Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Moment of Truth on the Mountain

[memories evoked by the Writer's Island prompt, "the moment"]

I don't remember not knowing how to ski. Snow ski, that is. I grew up in the flatness of southern Illinois, yet my parents took us to Colorado each winter and put us on skis about as soon as we could walk. Our vacations were two weeks long, at most. By the time my brother and I were in school, we were down to one week. By the time I was in college, we did only long weekend trips (Thursday through Sunday, with some of that time spent in airports and airplanes). Eventually I was pretty good, especially for a "flatlander".

Then after college, I was on my own and didn't make enough time (or money to begin with) to go skiing. I didn't ski for something like 15 years.

Then a friend convinced me to try it again. I went and bought some ski boots (yes I know they rent such things, but I have a hard foot to fit and I knew that if the boot wasn't comfortable I wouldn't last an hour on the slopes). I bought some cheap ski pants and I borrowed a parka. I dug out old gloves.

I went up to New Hampshire for the weekend. I waited for the kind people in the ski rental place to fit the bindings to my boots and get me the right size poles. I bought my lift ticket and went to meet the group of friends who were ready to re-introduce me to downhill skiing.

Putting the skis on was familiar. I remembered how to move around on them, and got in line for the lift. I remembered how to get on the lift without falling and I even remembered how to hold my poles (and not drop by gloves when I needed a tissue).

It was a gorgeous, cold but sunny day. The scenery on the way up was fantastic, but I do believe my heart was racing just a little. Why wasn't I on a bunny hill? Had I forgotten that it had been 15 years since I was last on skis? Not to mention my weight was about 100 pounds more than when I last skied. Oh yeah, and all these people with me were 10 years younger than I was!

Denying my inner turmoil, I unloaded at the top without disgracing myself and I managed to pull up to my new ski-buddies without knocking anyone over. The first challenge was a cat trail across the mountain. I started down, trying out my legs and the new skis. These things are not the long boards I used to wear. No these are "shaped skis," shorter and with narrower waists that make the skis easier to turn than in the "old days." I tried shifting my weight from one to another to see them curve a bit. So far, so good.

The general traffic had thinned out and the cat trail opened up at the top of two trails. I stop in between the two options to get the lay of the land. My group was lining up at the top of the far trail. Well-trained, I didn't want to try to stop at the up-mountain end of the line, just in case I fell. Instead, I planned to ski above the group, then turn to the left (behind them) and come to rest at the bottom of the line-up.

I push off and head across the mountain. I pass the group and shift my weight for my first non-snowplow turn in 15 years, and I immediately eat snow. My friend comes over, concern in his eyes, to find me laughing. I think I said, "Well, now that I've got that out of my system…." He was delighted to find me in good spirits, but I think he may have been worried about the rest of the trip down. It was an easy trail, but it was over 2-1/2 miles long.

I got up, dusted off, and reattached the ski I had knocked off when I ran through some thicker snow I hadn't noticed from across the slope. I took my place in line and knocked the snow out of my goggles. And from the collar of my parka.

Did I mention it was a beautiful day? We were at Wildcat mountain and from the top you can see Mount Washington. It was big and beautiful. And then it was my turn to follow and somehow, my muscles remember what to do. They complain about doing it, but they are holding me up, and I'm making curves. At the next place we stop, I even remember how to do a hockey-stop. It was a moment of triumph.

In an effort to provide full disclosure, I need to say that my start-things-off fall was not the last fall of the day. I got tired. I got thirsty. I eventually decided that I needed Advil to keep skiing. Later I discovered that an Advil BEFORE I started the day was even better, followed by one at lunch and another when I came in around 4 for cocoa. Or cocoa spiked with something.

I think that was in 1999 and for several years, I skied a little each year. I haven't gone in a couple of years, but I expect to be back at it, if not this year, then next year. I am glad that my moment of truth was a success.


paisley said...

i am not good in cold weather,, and even tho it looks like it would be such a rush,, you sill never find me on a slope... i love the feeling i get here tho,, a definite conquest!!!!

gautami tripathy said...

I have never tried the sport. I do wish I try it someday along with bungee-jumping!

unconnected moments

sister AE said...

Thanks, Paisley. Knowing I had not forgotten how and wasn't going to have to be babied down the mountain was indeed a conquest.

Hi, Gautami. I hope you get to try what you want but bungee-jumping (along with BASE jumping and sky-diving) are things I have no interest in myself!

Rose-Dewy said...

I think it's great you had a good time and can feel like the moments were worthwhile.



sister AE said...

Thanks, Rose.

Jo said...

Nicely written.....I haven't ever skiied, though my other half keeps threatening me with it.

Preethi said...

Lovely post.. I live in Colorado.. at the foothills of the mighty rockies and some of the best ski areas (like you know). And I have never skiied.. you make me want to though... Thanks

sister AE said...

Hi, Jo. I love it, even though I don't go very often at all. My friends have found, however, it is best if your first lessons are taught by someone OTHER than your spouse.

Hello, Preethi. I encourage you to give it a whirl. You never know if you'll like it until you try.

UL said...

I have tried and had fun with it...always falling flat on my back or front, never managed to get my balance on skis!! Same with ice skating too...tried and got dragged out of the rink.. coz I just couldnt do it by myself! Thank you, I loved your skiing moment.

Mary Timme said...

As a person who lives an hour away from great ski country, I've never skied! This sounds great though. What no conditioning first! Argh!

Robin said...

I loved reading about your successful return. I too grew up taking ski week vacations every winter, with the occasional day or weekend trip thrown in, but moving to Israel after college put a bit of a damper on my skiing days. I did go once about 10 years ago but haven't had the chance since, and often wonder if I could still do it or would I fall flat on my ass...

Robin said...

PS That last trip we met my parents and sister in Austria. My husband had never skiied and we were putting him into lessons. My mother (devious woman that she is) managed to convince him that there were no beginner classes for adults, so he'd have to go with the little kids, all lined up like ducks behind the guy in the giant Frosty suit! Damned if he didn't believe her too LOL.

sister AE said...

Hi, UL. What an image! Its too bad that balance things aren't your "thing". But someone has to keep our seats for us next to the fire (or the bar, depending on the day)!

Hello, Mary. My memories of what it was like to ski dated from when I was in relatively good condition anyway - we'd go and I'd be a bit sore for a day or two, but by day 3 I was OK. I kinda went into this "trial run" cold in more ways than one. After that, I did stretches nearly every morning for a year with the mantra "I want to make it easier to put on my ski boots" echoing in my head!

Hiya, Robin. I'm guessing you could still do it - AND there would be some ass-falling too! LOL at your husband behind a frosty-instructor! Did he learn anything anyway?

Janet said...

Even though i grew up in New England and even lived in CO for 6 months (during the winter), I've never downhill skied. Cross country, yes.

sister AE said...

Hi, Janet,
Cross-country is more work! If you have enough pitch with downhill, you can always just coast lazily back down to where you're parked.