May 07, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Heroes, role models and twinkies 

They draw on their experiences in long, productive lives to teach people the skills to slide down a mountain, and in this they find meaning

By G.D. Maxwell

When I was 9 years old, I wanted nothing so badly in the world as I wanted to be Superman. Mind you I was not greedy about my desire. I didn’t care so much about Superman’s strength or his X-ray vision, although just a few years later, tormented by the knowledge only one thin wall separated the boys’ shower from the girls’ shower at my junior high school, I might have had second thoughts about X-Ray vision.

No. I wanted to fly. I wanted to fly so badly I could taste it. I was certain if I wanted it badly enough, if I put my entire body and soul into it, I could unlock Superman’s secret of flight.

I was wrong… painfully wrong. Eventually, I came to accept the limitations imposed by gravity, forgave my parents for not having been born on Krypton and gave up the idea of flying under my own power, settling uncomfortably for cattle class on Air Canada when flight becomes an unavoidable reality.

This is not to say my search for larger-than-life heroes ever disappeared. But rapidly chewing into my sixth decade, I’m no longer enamoured of the comic-book variety. Casting about for likely role models, I’m more inclined towards the possible – if exceptional – rather than the purely fictional.

I’ll happily settle for growing into the shadows of, say, a Doug Dixon… or Don Guthrie… or Lorne McFadgen. They can’t fly, though each of them glides gracefully on skis. They don’t possess super strength, though each has proven his mettle over a lifetime’s Ironman. And I’m pretty sure they don’t have X-Ray vision, though each can watch a skier and quickly see those annoying habits holding them back from breaking through to the next level of enjoyment.

Heroes? Maybe. Role models? Good enough for me. Twinkies? Without a doubt.

Doug and Don and Lorne share a passion for skiing and a passion for teaching others to ski. Collectively, they’ve taught skiing on Blackcomb Mountain for 52 years. This season past, they’ve taught nearly 300 days between them… each and every outing a private lesson.

Ask them what sets them apart in a ski school full of talented, hard working instructors, many of whom have been kicking around Whistler longer and teach to a more gruelling schedule, and they’ll tell you the unvarnished truth: "We’re old."

Only if you measure by the calendar.

* * *

On Jan. 10, 1929, a young reporter boarded a train for the land of the Godless Soviets. It proved to be the first of a long-lived series of swashbuckling adventures for Belgian writer Hergé’s alter ego: Tintin.

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