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When Old Man Winter arrives, life goes downhill in a big way

The New Year is knocking on our door—I can’t believe it’s 2009!—and the old year is all but history. Ah, but despite last weekend’s brief warm-up, Old Man Winter is still rockin’ and rollin’. Cold. Snow. Ice. My golf clubs are in the basement, whining in their sweet spots because the golf season, at least in this part of the country, is anywhere but knocking on our door.

Well, dear reader, I must say, I’ve had it. The New York Stink … er, Yankees, are signing free agents—aka spending money as if George Steinbrenner and his sons were printing it in their basement, where there are no whining golf clubs.

The Buffalo Bills, with their third straight 7-9 record, are stinking up Western New York. Basketball, college and pro, is in the ho-hum part of the season. Baseball spring training is weeks away. The Masters is hibernating till April. Soooo …

It’s official: I’m going back to the good old days, when I wished winter would never end because I was having so much fun. Instead of sitting around and crying in my hot chocolate for (at least) the next two months, I am going skiing. No, not cross-country skiing—too much work—but downhill skiing, which means all I have to do is point the skis in the right direction, lean forward and I’m moving.

I’m taking my grandsons—Duncan and Pierce Waldrop—to Bristol Mountain this week and show them why I was once known around here as Jean-Claude Woodson. Or something like that.

It has been a while, but from all I’ve heard, skiing is like riding a bicycle: Once you’ve mastered it, you never forget how and it comes back pretty quick. And once that happens, I just hope nobody is frightened when they see that blue-coat blur whizzing past them. I just have to be sure I don’t break the sound barrier because the sonic boom could cause an avalanche.

And like most responsible skiers, I will avoid butting heads with a tree. The tree always wins those confrontations.

And when I’m not on the slopes, I am going to watch World Cup skiing on TV to see if Bode Miller can come from 11th place and win the World Cup overall championship again. Right now, he’s 190 points behind leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

Miller finished second, and five U.S. skiers were in the top 10 in a downhill race last week in Italy—a first for the U.S. team in a World Cup event.

Lindsey Vonn won the women’s overall World Cup title last season, giving the United States its first sweep of the men’s and women’s overall titles since Tamara McKinney and Phil Mahre did it back in 1983.

Vonn, with 470 World Cup points, is leading the women again, despite skiing off the course before Christmas in the super-G at St. Moritz, Switzerland, when she hit a bump and missed the next gate, and finishing eighth in the giant slalom this weekend at Semmering, Austria.

More than half of the World Cup season remains—the competition doesn’t end until March 15 in Are, Sweden—so anything can happen. Let’s hope Vonn can hold on and Miller comes back and the two of them can make U.S. skiing history by sweeping the World Cup competition for the second straight season.

On a more sobering note, however, if you happen to see Rick the Rocket blazing down a double-black-diamond run at Bristol, please do not call Bode Miller on his cell phone and tell him. The last thing I want is our star skier to be intimidated. Hey, it’s tough to do anything in sports with a lump in your throat!

Well, yes, it is true that with me coming out of retirement, the composition of the U.S. ski team is likely to change dramatically for the 2009-10 season. There have been many blond skiers on both of our teams, but never before one with white hair. Talk about making history!

Yeah, I’ll take it easy the first run or two at Bristol—you know, till I get the feeling back—then it’s hell bent for leather! Pedal to the metal! Full throttle! I just hope they don’t ban me from the mountain because I’m going so fast the friction created by my skis starts melting the snow.

And one more thing: I just want you to know that if you see a guy with white hair, wearing a blue coat, shaking in his ski boots and snowplowing down one of Bristol’s bunny runs, that is NOT me.

Rick Woodson’s column appears each week in the Rochester Business Journal print edition. His book, “Words of Woodson,” is available at Listen to his weekly program, “The Golf Tee,” at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280.

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