Posted by: Shanie Matthews | January 6, 2010

The Line Game

I would like to dedicate this story to Shane McConkey… A man that inspired happiness in many, many people. I feel blessed to have gotten to know you and learn from you. Your lessons about staying true to yourself and living life to the fullest will live on in all of the people that you touched. Myself included.

There is a game being played out on the ski hill. It is a game of tactics, pushing, proper placement of the pole, and a strong core and butt. It’s the game of holding your place in line.

It sounds childish, and maybe it is, but I must admit I am one of the immature ones. I enjoy the competition. It helps me identify with my young side.

As a graduate of the University of Chairlift KT-22 at Squaw Valley, California, the concept of taking preemptive strikes to make sure that I wasn’t passed up was ingrained into me quickly. I practiced the art of not wasting precious space in front of my skis or blocking a threat with a pole between the intruder’s boards. I also started doing Pilates; needing to strengthen my core to handle the push-opponent-to-the-side move was apparent after being schooled a few times by the masters.

As my boundaries where pushed and I started traveling the world, I realized the Squaw Valley version of The Line Game was kids play. Europeans were highly trained. A gaper with a fluorescent one-piece, traditional skis and rear-entry boots would know the needed pole flick to disengage opponent’s shaft from between the legs. Skis were placed in exact location needed for blocking all snake routes. Elbows were composed in a strong-hold position, stopping any upper-body weasel move.

I was impressed and wanted to learn more. Throughout the various trips I would sit back and observe. I gathered many tools to my belt. My abilities in the KT-22 line skyrocketed. I was no longer being pushed out of the way (in a fun-loving way, of course) by such people as Shane McConkey and Scott Gaffney. No, I was standing my ground.

Then my husband and I decided to move to Argentina. Spending full seasons at Las Leñas, I came to realize that my true academia was now to begin. Small children – maybe five years old – had the abilities that I had fought long and hard for. People that barely knew how to stand on their skis were blocking me.

Had I all of a sudden become the line gaper?

Just as in Europe, I realized that if I couldn’t beat them, then I had to learn from them.

I am now going on my fifth full season skiing in Argentina and I still find myself not as self confident as those days at Squaw Valley. Just recently a child that barely hit the top of my quads stopped my skis dead in their tracks, put his pole in the strategic position, looked up and smiled at me. He had beaten my chess move and called “check mate” on being the next person on the chair.

It was a genius move, really.

It’s hard to be beat by a kid.


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