a handful of skiers from other nations. 660 Americans are registered. There are multiple brands of skis, boots (some I have never seen before) and a kaleidoscope of Lycra outfits. Certainly there are many different body types evident. While some might work as models, more would not conform to the magazine standard.
No, I donâ€št want to talk about wax or training or technique. I have noticed almost all of these athletes have one thing in common, smile lines. You know, those little wrinkles that frame the eyes and mouth when laughing. Riding the shuttle buses around town and to the venue we are always surrounded by new faces and a babel of languages and smiles. These are people who love life. They smile when skiing, smile when watching, smile when singing. The Russians sing on the buses. If the Slovaks are there too, they sing between Russian songs. Yesterday I skied up behind a tall, lanky Italian man, probably 65-70 years old. Strong V-2. We searched for the right trail together and back at a social event we were in line for food and beer. He spoke no English, but we conversed with a few words known to each. His smile lines were like topographic maps on his handsome face. He found an interpreter, another Italian skier who spoke some English. More river valleys on his face. We laughed and talked and ate brauts and kraut.
I know these guys will ski the next race and if we enter the stadium at the same time they are going to push as hard as they possibly can to beat me. I also know that after the race is over, there will be smiles. There does not appear to be much demand for Botox in this crowd. They wear their lines with grace and style. Yes, there is fierce competition. Yet, most of these athletes know how much fun ski racing can be. Remember?
Bert Hinkley is a Master skier from Bend, Oregon where he works for WebSkis.com