Grasshopper Soup: Skiers, local musicians all win

Bob Sweigert

I don’t know where to start. It has not been a quiet week in Lake Tahoe. You could have found yourself caught up in any one of the great events over the weekend and felt like your itinerary was as stuffed as a squirrel’s cheeks are with pine nuts in November.

Far out, Far West! A great place to start. I watched the lady’s and men’s super G at the U.S. Alpine Championships last Friday at Squaw Valley, and the skiers performed well on the slopes of Accelerator and Exhibition (also known as “Extra Bitchin’), and I mean all!

The conditions resulted in a lot of DNF’s that day (did not finish), and every racer who missed a gate, caught an edge, lost control or, for reasons known only to themselves and their coaches, crashed or went off course, deserves the cheers and praise of a winner, because they worked years for it, stood in the starting gate, dealt with their nerves, visualized the course, surrendered to gravity and risked everything.

Accelerator, the run where America’s (and the world’s) best racers found the starting gate clinging precariously to the steepest section of what was the Olympic women’s downhill in 1960, can be an intimidating run for an expert skier free skiing on a day off. Not only is it steep, it is narrow and banked near the middle with counter slopes on both sides that challenge every skier to remain in the fall line and perpendicular to the shifting slope.

Their workload that day had to be mind boggling.

In ski racing you have to make more split second decisions in a minute than some people make in a lifetime. Every force within you and without you must be met with a super human will. If you focus on anything negative you start to lose. It makes no sense to hold a grudge against a mountain you chose to descend.

You have to love what you do, which isn’t easy when you are going so fast everything is blurry, you are scared out of your wits and you are losing balance. The unexpected, which is to be expected, is tough enough when you remain positive. If your response to a situation is negative, nobody wins.

Performing live music for an audience is the same thing. Joel Morsberger on vocals and guitar, and Abby Groman on vocals and stand up bass, the essence of the ensemble called Wild Mountain Honey, handled the forces with patience and generosity, and a wide range of popular music at Homewood’s North Lodge last Sunday, accompanied by Kip Yager on lead guitar picking some hot licks out of the blue. Kip returns to Homewood this coming Saturday for a solo show from noon to three, at the north lodge.

Wild Mountain Honey offered up a confident and casual down home style performance with a bobble or two that went largely unnoticed. Their voices and music flowed smoothly and sweet like honey should, and the crowd loved what they saw and heard.

Pro ski racers miss gates and crash, and they are no less professional because of it. Race conditions vary with almost every race. Every turn is different. There are ruts in the worst possible places that can make controlling your skis just as much a matter of luck as a matter of focus, concentration, skill and experience. Being prepared is only the beginning.

The same is true of musicians. Every performance is different, and they don’t all go as planned. But the players take the stage, their own intimidating starting gate, with a desire to give, and they deliver. All it takes is praise and encouragement from each other, and from the community. That is as important as lots of practice and a finely tuned instrument.

Venues like the Commons Beach and Truckee Regional Park summer music series should feature lesser-known local, crowd pleasing talent like Wild Mountain Honey and Kip Yager. That’s what Commons Beach was intended for, common people! If we are true to our purpose and want fresh, original talent, homegrown is the best, and easiest, place to start.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.

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