What's Tony Thinking

The Joy of Low Expectations


Here’s the view from the top of Chair 2 at Mission Ridge, a ski area just outside of Wenatchee, Washington. I spent the last three days skiing at Mission with my son, Joe, and my grandson, Colin. The second photo shows Colin and Grandpa sitting at a picnic table at 6000′ plus feet on a gorgeous day.

I took up downhill skiing six years ago at age 66. Certainly not the usual, or probably the best time, to begin such a sport.

But I’d just recently read something, then, about the value learning of something new in retirement, which seemed a good idea. The writer also said, “Forget trying to be great or the best” or any of that, just try to get a little better at it. The joy of low or diminished expectations.

My other incentive to take up skiing was that we had, at that time, bought a new Subaru, with which the dealer included a season’s pass to a nearby ski area and a pair of skis. Well, I couldn’t pass that up!

So that’s been my goal, to get a little better each year. That and to make it to 70, when the cost of lift tickets went down, way down. I hadn’t anticipated that a side benefit would be an activity I could share with family and, in particular, grandchildren.

The person who wrote the article about learning something new in retirement had taken up tennis, probably a better choice at this age/ stage. But what I most liked about his idea was the business of never expecting to be great. I had another friend, a super-competent person in her field, who took up tap dancing later in life saying, “it’s good to be mediocre at something.” Sort of like G. K. Chesterton’s ironic and completely un-American admonition, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

While any rational assessment could have led me to the “you’ll never be great” conclusion about downhill skiing, I found it freeing to aim low and appreciate small steps.

The Mission Ridge ski area is also a good fit for me. It’s kind of like a family or community operation, not the high-priced, glamour scene of say, Whistler in B. C. The runs are broad, allowing for big, sweeping turns. And except for the weekends, the crowds are small and spread out over a large area, which diminishes the chances of running into, or being run into, by someone else, which is my biggest apprehension.

So I’ve gotten to the place where I am, in my humble opinion, a more or less “competent” skier. I’m able to handle most any intermediate run, and that’s good enough. I have no desire to master the black diamond runs, those that are the steepest and most challenging.


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