Skihad BCE: A Week with the Fellas

This is the fourth episode of Skihad BCE. The first is here; the second is here; the third is here and another related story, written well before our lives took a sharp turn into lockdown, is here.

Skihad is now two weeks short of the March 15, 2020 divider between CE (Coronavirus Era) and BCE (Before the Coronavirus Era).

I should look and see how Charles Dickens serialized his stories. How much attention should be paid to the transitions and to continuity? I bet he did it better than I do.

Driving in the west is nothing like driving in the east. Distance is the challenge rather than traffic. The mighty Ford Escape (MFE) and I were becoming fast friends as we left Alta, Snowbird, Salt Lake City and the truly excellent Harmon’s Grocery chain that I discovered after the avalanche situation a few episodes ago. MFE and I traveled north to Big Sky, Montana, a journey of about 12 podcasts, all easily punched up on Apple CarPlay. I have a distant memory of something called a radio.

I also have a nagging feeling that my foreign car snobbery is both ill-founded and a waste of money.

A ski week alone is not nearly as good as a ski week with friends and, after only one spent by myself, I looked forward to joining two form mates from St. Paul’s for several days together.

Dr. Chuck, a retired pediatrician, and Alaska Bill were to be my ski buddies. Dr Chuck skis annually albeit for a reasonable number of days, but Alaska Bill had not skied for 15 years. Dr. Chuck was making his second Skihad appearance after a starring role at Beaver Creek in 2018.

They don’t merely “think” I am crazy because I like to drive great distances through deserts to get to snowy (or sometimes not so snowy) mountains and that I favor doing this over long periods of time. They are “quite certain” I am crazy, but this is offset by my Airbnb skills and my uncanny ability to make useful connections.

In Big Sky, the connection was Charlie von Stade, a ski industry and Big Sky veteran, whose sister is an internationally renowned opera singer. Charlie was two years ahead of us at St. Paul’s, where he had a big personality that has only grown bigger with the passing decades. Big Sky is a huge mountain and Charlie von Stade knows everything about it.

There is actually a lot more to skiing then swiping your credit card, making turns and avoiding injury. You have to know about how the sun, temperature or wind impacts the snow at different times of the day and what will attract crowds and create miserable lift lines. You also have to assess the quality of skier who follows you. It is a delicate art and Charlie is good at it.

He was our leader for three of the four days and, on the day I tried to fill his role, the falloff was noticeable. He knew the best lunch places and even skied us by a house with its own private skating rink that was adjacent to one of the trails. If this were a story filled with symbolism and premonitions of events to come, we might have paid more attention to the herd of charging buffalo behind us in the picture.

No need for concern about Alaska Bill’s return to skiing after a fifteen-year break. He did great. If you have three people whose aggregate years on earth is 222, watching them is like an archeological dig of ski styles. Bill favored the full 60s-Kitzbuhel, Dr. Chuck combined every style that has existed since about 1954 and I have skied a lot lately.

Après ski is a major activity to some, but of no importance at all to me. Bars have a little appeal to non-drinkers, but I extend this to restaurants that favor selling experiences over food. Pre-shredded kid cheese does not make a plate of romaine lettuce into a Caesar salad. Probably the testiest moment of the entire month came when I returned the unused portion and politely declined the doggy bag. As to late night activities, there is far more talk than action in your mid 70s. After a day of skiing, bedtime mostly has a 9 in it and definitely no more than 10.

Discussion of the coronavirus increased but only to the level of considering the frenzy Dr. Chuck was avoiding now that he was no longer fielding phone calls from anxious mothers.

While we were in Big Sky, the CDC expanded allowable testing criteria to include anyone who had traveled in Italy, Iran, Japan, and South Korea along with those who were in respiratory failure sufficient to cause hospitalization; President Trump suspended entry to the United States to anyone who had traveled to Iran in the prior two weeks; the first coronavirus death in US was reported; and New York State reported its first confirmed case of Coronavirus.

On the final day we were together, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 26,121, up about 3% since our arrival. Maybe the worst was over?

Dr Chuck and Alaska Bill left for Bozeman to catch their planes and the mighty Ford Escape and I headed for Sun Valley, Idaho, about 10 podcasts to the south and west.

Plans were made for a reprise in 2021.

8 Responses to “Skihad BCE: A Week with the Fellas”

Dr Chuck, May 14, 2020 at 8:12 pm said:

Seems like a different lifetime!
Only one complaint: The Pundificator’s Photoshop artist was obviously asleep at the switch. Even a little of Alaska Bill’s hair could easily have been distributed evenly among his more challenged companions!


Haven Pell, May 14, 2020 at 8:17 pm said:

Hair redistribution … I have long since given up hope on that score. See you on Skihad 2021.


Peter W. Bragdon, May 14, 2020 at 8:17 pm said:

Is that Chuck Coggeshall or some other form of Chuck?


Haven Pell, May 14, 2020 at 8:20 pm said:

Chuck Coggeshall. Hockey great and two time Skihad veteran


Dr Chuck, May 14, 2020 at 8:29 pm said:

Mr. Bragdon,
Hockey “has been” is what Haven meant, but at least we are still skiing!


Peter W. Bragdon, May 15, 2020 at 8:30 am said:

Impressive, Chuck! You can have no regrets regarding your hockey — and you have kept yourself in shape.
When you have time, ask Haven about his recent gift to me?
Be well and keep covering the away post-


Bill Gordon, May 15, 2020 at 11:45 am said:

The Pontificator is a very good writer but is an even better host.
Our time together was totally organized and stress free; I hadn’t been so relaxed in years.

After our first run down a modest slope, Haven commented, “I see by your style you went to the Stein Eriksen ski school.” I don’t think it was a compliment. In addition to Haven and Dr. Chuck, I was fortunate to enjoy the company of Charlie von Stade, a veteran ski instructor, who tutored me over the next three days updating my frenzied technique to meet the offerings of modern equipment.
The only complication of the otherwise smooth operation? None of us three well educated codgers could either set, or properly read, the on board car navigation system to guide us to a pizza joint a short 1/4 mile from our lodging! We found it old style driving around in a circle for half an hour until it was randomly spotted.
Great friends and wonderful memories. Let’s do it again, and again.


Haven Pell, May 16, 2020 at 9:53 am said:

Totally a compliment. I would create an Olympic event called multi-style in which competitors were awarded points for mimicking every possible way in which people have tried to slide down mountains. You were far from frenzied; indeed that technique is quite elegant and is due for a comeback. You have a lifetime Skihad Pass.


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