Living to ski

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I've known plenty of people who live to ski.

We all know them. They are the guys with smiles that stretch from ear to ear every time it snows; the ones who spend their free time in the trees and their free money on things like new skis and snowboards. They are carefree and loving life.

I hate 'em.

Don't get me wrong - I would love to be one of those guys, but little things, such as work, children and a paycheck, have limited my enthusiasm.

I can't remember the last time I smiled when it snowed. For me, six inches of fresh powder isn't a reason to celebrate. Snow is just something I have to blow off my driveway in order to get my kids to school on time.

I've come to recognize that there is more to life than skiing. But last Friday, I had a chance to ride up the new Sunshine Express chairlift with Travis Mayer - a guy who has found a balance between his love of skiing and real life.

He excelled on the ski slopes during his long career with the U.S. Ski Team. He placed second in moguls at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and in my opinion, he should have been near the top of the results at the 2006 Winter Games in Italy.

On Friday, I discovered that the guy can flat out move on skis, but I'm pretty sure he was holding back because he didn't want to embarrass the 40-year-old who was behind him. In the past, I've watched him make skiing through a field of moguls - each one about the size of a Volkswagen Bug - look easy.

But more importantly, he's one of the truly nice guys in the world of sports. He's a role model for every kid in Steamboat Springs who dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. He is polite, interested in other people, and genuinely thankful for what he's accomplished on the ski slopes and in the classroom.

You see, while Travis pursued his dreams on the slopes, he never lost sight of the importance of college.

Successful athletes so often get caught in the moment and think the biggest goal in life is winning an Olympic medal. Not Mayer.

Mayer's career included high moments - like his silver medal in 2002. But Travis also had to battle through some lows, including his involvement in a fatal car accident several months before the 2006 Olympic Games.

The other day, as I rode up the lift with the two-time Olympian, I realized we shouldn't admire Mayer because he's a silver medalist. We should admire him because he's living proof that you can live to ski and still have a life.

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