What do you get when you do a search using the words “who skis?” on a nearly-winter-but-not-quite-sure-yet day? Why, a benediction from the Pope himself.
The Stowe ski season is scheduled to open this Saturday, November 20. It appears we must have faith, in spite of the current “balmy” weather. You know what they say: “When it rains in Vermont, wait five minutes”. I suppose the opposite must be true as well. So, today we can hold on to this truth in anticipation of the weekend: “When it is warm and gray just days from the beginning of ski season, ignore it. We prayed for snow and snow is what we’ll get, by George!”
So, back to my question: “Who skis?” It came to mind as I watched a video clip about opening day 2009 at Stowe Mountain (posted at the bottom of this article). Not all people like softball or swimming or horseback riding, but skiing somehow attracts individuals from a wide range of disciplines and temperaments. They are teachers, students, children, octogenarians, lawyers, garbage collectors, cab drivers, tax collectors, athletic individuals, tall folk, short folk, round folk… It requires a level of prowess and self-awareness that is in many ways far more complex than what is required by our career or general daily routine, yet it releases us to soar and experience absolute freedom from the elements.
This morning, Metrosnow, a UK ski and snowboard online news magazine, posted a story with the following title: “Pope Benedict XVI gives his blessing to skiing.” It begins, “It’s official; skiers are blessed. We’re always thought skiing and snowboarding was the closest you could get to heaven on earth, but now we have the infallible word from, for Catholics at least, the closest being to God on earth, Pope Benedict XVI.”
On Monday, the Pope spoke to Italian ski instructors who visited him at the Vatican. His message does not necessarily apply to skiers alone, but it captures the experience of skiing with great depth: “Your engagement as ‘ski masters’ helps to boost certain capacities. For example, steadfastness in pursuing aims, respect for the rules, tenacity in confronting and surmounting difficulties.” He continued, “In all sporting activities, a person understands better that their body should not be considered an object, but that it allows them to express themselves and establish relations with others. In this way, the balance between the physical and spiritual dimensions leads one not to idolize the body, but to respect it.”
The Pope happened to be an avid skier in his youth. His words resonate with those who have experienced the exhilaration of skiing, and all who have discovered Vermont and return here to practice the sport or simply to breathe in the fresh air and breathtaking landscape.
Pope Benedict XVI concluded, “This is an environment that in a special way makes us feel small, returns us to our true dimension as creatures and makes us capable of asking ourselves about the significance of creation, lifting our eyes to the top, opening ourselves up…”
Here is a little something to get your hopes up…