by BOB LEGASA & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & magine ripping down a steep slope of blower powder, each turn leaves a vapor trail of cold smoke and you're spitting out snow from one face shot after another. That's any snow rider's dream. For over 20 years, that dream has been the driving force for Bob Vogel.
Back in the early '80s, Vogel became good friends with me, Coeur d Alene's Dan Herby and two Lake Tahoe locals, Bob Howard and Yale Spina. We all competed in freestyle and performed in indoor jumping shows across the west coast each fall. The five of us were inseparable for six months of each year.
Bob -- or "BV" -- was one of the world's best in freestyle skiing, winning numerous National skiing awards. In 1985, BV was offered an opportunity of a lifetime to participate in a world aerial ski show exhibition tour for the Swedish car company Volvo. The Volvo Ski Show would take BV to the world's premiere ski resorts each season, entertaining thousands of international spectators with his jumping skills. Since freestyle was not an Olympic sport and sponsor money was minimal, this was the pinnacle for anyone of BV's caliber. Get paid handsomely; see the world all expenses paid and most of all, doing what you love to do!
But halfway through that first world tour, BV had a terrible crash restricting him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. BV once told me, that one of the first things through his mind was not, "Will I ever walk again?" No, it was, "Will I ever ski again?"
After going through a strenuous rehabilitation process, BV pushed himself to participate in sports once again. He took up sailing, acrobatic hang gliding, skiing and even mountain biking. Each sport required a special apparatus to make it happen. The system for skiing is a "sit ski," where the person can sit on a suspension seat that is attached to a ski. Back then, sit skis were very rudimentary and required constant tinkering or repairing, usually on the hill. BV continued skiing a little over the years and stuck to mainly groomed runs at the local Lake Tahoe resorts.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & ast forward 20 years, during our yearly catch up phone call, BV said that with the new sit ski technology, his passion for skiing was once again like when he was a young competitor. He was back on the horse. He also strenuously emphasized he wanted to go deep powder skiing before he got any older. He needed to experience that feeling of powder face shots at least one more time in his life.
With this being said, I met with Ken Barrett from Selkirk Powder Company, a cat ski operation on the backside of Schweitzer Mountain Resort. I explained the situation and asked him if he could accommodate a person in a sit ski. Ken figured his snowcat would be ideal because of its seating configuration. We could slide BV right in the middle of the cat -- sit ski and all -- and he wouldn't have to be bothered with getting in or out of his seat each run. A few more e-mails and phone calls and the whole Tahoe group was getting together once again, to experience this with our brother, BV!
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & ast forward to early February, bluebird skies and Lake Pend Orielle looming in the background. This was an ideal welcome for our out-of-town guests. North Idaho skiing doesn't get much better than this.
We unload off Schweitzer's Great Escape Quad to be greeted by Ken. He gives our crew of 10 riders a short safety and avalanche transceiver course. After a snow evaluation, Ken tells us to expect some challenging conditions because of the warmer weather earlier in the week. The warmer temps left a breakable crust on the snow's top layer.
Enough talking: Now it's time to lay down some turns. Herby and Spina ski down the first pitch relatively easy, even though they were breaking through the thin crust each turn. It's now BV's turn. He pushes off but after only a few turns he buries the tip under the crust. Since its powder, BV can't push himself upright. Howard and I ski in from above and hoist BV back up. They get him in position and off he goes, this time five turns and he's back down. This goes on several times during this run. The tough snow conditions were having their way with BV. The rest of our posse weren't sure if he'd be able stick it out, and you could see this battle was exhausting him.
The next run Ken repositioned us over into a shaded area that didn't get affected by the sun and warmer weather keeping the snow drier and more consistent. BV's back in the start position, he takes off, two turns, three turns, 10 turns... BV's got his shred on! Luckily the first run was the only real obstacle. BV was back in the game. A few challenging spots here and there, but all and all it was a major hurdle for BV. He went back to the Selkirk Lodge tired that night, but sporting a huge smile.
Sunrise the next morning, BV is waiting like a little kid on Christmas. It was good to see that excitement in his eyes. BV went through that day getting face shot after face shot. His love for the sport totaled rekindled. Not only was it a success for BV, but everyone in our group felt the strong vibe of something good happening. For all of us, it was incredible to experience that moment in time with one of our brothers.
As the day wound down, we found ourselves nursing a few cold ones and once again talking and laughing about old times. Dreams do come true.