TRAVERSE CITY — Lou Batori long ago gave up trying to explain to outsiders his love affair with skiing.
“If you talk to a person who’s a skier, you don’t need any explanation,” he said.
It’s a justification, at age 103, he doesn’t owe anyone. Batori first strapped a pair of wooden planks to his feet 93 years ago — he was 10, the skis hickory with leather straps — and decades before the majority of modern skiers were born.
Batori, a Hungarian immigrant, compares standing atop a ski hill and surveying the lay of a fresh-groomed slope to visiting the world’s greatest architecture. He opines on the triumph of arriving at the top of the slope before anybody else rises. About pausing for a moment to gaze down at the crisp sparkle thrown his way from untouched ski runs before aiming his tips downhill.
“One run, on one weekend, justifies existence,” he said with a grin.
Batori once again found his justification amid a murmur of spring break skiers who enjoyed an abnormally long season one afternoon last week at Crystal Mountain.
He strapped on boots, skis and trademark jumpsuit. It’d been a year since his last trip up a lift, but here he was, another year living as the oldest skier in the land. Before that last jaunt Batori was laid up for a year, recovering from illness.
George L. Petritz, a member of the family that owns the Benzie County resort, joined Batori for his afternoon on the slopes. He helped Batori safely negotiate the slick snow that leads to one of six chairlifts. And he acted as a bit of a blocker, shielding Batori from oncoming skiers.
Petritz met Batori a few years ago and the pair co-piloted ski runs since, he said.
A few onlookers stopped to watch while the men crept their way toward the lift. The chair slowed as it approached them and gently lifted Batori toward the peak above.