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Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've been skiing lately at a local li'l place called Sundance, and it's a blast. I get asked: "How long have you been skiing?" Presuming they mean in my life and not in that particular day, my answer is: "Well, I skied from 3rd to 12th grade, and then I moved to Utah where I only went skiing once in 14 years." Kind of pathetic, right? I mean, the only time I went skiing here where we have TheBestSnowOnEarth is when I was pregnant with Curly (didn't know I was pregnant at the time). I don't give myself too hard of a time, though, because I was pregnant or nursing for many years, so I'll just say it wasn't My Season for skiing . . . and now it is.

Some would scoff at the idea of skiing even being a possibility in Western New York, to which I remind those that there is a mountain range Over There, and with the Great Lakes, there can be quite a bit of snow accumulation.

As I watch my kids learn to ski, I've reminisced about when I was their age, and how I came to learn. Ski Club days, in elementary school, were Fridays, and at about lunch time I would begin to get butterflies in my stomach. Upon school's dismissal I'd race to my bus, willing with my mind everyone else to PLEASEHURRYUP so that I could maybe, just maybe, get home quickly (which never happened -- my bus route was really long and I lived out in the country), and then as fast as I could, try to find something to eat, and get dressed for skiing, or in other words: long johns and ski socks. I didn't wear snowpants, I wore jeans. I guess I thought that was more was certainly more cold (and, in hindsight, So Dumb). Then we had to head back into town to meet in the mall parking lot where we loaded up on (freezing cold) school buses and drove to Cockaigne Ski Resort. In my memory, this drive took over 2 hours, but now I don't think that's possible. Many songs were sung on the bus, and finally we'd arrive and (some of us would) race to the lodge to get in line to rent boots, skis, and poles. (It was in this line once where someone {won't say who} first told me that I had big lips, thus the beginning of something else about which to be self-conscious.) All suited up, a flourescent colored sticker of a lift ticket attached to my coat's zipper, I went to my lesson. I recall skiing with my friend D'Arsie, learning about side-stepping on skis, using the J-bar on the bunny hill, the rush of learning how to get on the chairlift. But some of my favorite memories of Cockaigne are of being in the lodge.

Climbing the huge wooden steps onto the deck, opening the doors to the giant A-frame lodge, I was greeted by a wave of warmth and friendly chatter and laughter. On the walls, poster-sized vintage (and then-current) I [heart] NY posters.

I'd find some friends, all sitting together around a giant wooden table, and mooch some of their fries (since I didn't have any money to get my own), which were always, ALWAYS soaked in vinegar. We always had vinegar with our fries. (Weird? Not any more weird than having salt & vinegar chips.) And not five minutes could pass without someone -anyone- stomping over to the piano to pound out Heart & Soul.

Last weekend I thought I should look up online some photos of where I learned to ski, so I could show my kids. Imagine how I felt when I saw this on facebook on Monday:

After some searching, I learned something about that lodge:

The landmark,award winning structure was originally built in the early 1960's in Austria, and was purchased in 1964 for the New York World's Fair. It cost $1 million.

Cockaigne purchased the building the next year for $3,000, took it apart, and transported the pieces by rail to Jamestown, where it was reassembled. source

I had no idea.

Here's a clip from the news:


Like Campbell said: Cheers to the memories!


sue-donym said...

You missed jeans for snow pants...AND a flannel shirt.

I hate when my childhood memories are ripped from me.

DArsie Manzella said...

Heart and Soul. I couldn't remember the name, but as I looked at the burning lodge that was the soundtrack. It was always funny when someone sat down on the Jbar. Unless it was one of us. Jenny we looked so cool in those jeans. Thanks for taking me back with your post. Maybe we can find some pictures...

Mumsy said...

SAD. :(

Also, I've living in Utah my entire life and have never once been skiing. When I lived in NY and told people where I was from they thought something was wrong with me when I told them, NO, I don't ski. Maybe there is something wrong with me...

Don't answer that.

dalene said...

I used to skip school and ski at least weekly. Back in the day when gas was under $1 and you could ski Alta for $10 on Tuesdays.

Sometimes I skied in cut-offs and a tank top.

Those were the days.

Emily said...

Growing up in a family of non-skiers in an area at least 2 or 3 hours from a ski resort, I didn't ski until my senior year at BYU. Wait, I think I did a little cross country in sixth grade. Since then I've gone twice. I really wish I loved it more--we do have the best snow on earth!

Melissa LeVesque said...

I also only ever wore jeans at Cockaigne. That was definitely the cool thing to do. I also brought my Walkman every week, and had Bon Jovi blasting through it while I skied. Like was the 80s or something, huh?

For some odd reason, I just can't remember the lodge. Isn't that weird? I didn't start skiing until 7th grade, and then we went to Holiday Valley in high school, so I didn't have as much time to get acquainted with Cockaigne I guess.