Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Skating Down Memory Lane

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, my family and two others that we were close to used to come up to Mammoth Mountain a few times a year for skiing vacations.  The other families had two boys each, one my age and one a year older.  The five of us were like brothers, and we still are to this day.

When I was ten years old, in the winter of 1976-77, there was a bad drought and by Christmas no snow had fallen at all.  Since the ski resort didn't have snowmaking in those days, that left our parents searching for something to keep us busy that season.  Before we came up, my mom went down to the nearby thrift store where we lived in Riverside and bought just about all the skates they had.

That year ended up being the winter of ice skating.  One of the families bought some hockey sticks and pucks, and some of us traded off using brooms.  We would hike to one lake or another each day to skate and play hockey.   We also went down to the valley below town to play hockey at a series of ponds known as the alkali ponds.

I'll always remember playing hockey down there at the alkali ponds, getting into games with local adults and feeling like I was in way over my head.  Still, I learned to skate and had a great time.

Cut to the winter of 2013-14.  This season we are experiencing a similarly epic drought.  While they do have snowmaking equipment on the mountain this year, it's a far cry from a typical season.  This has created a lot of pain in the tourist industry.  It has also led to a whole new interest in skating and hockey, on local lakes and down on the alkali ponds.

Right now I'm back up at Mammoth, spending some time in my parents' condo and working on my latest novel.  To break things up, today I dug through one of the cabinets and pulled out those same old skates from all those years before.  Since my dad and I have the same size feet, his old skates fit me just right.

Driving down to those alkali ponds really was a trip down memory lane.  When I'd pulled up to the side of the main pond, I strapped on those skates and away I went!  It was a beautiful day for a skate.

And just like all those years before, a group of kids was playing hockey in the exact same spot we had.  I almost wanted to jump into the game, but then again those kids would have skated rings around me!  Best, I think, to leave my hockey-playing days behind... 

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