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Long time no ski.

The old saying "One good turn deserves another" does not apply when it comes to cartwheeling downhill on a pair of glorified bed slats.

Bill Cosby, who had no sled or skis as a kid, had to come downhill on his cousin. But let's say that as a kid you didn't even have a cousin, much less a sled or a pair of skis. And now, even at this late date, you feel inclined to augment your exercise routine with the "thrill of the hill," as the macho set has dubbed it.

You say you don't have an exercise routine? Oh, come now. Listen to what Jane E. Brody says in a popular retirement magazine: "Not until our 5Os do we realize that we must take care of our bodies if we want to remain residents of them for 40 more years." She also calls attention to the aspiration of the ancient Greeks: "To die young-as late as possible."

You are now listening to a man who in his hey-hey day went skiing-once. A man who managed to go downhill on those glorified bed slats with the turned-up toes for, oh, it must have been all of 20 feet. My mind is still a bit hazy from having hit a hummock of snow that some chump ahead of me had piled up with his fallen torso. The resulting maneuver I executed is known in skiing circles as "hotdogging." I didn't know this at the time, because I didn't know anything at the time-not until after the ski patrol had dug me out and asked me if I knew what day it was.

If you think that I am not now qualified to give ski instructions to the raw beginner (and I didn't just pick that adjective out of a hat), you can leave right now. For you who stay, we are going up the hill and coming down the hill, and we are going to get our exercise if it kills us. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As with other forms of exercise, you don't want to start off cold. (you may be cold soon enough as it is, to be downright blunt.) To begin your warmup, run to the top of the stairs and come back down without using your feet. This will tone up that part of your bod absorbing the brunt of the punishment in the early going. Then go back up, run down, and pitch forward on your face. To add to the realism, have someone waiting to chuck ice cubes down the open neck of your shirt.

For more advanced warmup exercises, stand on the bottom step and leap flat out backward, arching your back so that your head and shoulders hit the floor first. Upon recovering, charge across the room with your arms at your sides and slam full tilt into the wall. Rough? Yes, it's rough. But you are now ready for anything the thrill of the hill has to offer. Without giving your body these warnings you wouldn't have the life expectancy of a fruit fly.

You'll begin, of course, on the bunny hill, so named because even at the sight of this gentle slope beginners are inclined to hop off their skis, especially if a predecessor has left body-size indentations in the snow. Not you, however. Now that you have survived the warmup, you are ready for anything.

First of all (or is it second of all? I've lost count), you'll need the proper equipment: boots that fit snugly; bindings (not to be confused with bandages); skis no longer than your height, measured before you end up lying alongside one, the other having departed for parts unknown. (Once a ski is locked onto a boot, it's wise to test the release mechanism by kicking it with the toe of the other boot. Heaven forbid, but should you improvise a back 2-1/2-with-full-twist, you'll want to shuck those suckers as quickly as possible.)

Now this may come as no surprise, but before you can come down a ski run you must first arrive at the top of the ski run. To do so, you are offered three choices. If you have time, for utmost exercise you can stick your skis under your arms and crawl up. The second utmost is to ski up, a maneuver known as the "uphill Christy" -recommended only for the "physically gifted," which we will assume you are not. But no sweat. The unphysically gifted have been provided a T-bar ski lift.

If you think the T-bar offers no opportunity for exercise, then you have never seen beginners come off this dude at the top of the hill. Being expelled at a pretty good clip, some employ the cartwheel method of stopping. Those who by some miracle remain upright may find themselves charging down the back side of the slope, where the owners have neglected to clear a run. Besides the aerobics this affords, it can also strengthen the lungs as the skier screams "yeeoowww!" all the way to the bottom. Or to a tree, whichever comes first.

Let us fantasize that you've come off the T-bar in a dignified fashion, you've caught your breath (and the breaths of several other people who have fortified themselves with garlic omelets for breakfast), and you are ready to offer yourself up to mother gravity. Rule No. 1: try not to be afraid. Fear tends to stiffen the body (which could happen soon enough without working at it). And tense muscles cannot react as well as relaxed muscles. And should we encounter a moose crossing our path on the way down, we will want to react right away, won't we?

Now for pete's sake, don't go relaxing to the point of dragging your duff in the snow on the takeoff, a maneuver known in skiing circles as "dragging your duff in the snow." Not only won't you be taking off, but you also might be upsetting the other beginners following in your wake down the slope.

O.K. Let's pretend that you are safely on your way, skis properly spaced six to eight inches apart. (A word about that: closer together is preferred by most skiers over farther apart, for once those overgrown laths begin spreading, you could very well be sneaking in the back door of the ski lodge with a gap in the crotch of your pants that a cat could crawl through.) You are bent slightly at the waist and the knees, a posture known as "angulation"-unless you bend too far, in which case it is known as "prone" or"supine," depending on whether you pitch forward on the upturned tips of your skis or backward on your head and nether end.

Just for the fun of it, let's say you see a fallen skier dead ahead (a poor choice of words, I'll admit, but it's too late now), whom you'd just as soon avoid. No problem. Turning directions is merely a matter of "weight transfer." This is accomplished, according to a fellow authority on skiing, by "leaning out over the more heavily weighted ski at the waist." (What a ski is doing at the waist, he doesn't explain. One is left to surmise that the skier has already plowed into the moose. In which case these further instructions do not apply.) "Push the knee slightly inward over the downhill ski, causing ski's uphill edge to bite more firmly into the snow. The opposite knee must not be turned inward. The unweighted uphill ski. . . ."

On second thought, instead of trying to turn, you might find it easier to stop altogether. (Let's make that "an together.") Which brings us to the technique known as the "snowplow."

No, your body doesn't have to plow up the snow until it forms an embankment. The snowplow is your basic maneuver for slowing down or coming to a dead stop (there I go again). And again I'm taking another expert's word for it.

"Face downhill with the tails of your skis spread wide, keeping the tips about four inches apart. To check speed, simply push the tails farther out. The wider the tails are displaced, the slower the speed. Spread them far enough and you'll come to a complete stop."

What this expert fails to mention: let the tips overlap and you'll come to an even more complete stop. More abrupt is what I'm trying to say.

Well-what's left? You know how to warm up, the equipment you'll need, how to get up the hill, how to start down, how to come to a premeditated stop. Now all you have to do is find a ski run.

If you are flush with cash, you might consider mingling with the legcast set at Aspen, Colorado, or Sun Valley, Idaho. If you aren't quite that well-heeled, perhaps you'll be satisfied with just running down the stairs and pitching forward on your face and having someone waiting to chuck ice cubes down the open neck of your shirt, etc. In which case your only expense will be a few bandages here and there.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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Next Article:Outcast of the Hills.

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