The Home Team / Silver Griffins and the circle of life
The griffin is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons and its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. (Wikipedia)
Forty years ago, my wife and I bought a simple A-frame ski chalet in Winhall, Vermont, some three hours north of Westport. The house is situated between Bromley and Stratton ski areas, but it’s a hair closer to Bromley, which also tends to be the less crowded of the two. So Bromley became our go-to mountain.
In those early years — we were in our 20’s at the time — we noticed, and were amused by, a hearty group of senior citizens who seemed to all know one another, were constantly in high spirits, never skied beyond noon, and always commandeered the very same section of the base lodge when they settled in for their communal lunch.
They were called, we learned, the Silver Griffins.
A few years after the ski house purchase, Carol was pregnant with Matt, the first of our three sons. She was having a difficult time of it — read, nauseous 24/7 — and the smell of cigarette smoke wafting through Bromley’s lodge only exacerbated her discomfort. Nobody has ever called my wife a shrinking violet, and she made her feelings about second-hand smoke known to management, loud and clear.
We still see, to this day, those same green-on-brown NO SMOKING signs that went up before that season was over, and Carol gives herself a nice pat on the back.
Matt, then Greg, and much later, Robby, all went to Bromley’s Mighty Moose ski school. To be honest, we sent them pretty much right after they learned to walk. They had to be there, dressed and ready, by 8:45 AM. When we’d escort them over to the Mighty Moose meeting place for those 9 o’clock lessons, Carol and I would notice the Silver Griffins, already out on the slopes, making first tracks.
Of course our sons complained: “It’s too early!” “I hate lessons!” And of course all three of them now ski way better than we do. At one point last winter, while skiing with our boys, I took an unexpected tumble. As I struggled, unsuccessfully, to get back on my skis, they stared in disbelief. “Are you serious?” Matt asked. “You really can’t get up?!”
Yup, they got better . . . and we got older.
In recent years, I’ve qualified for senior rates, and when you combine that with the various “frequent flier” deals Bromley offers, skiing has become a relatively inexpensive pastime. I no longer feel compelled to hit the trails when the lifts open, nor do I ski till they shut down at 4. A few good hours — just enough to feel I’ve earned my apres-ski — that’s good enough for me. Come to think of it, kind of like we used to see the Silver Griffins do. On our very first run this season, back in early December, a bad thing happened. Carol’s tips got crossed, she twisted around so she was momentarily skiing backwards... and then fell down hard on her head.
Ski patrol was there in a jiffy, Carol was strapped to the sled, transported down the mountain, and was taken in an ambulance to Bennington Hospital, some 30 miles away. Even though she’d been wearing a helmet, it was determined that she’d suffered a severe concussion. She decided to hang up the skis, and call it a career. As a result, these days I ski by myself fairly frequently. Two weekends ago, as I was getting ready to set my butt down on the Sun Mountain Express chairlift, I heard a voice to my immediate left call out, “Mind if I join you?” This old guy had appeared next to me, it seemed, out of nowhere. He was super-friendly. “Ever hear of the Silver Griffins?” he asked. Though it’s never easy to guesstimate age on a chairlift, what with helmets, goggles, and neck gaiters covering most of the face, I guess he’d been able to glean that I was no spring chicken, either. I’m pretty sure he was trying to recruit me.
As you read this column, I’m back up in Vermont, trying to eke out one last ski weekend before I officially call it Spring. Carol decided to stay back in Westport, so chances are I’ll be skiing once again as the Lone Ranger. Unless I decide to join up with a bunch of old-timers who like to call themselves the Silver Griffins.
“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month.