Ski Slopes and Vintage Climbing Instructionals

Smith’s 1957 Introduction to Mountaineering.

Stick season in Vermont is a period after the colorful leaves fall and before the snows take the leaves place in the branches. This winter in Pennsylvania has been one long stick season with only a brief snowfall near the Susquehanna River that landed on the pine branches and lawn during coffee but disappeared after breakfast. We returned to sticks.

Snow is important to Natalie, Wunderkind, Schnickelfritz, and me. I used to have this notion that snow reminded me of the Adirondacks or Green Mountains in winter that I romanticized a great deal while working long hours in Washington. Since the kids started playing in our new(ish) snow-filled yard when the conditions allowed, I saw that it’s about play and living in the moment. Snow is ephemeral, beautiful, and precious. So Natalie and I make sure the kids have good snow pants, coats, and boots for sledding and play before every Thanksgiving.

Ski lessons for Wunderkind and Schnickelfritz were overdue, but now that the conditions and restrictions of the pandemic have loosened, we were off to one of those little Ski-the-East hills. These little ones try tonpass themselves off as “resorts,” and boast a few rooms to remt plus a restaurant and bar. Interestingly, I never lived closer to any slope and ski lift than I do now in Lancaster, PA. I had a longer drive when I grew up in snowy Buffalo!

B photography from the PA slopes. Stick season officially, even here.

The kids took lessons and I stuck nearby. Natalie skied. We went to a bigger resort not far from DC before we had kids, but due to expecting our first, I skied, she didn’t. We’re square now.


Grit has always been a key element in climbing, and an old instructional book substituted for lessons and mentorship. Take this one, for instance, by George Alan Smith, titled Introduction to Mountaineering, published by A.S. Barnes & Co. Inc. as a new and revised edition in 1967. The first edition was out in 1957. It taught climbing as it was done in the Himalayas and David Roberts’ books of the day: With ropes, sans harness, and your boots, pre-EBs.

This was once deemed safe and grippy.

My friend received it as a birthday present and was kind enough to loan it to me. There are other instructionals from this era, too, and I’m curious about why so many? I’ll keep digging. In the meantime, I am grateful for my Black Diamond harness and my Evolvs.

Well, that’s it for now. Next winter, if I get skis and a seasons pass, I might be able to forget about the gym and wait patiently for the golf course to come into form.

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