REVISITING MY FIRST SKI HILLS

Do you remember doing something that cause you a little anxiety because you were doing something out of your comfort zone? When I started skiing over 60 years ago I would feel these butterflies gathering in the pit of my stomach when my ski area came into view.                          To a youngster looking up at that mountain which seemed so high, so steep, wondering how in the world I was going to ski it without injury. Skiing back then was new at least in mill towns where football baseball and basketball ruled, but skiing, what in the hell was that? In high school my gym teacher told me skiing was for sissies and I should be playing football or basketball because of my size, but instead I put up with his harassment. When I went to school in Boston it put me closer to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and remote Maine. 

After college I left the east coast for the mountains in the Rockies, then Sierras, and highlighting my skiing abilities by Heli-skiing in Canada. It was my love for the mountains and ocean that motivated me to start my outdoor store in California. Santa Rosa was close to the mountains and ocean without the downside of living in snow.
Recently while traveling through the Berkshires in Massachusetts I came across Otis Ridge one of my first “mountains” where I skied as a kid. 

The two most visited areas back then were Otis Ridge in Massachusetts and Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. Since my aunt drove and she like these two hills, my early runs were made at these areas. I still can smell the pine tar I rubbed into the bottom of my wooden skis.

The lodge at the base of the hill at Otis was converted into garden shop for summer.

I noticed a couple of women my age working in front of the Otis lodge so I got out of my Sprinter RV and walked across the road to say hello. 

I introduced myself and we talked about the old times as we walked inside the lodge at the base of the hill which hasn’t changed after all these years. They were amazed to hear that I started skiing there 60 years ago back when their lift ticket sold for $2.50 a day. 
They told me that most of the small family ski areas are gone replaced by the larger mega resorts with their mega lift ticket prices but because Otis didn’t buy into all that new fancy equipment, their lift tickets still sold for only $20 a day.

 Mohawk mountain’s lift tickets, 

which I visited later that day, sells for $62, a bit higher because a large ski corporation bought them and installed high speed chair lifts that could speed 
move more people up the hill and maintain beautifully trails using a fleet of expensive grooming equipment. They also have a large base lodge and ski school facility.

I hiked to the top of both hills taking 
pictures of the wildflowers and taking in beautiful views of the Berkshires as I hiked back down to the parking lot. 

These hills maybe smaller and not as steep as I remember them, because the butterflies were still there, not because of fear or anxiety but remembering all those memories 60 years ago and how it all impact my life.

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Farming in Connecticut

Farming in Connecticut

Today I put my gardening skills to work at Ali’s farm. I spent the morning weeding and pulling out lettuce that bolted, most of it done on my hands and knees getting that black New England soil under my fingernails and pores of my exposed skin.

jay tilling

Later in the day, Ali and I rode the motorcycle up to the community garden in the Shelton Hills to pick flowers for her floral arrangements. I do not mind getting my hands dirty, to me it’s a pleasure to smell that rich earth mixed with the scent of flowers coming into bloom while watching bluebirds and Monarch butterflies flying about the garden and field doing their thing.

Connecticut is a beautiful state, it’s where I was born, my parents and some of my sisters live here, it’s rich in colonial history, rivers which were polluted during the industrial days of the 19th and 20th century are now clean with Atlantic salmon and trout swimming up from Long Island sound to the river’s source. I thought I would never see the day a flyfisherman standing midstream in the Naugatuck river, fishing!  Friends ask me if I could come back and live in Connecticut, my reply is “maybe in the summer” but I just can’t handle those long cold bleak winters, California has spoiled me. 

Spending time here in the Nutmeg state is a bit emotional full of memories, some good some bad, seeing the old places, schools, homes, and friends, some of them I haven’t seen in 60 years. Everything looks smaller, fields of my youth are now neighborhoods, trees have grown along the highways and country roads, places become unrecognizable or just disappeared into confused memories. Memories of my youth, they’re good memories or at least I choose to only remember the good times forgetting the bad. I think that’s why I like California so much, it’s a place for the future, tomorrow land, maybe a little “Layla land”.