Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Winter Ow-lympics Part II

I wish I had looked as calm as this woman riding up the lift. (Although, I might have been worried if my legs looked liked hers. Those bruises seem to indicate some sort of recent plummeting from vast heights during the photo shoot.) However, I was not that carefree. My situation was more like this:
That's how far back Ditzy Girlfriend was. And it was snowing. And blowing. And freezing. It's hard to yell anyway when your lips are frozen into an Egyptian mummy-like grimace with your teeth bared. So, there I was, casting around inside my brain for the solution when it hit me: I would watch the people in FRONT of me! Of course! How silly of me. They would get off the lift before my very eyes and I, in Silly Putty fashion, would do likewise. This brilliant idea allowed me to sit back and pretend the day looked like this:

Doesn't this seem like a good idea? See those people ahead of me? Don't they look relaxed? Wouldn't you want to do whatever they did? Me too!

Unfortunately, as we approached the top of the lift something began to dawn on me. I watched as each chair dropped down on the other side of the slope and I couldn't see a single thing. Panic set in. What was I going to do? How steep was the slope on the other side? Did I just stand up? Wouldn't the chair lift hit me in the head? Wasn't this thing traveling at like 85 miles an hour? Couldn't that knock me out? Did only stupid people stand up and try and outrun a charging chairlift? My options were rapidly narrowing.

I was able to see the skiers in front of me lift the tips of their skis. It seemed this was to keep the skis from popping off or toppling the skiers forward into death's waiting jaws. But then the people disappeared over the slope. I did all I knew to do. I lifted my skis until they were flat and parallel with my ear lobes. It was a good look.

Suddenly, the top of the slope was directly under me. If I was going to stand up I would have to lower my skis and do it NOW. But was I supposed to do that? A few more feet forward. I noticed the empty chairs flipping in the turnstile and heading back down the mountain. I could see myself sitting there riding all the way to the bottom. Not an option. Humiliation for stupidity is worse than humiliation for broken bones. The slope descended. The ground was quickly moving away from me. I was still chair bound. "Do something! Hurry!" I yelled at myself inside my cavernous head. "Jump, you idiot!" I commanded. So, I jumped.

And jumping would have been a good option had I been two feet off the ground. But I wasn't. I wanted to be sure the demonic chair lift couldn't catch up to me and bash my skull in, so I waited until I was ten feet above the snow. I was relatively sure my legs would splinter but my brains, such as they were, would be intact.

I was wrong on both fronts. If I'd HAD any brains I would have realized the chair would have simply given me a gentle push and propelled me slowly forward. And my downward trajectory would have supplied ample head room. I also found that hitting the snow caused nothing to splinter. I didn't even fall. Right away. I landed with both skis pointed downhill and in a slightly crouched position. The perfect position, it turns out, to launch me as rapidly down the slope as possible. Which would have been okay if the hill hadn't ended and made a hard left turn. And if I had any idea about HOW to turn in that position.

So I gained speed and began to flail with poles flying wildly around me. My skis began to separate as I lost control and did a free-style cartwheel. It's always nice when these things happen at the bottom of the lift because you are guaranteed an audience. At any given time 20 people are standing around waiting for someone or trying to decide what direction to head. It's gratifying when you know you have provided a fun-filled moment in their day.

I lay in a position that should only be possible if you were a performer with Cirque de Soleil. My girlfriend skied comfortably up to me. "You okay?" she asked. "I have no idea," I mumbled. "Help me figure out where my legs are in relation to the North Pole and try to unwind them from my right shoulder." Any skier knows that, in theory, my boots should have popped out of my bindings. And any skier knows this is only guaranteed to happen if you catch the most delicate edge and take a tiny fall. At that point your ski will come off, fail to deploy the brake, and will finish skiing down the hill without you, determined you will not spoil its good time. You will then be free to walk/ski down the remainder of the hill and pick it up while it mocks you.

My skis were still attached. But I was young and supple and therefore didn't qualify to be lifted off the mountain by the ski patrol. No, I had to get up, spit snow, dust off, and act nonchalant as my audience laughed themselves silly. Being the center of attention is overrated.

By now my snow legs were wobbly and I was a nervous wreck. Not the best condition for your first descent. And it was cold and overcast, without snowing, which meant lots of ice patches. And ice patches meant less control, especially for the inexperienced, horrified, terrified, stupefied, and wild eyed. What could possibly be more fun? I couldn't wait to start. I saw signs. Black. Blue. Green. Were these the colors I could expect to be when I was all done? My girlfriend explained they were levels of difficulty. I asked if there was anything pink with little ponies pulling a cart. I would ride the cart down.

"No. It's no big deal," she replied. "The runs with the green signs are really easy. Anybody can do them. The blue runs are more difficult with moguls and steeper inclines."

"What are moguls?" I asked. "Oh, just little bumpy places on the hill where rocks are, underneath. They're easy." I could just envision the complete ease I would, no doubt, experience.

"And the black hills?" I inquired. "What are those like?"

"Well, just over there is 'The Face.' It kinda goes straight down. It's pretty fast. I don't think you wanna try that yet." Really? Wow. She could have been a hostage negotiator with that kind of instant grasp of the situation.

Green it was. Green sounded good. Nice and easy. Fairly straight. Good places to fall. As long as you don't take wrong turns. Wrong turns are bad and take you to other hills with different color designations. Those are bad. Stay on the right path. No problem. Stay with me Ditzy Girlfriend. Don't forget I'm here. I'll follow you. Our run looked something like this:

Easy enough. Straightforward. I was a little squirrely being shaken up and nervous and did fabulous windmills everytime I hit an icy patch, but I was moving. I began to gain a little confidence when I went more than 100 feet without falling down. It actually seemed almost fun. I had no idea how to plant my poles. They were just along for the ride dragging behind me or stabbing the occasional rock to keep me from running into it. Whatever. It was handy. I even passed a couple of people. That must be good! That meant I was going faster than somebody which I thought might be impossible unless someone was actually backing up.

I even got a chance to practice my skiing protocol. "On your right!" I called out to the skier I was approaching and passing, or "On your left!" Wow. I was sounding cool. Using the lingo, man. It didn't matter that little children two feet high were zooming past me with no poles at all. Mere pre-verbal infants looking like Bode Miller. And then there were the hotdoggers. Teen boys who were all flash and splash, with no manners. They seemed to take delight in cutting as silently close to me as possible. I fell over everytime.

I had just righted myself, snapped back into my skiis and was underway when I heard a scream right behind me. I suddenly became "one" with a fellow skier. She was out-of-control and made no attempt to recover. Her plan was for me to stop her. It worked. We were on a descent when she hit me like a Mack truck. Our fall was spectacular. With sixteen legs, arms, skiis, and poles between us we unhooked, unwound, undid, and examined ourselves. Nothing broken, amazingly. And at least she apologized. That was something. I willed my jelly legs to stand. My friend was nowhere to be seen. I thought I had seen her cut to the right. So I turned right.

So I turned right. Four little words that can change your life. I spotted Miss Ditz in the distance. I think she forgot we were skiing together. She was standing in a group. I arrived just as she prepard to take off. I looked down the hill. All I could see was this:

Moguls. Not bad hair, "Your Fired!," Donald Trump type moguls. The where in all-that's-sacred-is-there-a-place-to-put-my-skis-flat moguls. My friend was non-plussed. "Just keep your skis pointed downhill and use your knees a lot," she instructed. "Oh, and keep your skis together and try to point your body downhill, too." Try to point my body downhill? Was there another directional option as in, "I think I'll ski UPhill for awhile!" Because if that was an option, I was signing up.

"Just follow me!" she called back over her shoulder. Uh-huh. I'd be following her alright. Probably in a ski litter but I'd be along directly. I finally arrived at the bottom a few weeks later after much prayer and supplication.

I actually signed up to repeat this process many times over the next few years. I learned to love it. I attached ski racks onto my little V.W. convertible. I bought cute clothes. Better skis. Cooler boots. I even accidentally bought smokin' sunglasses. I was informed they were the latest by a pre-teen on the lift one day. "Are those Vuarnets?!" she asked gazing into my face. "Where?" I panicked, feeling around for something crawling across my head. "Your glasses! I hope I can get a pair of those one day." I just liked the color of the lenses. Who knew I'd ever be cutting-edge on the ski slope?

Which goes to show, even uncoordinated dorks who jump off chair lifts rock once in awhile. If only by complete accident. Could there be any other way?

Copyright 2009


  1. I can say with total confidence, I will NEVER attempt to go skiing! I do good to walk and chew gum at the same time! I think you might just be my hero for even getting on a chairlift. This girl keeps her feet on the ground. Great story though. I was pleased to be so entertained at 4 in the morning.

  2. You make me feel like a ballet star. OK, one wearing a four four instead of a tutu.

    Even when I had friends with my on the chair lift I managed to embarrass myself. I still think it's evil.

  3. Nope, not me,... never going to do that. And because YOU did you are now my heroine! Love reading your writings!

  4. I think, no I know, my skiing days a past! Not in this lifetime for me! At one point in my life, I signed up for ski club. Then after experiencing a gymnastics accident, I wasn't allowed to ski, or be a cheerleader any more, or anything that endangered my neck (source of injury). It appears, I was better for not learning after reading your experiences. However, my children took to it like pros after just one attempt. Go figure!

  5. I skied once... almost 30 years ago. I am still scared, or is that scared...

  6. Me? On Skies? Uh-uh. No way Jose.
    Nope. Never. Not in my life time.

    Hey Sharon - I'd have to wear a sixsix!

  7. I'm laughing at your story...AGAIN!!! I suspect you turned out to be a pretty good skiier, my friend. Hope you are feeling better. Love you!

  8. Very, very funny! I especially chuckled over your ski lift daring...reminds me of my first ski attempts!

  9. As I think I've said before, I believe you are "Of the Race that Knows Joseph!" I'm so privileged to call you my friend! I, too, wish we lived closer . . . but as my in-laws live in Bakersfield, perhaps we can arrange that "cuppa" somewhere down the line :-) No immediate plans for a trip west, but I'm sure one will come in the next several years! Love, and blessings to you, and your wonderful family!!

  10. I love the way you punctuated your post with photos!!!! You are so clever! So much fun to read! XO

  11. Tim Hawkins is a hoot! Love the homeschool parody...snap, snap! Can't wait for eternity to catch up with you . . . how about we meet at, let's say, the amethyst gate? XO

  12. I wish I had read this BEFORE attempting to ski! I came to the conclusion that I'm more the-inner-tube-in-the-kids-area type person, but even that was fraught with dangers! Kids (the little buggers) don't even SAY they're sorry when they flatten you like a pancake!

    I like how you eventually got to the point where you could blithely put the ski's on the car and go... but I'm afraid I haven't done anything "blithely" since about 1974.

  13. Great story! I love the sun glasses part, that's the best!! I mean really, think about it, you must have really good taste to have picked something out because you liked it, not because you noticed them on someone else first! That's cool.

    I finally got back on skis (after 10 years)just today.... I figured I had shot my boys all that I could by watching from the bottom of the bunny hill and the terrain park. I've been hearing stories all winter about half-pipes, rails, and boxes and I have been dying to see it all myself. On skis I did ok too, had a point & shoot with me but now the problem is that they blow right past me and I am left watching them from the back, this does not make for good photos.

    I guess now I have to get better so that I can keep up with them.... all this for some good pictures!!!

  14. LOL with the "Donald Trump type moguls". Gaaaawd... not to change the subject, but HIS HAIR?!? I mean, he's GOT to know. Probably just keeps it that way now for publicity.
    ANYway, funny story!

  15. OOPS! ..."P.S."
    Yes, you've got to NO that was a plant... clever Mrs. Whiteboard, you.
    But, you NO, seriously, if you find an error, TELL me. Usually I'm so tired and no other fresh eyes do any proofing.

    OMGosh.. my word is "Braneigh"
    -got to say that this is a cereal for horses.

  16. Oh, that was a hOOt! We were all laughing so hard. Connor thought I was going to wet my pants :-p

    See you tomorrow!

  17. ROFL!! So hysterically funny! You captured by absolute terror on the ski slopes. However, unlike you, I never learnt to enjoy it and had to go and snap my knee off on a squash court in order to never ski again! ;-)

  18. You had me chuckling right from the beginning, but when I got to:
    "I finally arrived at the bottom a few weeks later after much prayer and supplication" I broke into pure laughter! You sure have a wonderful way with words. :-)

  19. Hilarious story, although I can't personally relate. The closest I've ever come to skiing is the lodge up top where they serve mugs of hot buttered rum by the fireplace.

  20. This was so funny. I only had one experience with skis and that was enough for me!!

  21. Excellent second half of the story...I was enthralled right to the end!! :)

  22. Now I remember why I don't ski! It's nice to know we used to do those things, isn't it? And I had a pair of Vuarnets! So 80's and so cool. I actually used to water ski and can't believe I embarrassed myself so badly while wearing a bathing suit. Great story as always.

  23. Oh my gosh that was an absolute scream!! Its hard enough for me to put my skates on and stay flat, but to attach skis and point them at an unfriendly at best angle, down a mountain? Are you kidding me???

  24. fabulous writing, you had me cracking up out loud!!

  25. THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE! :) Fun to hear about your experiences, too! Life is so much more fun when we laugh about it together.

    See you tomorrow!

  26. what a great story! You give hope to the rests of us non-skiers!

  27. Oh, man! I can't do those things. Just can't! You impress me!