Luke Graham

Luke Graham

Luke Graham: Successful season

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— At this point, it’s hard to understand.

The just-ended, 2010-11 ski season was my first full season back on skis since the Buffalo Bills mattered.

For the record, that was 1996 and Jim Kelly was still the quarterback for the Bills. My weekends then usually were highlighted with skiing in the morning followed by a competent Bills team actually having a chance to win a game.

That year, the Bills went 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Along with Kelly’s career in Buffalo, that season also ended — or at least altered — my, up to that point, non-illustrious skiing career.

People often ask me why I stopped.

It’s a diverse, not-so-complicated answer that makes little sense.

I never should have stopped skiing.

But alas, I did. Of course, there were weekends in college when I’d go, but I’d do the old Colorado local hat trick: Ride up the mountain, ski down and enjoy a beer.

My reasons for stopping were not entirely uninspired. I played other sports and devoted my time to that. I also was burnt-out on the world of ski racing.

I raced from the time I first learned to ski until I was 12.

In that time, I realized I wasn’t going to be the next Bode Miller. Finishing 35th every race didn’t inspire greatness.

Neither did the constant cackles of coaches who took the fun out of skiing. By the time I was 11 or 12, I had realized several things.

I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete. I also knew I didn’t want to ski competitively anymore.

My last year of competitive skiing actually was my favorite one. We’d go to ski areas across Colorado on Saturdays or Sundays and have one run in the morning and one run in the afternoon.

I found if I DNF’d in the morning run, I wouldn’t have to make the afternoon run. This left an entire day to ski at Vail or Beaver Creek, with no coaches and no gates.

But people were onto my ruse. When you put up four consecutive DNF’s, people get suspicious.

My next winter was spent in the gym, hitting baseballs in a cage.

From ages 12 to 26, while I don’t have an exact number, I probably skied about 25 days.

But this year, that changed. I tried to find excuses for not getting a ski pass. My old, unshaped, giant slalom skis were out of date. My old boots weren’t fit for a homeless man.

However, I ran into some blind luck. A buddy let me borrow a pair of skis. I got a killer deal on some boots. And for the first time in 15 years, I found myself with a full season’s pass.

I didn’t have a number to reach, but with Sunday’s Closing Day, I logged day No. 39 on skis.

It was a glorious season and a phenomenal winter. It goes to show that reverting back to being a 12-year-old isn’t a bad thing.

Now only if we could get the Buffalo Bills to catch up.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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