By Larry Beahan
We used to have winter. In 1936 we had a snowstorm so heavy that when it melted Ellicott Creek took out the Glen Avenue Bridge, down the street from our house in Williamsville. Dad and I rolled a gigantic snowball so big that when we hollowed it out, I could stand up inside.
When we lived in Buffalo the streets had packed snow most of the winter. Plows piled snow on either side 4 feet high. We walked along the top of those banks for blocks. The more reckless of us crouched to grab a cars bumper and slide along behind.
Delaware Park Lake and Humboldt (Martin Luther King) Park Pool froze over for a whole winter of skating. We zoomed down the toboggan slide behind the Statue of David on sleds and out across the lake.
I got hooked on skiing. In 1940 Dad picked up a pair at an auction; Northlands, with a reindeer emblems and only a leather toe strap for bindings. I skied on them down a 4-foot snow pile we built in the backyard.
Two years, later Dad took my sister and me to Dick Fisher’s for boots, poles and skis with spring bindings. We graduated to the Dell in Delaware Park, a 20-foot drop, and then to the big time at Chestnut Ridge. We made perilous snowplow journeys down the slope and gloried in rope tow rides back up.
Our great snowy Buffalo winters persisted. We used to say “Oslo has three months of excellent skiing and the rest of the time it’s so-so.” In Buffalo we were happy with skiing from mid-November into March.
At UB I joined Sitzmarkers in 1948 and helped to clear brush off their Colden Valley hill followed by beer and burgers in the Roycroft Rathskeller, singing “Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women”
Ski equipment improved. One of my friends astounded us by paying $100 for a pair of skis, all black, all metal heads. Plastic boots replaced lace-up leather. My skiing improved. I joined the Glenwood Acres Ski Patrol. I patrolled three days a week for 14 years and earned a lifetime pass that my wife, Lyn, and I used well. Our oldest joined the Junior Patrol; the youngest earned a living two years freestyle skiing.
Now we don’t have snow like we used to. Seems it’s either a paralyzing blizzard or drizzle. Last year was the first year I didn’t ski at all. The weather was bad and I wasn’t so good either.
Christmas week this year my son, the kids urged “Go get your pass. Ski a little.” I was tempted.
It was raining in Buffalo but snowing down south. We drove past 240’s snowy fields, ancient barns, through West Falls and Colden, tracing Cazenovia Creek, past the Dog Bar and Colden’s Country Kitchen. I could do it, blindfolded. A sign proclaimed Kissing Bridge had been in business for 60 years. I’ve been skiing there 71 years, since 10 years before KB absorbed Glenwood Acres.
Christmas week and only enough snow to open a third of the hills.
I buckled on helmet, Nordica boots, long underwear and farmer brown ski pants, got a new pass-photo taken and proceeded to the base of the slope. My outfit, my face or my general bearing, something, brought strangers to smile and asked “How you doin?”
Well, I had on skis, I ascended and descended a slope about as high as the one in our old backyard and with about as much speed and grace.
Clearly, the problem is climate change.
I joined Lyn in the Chalet for hot chocolate and burgers.
Larry Beahan, of Amherst, has been skiing at Kissing Bridge for 71 years.