Originally created 05/02/04

Life lessons were learned long before 'free' ski trip



When the going gets tough, the smart get lost.

- Robert Byrne

My family just returned from the free vacation ski trip we won last December at an Atlanta sports event.

I had put off traveling as long as possible because I don't like snow, spending money, long plane flights, airport security checks, spending money, cold weather, hotel bath towels and spending money.

I lost the family vote 2-1.

No matter. The trip was taken. I made it back. And I learned something.

I learned a lot of things, actually.

l I learned downtown Denver traffic is nowhere near as daunting as Atlanta's.

"There's hardly anyone out," my wife said, as I steered the small rental car through an April snowstorm.

"That's because they know better than to drive in blizzards," I said as the car shimmied through another fishtail.

l I learned that there are many ways to injure yourself skiing. That's why the resort hotel had a clinic on the first floor.

l I learned I had no problem sitting in a comfortable chair before a roaring fire reading Rocky Mountain newspapers, ignoring all suggestions I risk fractures.

l I learned where all those hippies from my 1970 college days ended up.

l I learned they're big on recycling, Starbucks coffee shops and exercise.

l I learned they are friendly and peaceful, reserving the state's death penalty for the heinous crime of improper parking, which was enforced with death-row zeal.

l I learned skiers don't care much for color coordination. They either have a very odd fashion sense or consider red and purple outerwear valuable because it's easy to spot when they come looking for you after an avalanche.

l I learned ski resorts are big on stylish boutiques, which sell apparel featuring eagle feathers, fur and rawhide - a sort of American Indian theme if, for example, an Indian tribe happened to live on New York's Fifth Avenue.

l I learned you could spend a dollar on a postcard in one of these places, or find them a fourth that price at a grocery store in the Denver suburbs.

l I did not learn the Colorado state motto, but I suspect it's "Steer car in direction of skid."

l I learned my wife has a travel motto: "Charge!"

l And I learned there's no such thing as a "free trip." Like its cousin, "free lunch," it comes with costs you never considered.

OK, maybe I already knew that.

Maybe we all do.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.