Spring it on!
March 26, 2013
There’s a famous line from the movie "Titanic" when a sailor on lookout duty screams in a panic-filled voice, "Iceberg! Right ahead!"
Within minutes of that dreadful warning, the mighty ocean liner begins to disappear into the cold, dark waters of the North Atlantic.
On Saturday afternoon, a similar scene played out at Canyons Resort. Though admittedly the ending was far less tragic, there are now about 100 people who can, at least on a very small scale, relate to that sailor. They are the men, women, boys and girls who entered the resort’s 17th annual pond-skimming competition.
"There were a lot of really big ice chunks floating in the pond we had to try to maneuver around this year," noted Brian Richards, a veteran pond skimmer who now has four attempts under his belt. "A lot of people couldn’t get around the ice and ended up hitting it and sinking."
Blizzard-like conditions flickered throughout the day. Temperatures hovered in the low 20s and the water temperature was a rumored 32 degrees, making for one of the coldest pond-skimming competitions anyone can remember.
"Saturday morning, the pond was actually frozen solid," Brian added. "Workers had to chop up the ice so there would be water instead of a hockey rink. Anyone can do it when it’s 50 degrees out and the water is a little refreshing. But this year it took a pretty big set of cojones to enter the competition." (I assume this measurement takes place before shrinkage is factored in.)
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Brian and his son, 11-year old Michael, were just two of the costume-clad, conjones-carrying, cold-water-enduring contestants.
"Michael did it last year, too. This year he was more nervous because he remembered how cold the water was last year. I didn’t have the heart to tell him how much colder it was going to be this year before he took off."
Unfortunately, he found out the hard way when he didn’t make it across the pond in his Lucky Charms costume. To be fair, he did have to slow down so he wouldn’t run over his buddy, the Frosted Flakes kid. (They came up with the costume idea that morning over breakfast.)
Brian, who sank into the pond as the mysterious rainbow rider, is a big fan of on-the-spot costume design. "I just look in my costume closet and we make something up," he said.
Other participants, however, put a good deal of time, energy and money into their costumes. Some of the more creative ones this year included the disgraced Lance Armstrong, the entire cast of the Little Mermaid, the Budweiser Clydesdales (who stopped to deliver beer to the judges) and, my personal favorite, Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker with the fake girlfriend who fake died. (That is, if a person who never existed can actually die.)
The contestant, Blake Wiehe, came down the hill in a Notre Dame football uniform, complete with an empty pair of ski boots attached to the side of his ski boots. He won an award for best costume.
As elaborate, timely, and imaginative as many of these costumes were, I am still surprised no one came down as a SkiLink.
The contest ended with a hang glider who apparently was hoping to catch enough air to glide over the pond. But his contraption seemed to have a few design flaws and, instead, he hit the pond face first and it looked like someone had covered him with a pool tarp.
Brian, who says it has never been his goal to make it across the water, said it is important to remember the pond is only two feet deep. "It’s so cold when you hit it, it takes your breath away. You forget you can move and you start to panic. You have to keep your wits about you and remember you can just stand up."
And despite never having actually made it across the pond, he has some advice for aspiring competitive skimmers.
"You have to take the low jump. If you get too much air, you lose your forward momentum. Tuck your knees, pick a line and focus on the other side of the pond."
Considering he has several failed attempts at pond skimming, this is kind of like taking advice from Mitt Romney on how to win a presidential election.
Or from the captain of the Titanic on how to steer a ship.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley. If you have a story idea, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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