Nothing is more important that being cool when you’re 15 years old. So even though I did not know how to ski, I wasn’t going to be stuck in beginning classes with the little kids. Oh, no, not me! I had taken a lesson or two years ago, but they were boring silly games and very few trips up the slopes. I’d had enough of whiny kids and their childish instructors. Time for a serious, grown up effort.
I was sure that after an hour or two on my own, if I was willing to: a) suffer through a few embarrassing falls and; b) snowplow like a doofus down the bunny hill, that I could hit the black diamond slopes like other kids my age. Once I was skiing like the cool skier I knew I could be, I would win the eye of 18-year-old Garrett, and live happily ever after with him chasing me down the slopes. I could picture my hair flying behind me as we carved deep turns, wove through moguls, and then gazed in each other’s eyes over cocoa back at the lodge.
After waddling around in the puffy ski pants I got at the second hand store, dying of the heat in the rental lines, I at last had my gear and stood ready to put on the skis and hit the slopes.
Figuring out how to get into the skis involved more sweating and contortions, but I had them on, and I poled over to the beginner hill. The ski area had two options for beginners. The rank beginners used a rope tow and the ones who had mastered that moved up to the T-bar. No fancy moving carpets nor easy chairlifts for the wary, just get in there and start skiing. Everyone else was doing it, and I could too. How hard could it be?
The first time I grabbed hold of rope tow, I face planted. Some eight-year-olds nearby told me not to grab, just squeeze gradually. I humbly did as instructed, but somehow my feet got left behind and my body kept going. I kept my head down in case anyone I knew was nearby. No one was there of course, they were all up on the more advanced slopes. I made it back down to the end of the line and tried again.
This time I actually started going up the little bunny hill. “Yay!” My first efforts at winning the heart of the ultra-fine Garrett! Unfortunately, the rope kept going lower and lower and I wound up doubled over trying to hang onto this rope that was only 2 feet high. My back was straining and I gritted my teeth trying to maintain upright composure. It was not to be. I fell right in the tracks, skis akimbo, and before I could hump out of the way like an elephant seal, someone skied over my legs while apologizing profusely. The next three people plowed into me, and we had rope-tow pile up.
The rope tow operators were getting annoyed. I was perplexed. Everyone else made it look so easy. This was what was provided for first-time beginners, so why couldn’t I get it? Garrett would be gray-haired and in his rocking chair before he spotted me whizzing down the hill.
I tried it again and again, and eventually got to the top and snowplowed down. My arms were aching from the pull of the rope tow and my leather gloves about worn through. They were lame gloves anyway, ending at my wrists and my parka sleeve was a bit short so my forearms were cold and stiff.
Time for a new event. I figured the T-bar was just the thing for me, as I didn’t really have to hold on. It had a bar that went across your bum and presto, you were at the top of the hill. Perfect.
“Now do NOT sit on this,” the operators warned. Believe me, I listened. The T-bar swooped up behind me, and hey! Easy! I started up the hill. Now why hadn’t I started here? To this day, I swear, I did NOT sit down. But somehow, someway, the T-bar started inching lower. Next thing I knew it was behind my knees. No matter, I could just crouch. But then it inched lower and got behind my ankles.
“I. Am. Going. To. Fall!”
I fell backward, but the T-bar was still behind my ankles, and was pulling me up the hill. My head was downhill, my feet were being dragged up and my arms were flopping over my head. “Help!” I screamed.
My parka was filling up with snow. “Help! Help!” I jerked my legs in St. Vitus’ dance to get them loose, but the bar was clamped behind my ankles. Near the top, the operator woke up, spotted me and stopped the tow, but did not come down to effect a rescue. I wasn’t asking for a St. Bernard with a keg, just a little help. I could not get my skis untangled, and twisted my legs in kama sutra positions to get away from its clawing hold.
That was the one and only time I ever rode the T-bar.
I thought that perhaps riding the easiest chair would be better than what I had experienced so far. Little kids came zooming past me in their Powder Pigs class and THEY used the lift.
It was tempting to go have a cry in the parking lot, but I wasn’t going to impress Garrett that way. Besides, everyone thought skiing was fun. It surely must be, if I could only find the secret.
I bravely stood in line at the lift, envying the packs of teenagers who were shouting and laughing with friends. They put their poles on their heads and yelled: “Killer slugs!”
I’d be joining a group of them soon. We’d have races, ride the lifts up through the trees, and have pictures of us with our arms around each other.
Mounting the chair was surprisingly easy, it knocked my knees out from under me and I fell backward onto it. No wonder there are mostly chairs at ski areas! Those stupid rope tows and T-bars are impossible. This is the life! I admired the view and got a chance to sit down for a while. Near the top, I watched carefully as people stood up and skied off. Okay. Take a deep breath. You can do this.
No, actually, I couldn’t. I stood up, but the chair swept me off my feet and I somehow was back aboard as the chair flipped around a big pole and started back down the mountain.
Not knowing there was a kickbar that I could use to stop the lift, I flung myself off my chair and into a snow bank. I probably fell 10 feet with my skis on, but was not hurt. Several people came rushing over to ask if I was okay, which I was. This embarrassment would just have to get in line behind all the other foul-ups of the day.
I brushed the snow out of my hair, got up and struggled over to where the hill canted downward.
Here goes nothing! I eased over the lip.
I of course fell immediately. Picked myself up and fell again. It was a long journey down the hill, but at last I did a few connected snowplow turns.
But snowplowing across the hill was made me a tempting target, so I hurried to get out of the way of some guys going about 105mph. Unfortunately I hurried a little too much and could not stop before the edge of the run, which was steeper than I would have liked. I turned uphill in my snowplow form and wound up crouched over my skis, my bum pointing downhill, my knees straining every ligament as the tips of my skis were together uphill, the tails of them spread wide apart facing downhill. I actually tried to fall and failed because I couldn’t fall uphill and the way my knees were bent, I couldn’t sit down. Slowly I started sliding downhill to an adjoining black diamond run. Frantically, I dug my gloved fingers into the snow above my tips but it failed to slow me down as I picked up speed.
Who came whizzing by just then? None other than the handsome Garrett and his clique. His friend skied up, sprayed me with snow, and zipped away.
Maybe this was a teenage boy way of saying they liked me. Garrett himself skied right up to me. Of course, he was going to leave his friends and render aid! I could see him carrying me down the hill in his arms and consoling me over our cups of hot chocolate.
He stopped next to me and looked me full in the face. “Pathetic,” he said, and skied on with his hooting friends.
I did not go skiing for many years, and when I did, it was with my wonderful husband (NOT Garrett, of course) and our two happy, laughing children. We spent hours on the slopes playing “killer slugs” and learning to ski alongside of them. They passed us up in due time, but we still go with them and still have fun. We chase each other down the slopes, hair flying as we carve turns, weave across the hills, and I gaze into their happy eyes over cocoa back at the lodge. We have races, ride the lifts up through the trees, and have pictures of us with our arms around each other. The secret to happy skiing, at least for me, has nothing whatsoever to do with being cool.
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