Today was Chris Osgood’s birthday. More than any other single person, Chris is responsible for my involvement in skiing. And now – over thirty years later, he’s still my favorite person to ski with. Happy birthday Oz!
In the past 17 or so years working in the ski industry I’ve had plenty of opportunity to reflect on what ignited my passion for the sport. The easy guess would be family – I’ve got the name for it. Caldwells involved in skiing are a dime a dozen. But the skiing Caldwells are Uncle John, my amazing cousins, and their even more amazing kids – and I was stuck between generations with parents who weren’t skiers. Uncle John has been one of the most important and influential people in my life, but he didn’t get me started.
Chris was my 8th grade science teacher and my first ski coach. He coached the Putney BKL group along with his wife Mary for years – but it wasn’t the BKL stuff I remember. It was skiing with Chris, or with both Chris and Mary, and feeling like a grown-up. I was a tiny little kid, and couldn’t have been too fast. But going skiing with Chris was never a grown-up taking a kid for a ski; it wasn’t coaching or mentoring; it wasn’t cajoling or solicitous. It was just us going skiing, and it legitimized my interest. I felt like Chris took my interest seriously, and accepted me as a fellow-skier. That was it – he identified me as a skier, so I identified myself as a skier. He gave me permission and showed me the path. What a gift!
And what a lesson as well. I have made it a goal to take everybody seriously, whatever they bring to the table, because I know what a big difference it can make. It also helps sell skis. No – seriously! When you take people seriously and you affirm the legitimacy of their interest, you give them permission to follow the path they’ve sketched out for themselves. You also make friends. You can take that one to the bank – I learned it from Chris Osgood.
This is just one small example of the lessons that sport offers life, and the importance of treating people well. To this day, skiing with Chris is an affirmation of my choices, and I look forward to every opportunity to enjoy his company on and off the trails. But mostly on the trails, provided he’s done a good job with the grooming. Thanks Oz, and happy birthday!