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"We are a plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Makes you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them." Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Watch this guy on the downhill," yells an instructor to his fledgling clients. A troop of rookie skiers had just crested a hill and were peering at the descent below. I am "this guy" and from the beginner perspective, the fact that I was cruising up the hill they had struggled to summit made me an expert. This encounter happened on the edge of winter in the Perisher Valley of Australia, where I was anticipating the downhill run with trepidation. As the lone American skiing tourist in a land more well known for its deserts and beaches, I wanted to look good and represent my country well. I had already skied this loop and knew that the hill was fast, curvy, and covered with concrete hard frozen snow. Now instead of just being intimidated by the hill, I also had an audience. The possibility of having a limb torn from my body while falling paled in comparison to the beating the national honor was about to take, not to mention my credentials as an "expert" skier. After twenty years of Nordic adventure I felt like a quivering tyro.
If you are a grizzled cross-county veteran of many a snowy season, try to look through the …