Scott: Hey Eric, congratulations on being selected as DCSki’s User of the Month. You’ve been active on DCSki for over 20 years, posting over 1,000 messages to the Forum. Do you remember how you first stumbled across DCSki?
Eric: Nope, I really don’t remember. I probably asked the Google-r. Actually, I think we were selling our DC apartment in late 2002 (yet another night with too many drinks at Cactus Cantina and my now-wife bet me we could sell our apartment for way too much money) when we were transitioning to Park City. I think I just wanted to keep my connections.
Wait — I think I was reading things way before that such as various ski clubs like The Fagowees where my racing nemesis Lance Brevard was a member.
Scott: When did you first try downhill skiing? Where was your first resort?
Eric: I had just totaled my Honda Hurricane and got out of the hospital and my college girlfriend said “you should try skiing… I think you would like it given your personality.”
Ah yes — Seven Springs was my first resort on that little newbie (not really a) slope in front of the hotel. You could sidestep up and go down in a crappy wedge.
I remember it well: that feeling of gliding down something that was way beyond my skateboarding and that I still love so much. The opportunity to have a style and be yourself is completely captivating.
Scott: Who is your greatest hero or influence?
Eric: Mega-schism on this concept. Miles Davis or Olle Larsson. How about Alan Holdsworth or Scott Schmidt? Glen Plake or Ornette Coleman, Mikaela Shiffrin or LCD Soundsystem, Warren Miller or La La Land; they all make me weep openly - these are what I love; love and passion are the most important things for my life.
Scott: If I recall correctly, you lived in the D.C. region until around 2003 before packing up and heading west. While living in the Mid-Atlantic, what was your favorite local resort to ski at, and how often did you go skiing?
Eric: Well researched! Ski Liberty, Hidden Valley and of course Seven Springs especially as I loved that old Ski Trips Unlimited thing later on. Ha - Ski Liberty was the first place I had a big injury on Ultra and introduced me to the ER at Sibley Hospital.
As I got into racing with Washington Ski International and Ed Fowler way later and would yearly get busted up, the intake person at the ER would say “oh, you’re back again” and I would just have a sheepish grin and say “yep!”
I’d usually try to bail on work (I’m a long-time software developer either from the home or office) on Fridays and then ski Sundays at Liberty or Whitetail and of course longer weekends at The Seven (Seven Spings). Later when I was doing gate training on Wednesday nights with Larry at Ski Liberty, I’d sneak out of work early to beat the traffic on I-270.
Scott: Tell me more about your experience ski racing.
Eric: The Washington Ski International (WSI) organization run by Sam Mantis and other armature/beer league racing was totally fun, but as usual, it just got me more “motivated” (read “ticked off”) why I couldn’t clean EVERYBODY’s clocks and at least the podium. I felt it the first time I hit the Whitetail NASTAR course and said “why do I suck so much?”
I got serious about racing around 2000 and started getting into Master’s Racing and of course met my mentor Olle Larsson. Attending the Rowmark summer training at Mt. Hood totally changed me, not only in a ski sense but personally. I found my whole inner being was transformed in terms of life outlook, self improvement and discipline that applies to every aspect of my life.
Training with coaches like Hilary Lindh really showed me what it takes; the coaches were brutally honest. As Olle would say (channeling his Swedish/Norwegian accent), “Eh-rrrr-ic: pull inside foot a little more back or you will never have good result sheet! Change edge slower what are you trying to do chop up snow?”
All I’ll say is it worked. My problem was I was a little like Bode Miller - my consistency was crappy. I could un-cork one and be Fastest Time of the Day and other times I was pretty crummy.
Giant Slalom is the MOST frustrating discipline; the training and having to compete every weekend in the Mid-Atlantic started bumming me out and I often found myself skipping races and feeling guilty about my team points as I would play hooky to go bump skiing at Liberty. It was becoming no fun and I was tired of busting myself up over a little plastic trophy that says I beat another great skier by 7/100 of a second.
Scott: Have you had a chance to ski back in the Mid-Atlantic since you lived here?
Eric: Mary and I moved back to Washington, D.C. in 2007 after we totally ran out of money in Park City. I applied for and was offered an IT job at Deer Valley but turned it down because I’d be working pretty much full time and getting one half of the money I could make on the East Coast. So I thought, “meh, if I can’t ski every day and work in an office I might as well get paid double the money.”
We still would visit Liberty and Hidden Valley (Mary favors it over Seven Springs). I missed Park City and all of the Wasatch but would return as we kept our condo at the base of The Canyons in the Red Pines. I was able to arrange with work to spend a portion of the winter, typically February to April, working remotely out of our little place - and be able to ski occasionally with DCSki users SnowCone, JohnL, JimmyZ and of course JimK.
I still love Liberty and Hidden Valley and intend to visit sometime soon - as I sit here I think about the Liberty tavern and “Charlie,” knocking back a Jack Daniels; I know it is all different now but these memories are as sharp in my mind as all the turns I made there, along with great instructors long gone like Larry and Katrina.
Scott: You first moved to the Park City region, and now live in the Sierra Nevada. Both of those areas are known for some good skiing, so I’m guessing that was a factor in your move. How important is it for you to live near great skiing?
Eric: Every time we moved more to the west, the better we felt in ski towns. Park City was the mecca and center-of-the-universe for skiing and the US Ski Team. I remember I was at a bar on Main Street and saddled up next to Jeremy Nobis and he was just hanging out like everyone else.
We loved the art scene and the Sundance Festival. Robert Redford’s ski hill Sundance is actually pretty awesome, in the winter or not-winter. In 2014 Mary and I planned a trip to North Lake Tahoe, and I told her, “I am going to show you this place but watch out… you’ll fall in love with it”.
Mary fell in love with it, as did I. The inevitable tours with real estate folks commenced, culminating in 2017 with the purchase of a property right across from Diamond Peak Ski Resort, a little but totally community-run ski hill.
We’ve always, since 2003, tried to live close to a ski resort; for us it is crucial. I guess the thing that pushed us over to North Lake Tahoe is the lake - we can have skiing and water-sports all in the same package. We miss our boat we lived on in DC, but have no fear, I am saving up for that big sail boat here.
Scott: You mentioned that you’re a software coder. Is it easy to balance work with your passions such as skiing?
Eric: I’ve been a coder since 1987. Mary and I both tried to arrange our lives so we could work remotely and ski out west for decades. It took quite some time to realize that end-point but we did it. Mary is lucky in that she got to virtual work way before I did.
I managed to get my foot in the door around 2009 with my company and just kept on increasing the amount of time working remote until I said “OK, so guess what? I am going to work remote full time!”
Lucky for me it worked out. Even now, I take a long lunch on Thursday and put in a few laps at Diamond Peak. I work for Shopify now and they are mostly Canadian and many do the same as we do. After all, founder Tobi Lütke started everything selling snowboards on the platform he wrote!
So yes - if you are able to define boundaries with work and life balance one can do it. I would say you have to be mindful of stopping work and plan for ski-time. We all have to work over time and off hours but bank those hours and commit to using them for ski-time.
Scott: Besides skiing, what are some of your favorite things to do? You mentioned saving up for a sail boat.
Eric: Ohhhhh - definitely some sort of boating such as sailing, or even power boating as JimK (and family) and JohnL will attest to when we took everyone out on our Chris Craft Constellation. I find that people gravitate to certain things like skiing/boarding, boating, etc. Or just making/eating food. I’ve become a decent baker and can make really good BBQ, a whole packer brisket, etc. Ooops, now I am hungry.
Scott: The Lake Tahoe region was the location of a terrible wildfire in late 2021 that scorched 346 square miles, destroyed many homes, and damaged ski areas. What was that like? Did it directly impact you?
Eric: Great question. This past summer was horrible with the wildfires. It was so bad we had to do a home exchange with a couple in Sonoma, CA just to get away from all the smoke. The Caldor fire came within a hands-breath of Heavenly.
There were months and months of smoke and haze with dangerous air quality. We had to take to sleeping in our loft because there seemed to be less smoke there than in our bedrooms. Checking the fire map was a morning ritual.
In the end you have to take the good with the bad and ask yourself, “is it worth it?” It is for us!
Scott: Have the ski areas recovered from the fires? How has it affected their ski season?
Eric: Indeed all things recovered. For awhile, before the ski season, several casinos in South Lake were closed to the public so our brave first responders and fire fighters could stay there for free and get a good breakfast. When October came all things were good; the fires were pretty much out and by opening day resorts were back in business, though the snow bases were pretty low until early January.
Scott: How many days per season do you get to ski? Over the past decade, how many different resorts have you skied at? Was there a favorite?
Eric: I have no idea as I am not a notch-cutter. I remember when I was living in Park City I got 110+ days in one year. I don’t think I can do that anymore; my body just won’t support it so now I try to save myself for my weekend and such.
I don’t ski like it is a jail-break either. I’m over 60 so I just enjoy making nice turns (I have a Carv app and sensors that I call the “Bitch Box” - more on that another time) and stay out of the bumps, but not so much. A little powder when I can score it (sorry, work colleagues: “I have an eye problem — I can’t see myself at work today”).
We are able to ski usually from the end of November or beginning of December. It goes on to mid April or perhaps later. We’ve skied of course many of our Mid-Atlantic resorts (Liberty, Whitetail, Roundtop, Timberline, Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, Blue Knob), but also Park City (the complex - Canyons yada yada), Deer Valley (we used to have a local’s pass there), Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Sundance, Snowbasin, Steamboat (gee — lots of alliteration here!), Heavenly, Northstar, Diamond Peak, Homewood, Kirkwood. Oh and I skied once at Nemacolin resort on a very small ski hill they had.
Scott: What is a place you’ve always wanted to ski at but haven’t yet had the chance?
Eric: Just one? A girlfriend way back had a keychain that said “so many men, so little time” - so many places, so little time. Clearly the Alps, anything Swiss side. The skiing is outrageous but the food is out of control - or maybe the Dolomites. Yep that might be on my bucket list. As I grow older it is all about the food!
Scott: Thanks Eric, it’s great to have you as part of the DCSki community.
Eric: Right back at you! You stand as the pillar of the Mid-Atlantic ski scene due to your hard work and it is much appreciated.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
Nice article. Congrats Eric and Scott.
‘this really caught my eye, “ Giant Slalom is the MOST frustrating discipline”. Amen. It sure kicked my butt. The tiniest error just gets magnified gate by gate. The effect doesn’t go away.
Congrats El Crush. You are living the life.
And what’s up with my ripped cargo shorts? You shudda tossed me overboard.
Ah many of the "back in the day folks" mentioned. Enjoyed the read. Thanks Scott.
Hi Eric, Lots of good times WSI was a great party every weekend.
Zardog aka Ed Fowler