The Dalai Lama Says Skiing Is A "Wonderful Sport"

The Dalai Lama Says Skiing Is A "Wonderful Sport"


The Dalai Lama Says Skiing Is A "Wonderful Sport"


Dalai Lama skiing
Photo courtesy Bob Shaw brings us this article by   about the Dalai Lama’s first ski trip. You can read the full article here The Dalai Lama’s Ski Trip.

The Dalai Lama arrived in Santa Fe on April 1, 1991. On the penultimate day of his visit, the Dalai Lama had lunch with Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, the senators from New Mexico, and Bruce King, the state’s governor. During the luncheon, someone mentioned that Santa Fe had a ski area. The Dalai Lama seized on this news and began asking questions about skiing—how it was done, if it was difficult, who did it, how fast they went, how did they keep from falling down.

After lunch, the press corps dispersed. Nothing usually happened when the Dalai Lama and his monks retired to Rancho Encantado for their afternoon nap. But this time something did happen. Halfway to the hotel, the Dalai Lama’s limo pulled to the side of the road. I was following behind the limo in Thondup’s car, and so we pulled over, too. The Dalai Lama got out of the back of the limo and into the front seat. We could see him speaking animatedly with Rusty, the driver. A moment later Rusty got out of the limo and came over to us with a worried expression on his face. He leaned in the window.

“The Dalai Lama says he isn’t tired and wants to go into the mountains to see skiing. What should I do?”

“If the Dalai Lama wants to go to the ski basin,” Rutherford said, “We go to the ski basin.”

The limo made a U-turn, and we all drove back through town and headed into the mountains. Forty minutes later we found ourselves at the ski basin. It was the tail end of the ski season but the mountain was still open. We pulled up below the main lodge. The monks piled out of the limo.

“Wait here while I get somebody,” Rutherford said.

He disappeared in the direction of the lodge and returned five minutes later with Benny Abruzzo, whose family owned the ski area. Abruzzo was astonished to find the Dalai Lama and his monks milling about in the snow, dressed only in their robes.

It was a splendid April day, perfect for spring skiing—the temperature in the upper 50s, the slopes crowded, the snow of the kind skiers call “mashed potatoes.” The Dalai Lama and his monks looked around with keen interest at the activity, the humming lifts, the skiers coming and going, and the slopes rising into blue sky.

“Can we go up mountain?” the Dalai Lama asked Rutherford.

Rutherford turned to Abruzzo. “The Dalai Lama wants to go up the mountain.”

“You mean, ride the lift? Dressed like that?”

“Well, can he do it?”

“I suppose so. Just him, or …?” Abruzzo nodded at the other monks.

“Everyone,” Rutherford said. “Let’s all go to the top.”

Abruzzo spoke to the operator of the quad chair. Then he shooed back the line of skiers to make way for us, and opened the ropes. A hundred skiers stared in disbelief as the four monks, in a tight group, gripping each other’s arms and taking tiny steps, came forward. Underneath their maroon and saffron robes the Dalai Lama and his monks all wore the same footwear: Oxford wingtip shoes. Wingtips are terrible in the snow. The monks were slipping and sliding and I was sure that one would fall and bring down the rest.

We made it to the lift without spilling, and the operator stopped the machine, one row of chairs at a time, to allow everyone to sit down in groups of four. I ended up sitting next to the Dalai Lama, with Thondup to my left.

The Dalai Lama turned to me. “When I come to your town,” he said, “I see big mountains all around. Beautiful mountains. And so all week I want to go to mountains.” The Dalai Lama had a vigorous way of speaking, in which he emphasized certain words. “And I hear much about this sport, skiing. I never see skiing before.”

“You’ll see skiing right below us as we ride up,” I said.

“Good! Good!”


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