Thursday, May 13, 2004

Skiing

I am sitting here at 4am (eeek) watching one of my all time favorite films, Better Off Dead, and the big "ski race" scene has made me think about the first time I went skiing. My friend Kathleen had been trying to get me to go with her for ages. I have an EXTREME fear of falling, so I was naturally hesitant. She twisted my arm hard one weekend and we took off in my car to New Hampshire. I can't recall the name of the resort anymore, but I know they changed names a while back.

She had her own ski equipment and was ready for action the moment we arrived. I needed time to get fitted with rental equipment and signed up for a free newbie ski lesson. She waved gleefully at me as she lowered her goggles and swooshed off toward the ski lifts. We had made arrangements to meet up after my hour long lesson on the bunny slope. I stood unsteadily in a line with other beginners as the cute instructor told us how to snow plow, get up from a fall using our poles, walk up hill by side stepping and all those other vital things a beginner needs to know.

We all practiced our lessons dutifully and I wasn't at all embarrassed by the fact that I was the oldest member of the class. Sure, I had lived in Massachusetts for going on 10 years and the only winter time sport I had bothered to learn was ice skating...at least I was making an attempt. By the end of the lesson I was snow plowing my way down the bunny slope like an old pro. I even managed to keep my skis in the well worn tracks and stay upright as the rope tow pulled me back up to the top of the bunny slope.

My friend found me mid-way into my 4th run down the bunny slope and was literally skiing circles around me. No easy trick skiing up hill, let me tell you! She had a map of the ski trails in hand and convinced me that I was ready for a regular beginner trail. I made it to the bottom of that run in one piece and without falling...this gave me a wildly over-inflated self-confidence level. I grabbed the map and squealed "Let's go for an intermediate slope!" So off we went!

This time we needed to use the actual ski lift. That was tricky! I didn't make the first hop into the chair and was bright pink with embarrassment when the lift operator had to stop the whole shebang and hoist me into the seat. Kathleen couldn't stop laughing all the way up in the chair. Hey! At least I still hadn't fallen down. We got to the top and I was able to get OUT of the chair with almost no problem (I almost slid right down the slope before I could stop myself).

We consulted the map again to make sure we took the correct trail and set off. This slope was steeper and I was having a hard time turning (we didn't spend much time on "turns" during the lesson). About half way down the hill I had managed to slow down and stop in the softer snow on the side of the trail. I noticed a narrow path through the trees and waved to my friend to follow me. I had no idea where the trail went but I was feeling adventurous (plus the path was less steep and a prettier route to follow).

The trees thinned suddenly and the path dumped us out onto a VERY steep slope. Snow plowing wasn't doing a DAMN thing at this point. I was unable to turn, unable to slow down, unable to stop! I just kept picking up speed. With my heart in my throat I began to pray..."Please don't let me fall...please don't let me fall...please..." Suddenly, around a slight curve, there were moguls. Since I didn't know how to turn, I hit them at full speed and straight on. I was airborne about every 15-20 seconds for about 2-3 seconds at a time (thank goodness they were not overly HIGH moguls). Ihad lost all track of my friend. I was too busy trying to keep from wiping out and breaking every bone in my body. The moguls ceased but a new problem was rapidly approaching. The end of the trail! There was a loooooong line of people at the bottom of the slope waiting for one of the 2 ski lifts - one to lodge level and one to the top of the mountain. Behind the people was a dense line of trees. End of the line!

I threw every ounce of strength I had left into leaning into a turn...I managed to turn enough to ski, still at full speed, next to the people standing in line. I heard a few yells of "slow down" and "watch out"...I was running out of runway! There was a chain link fence surrounding some lift machinery rapidly approaching. I began praying to myself again. "Slow down...please let me slow down...SLOW DOWN!!!!" At the last possible second I decided I would "fall". I turned my body, leaned to the side to plant my skis sideways into the snow and, in theory, fall on my side. Instead, I kicked up a huge arc of snow and came to a complete stop at the end of the line. Still standing! I heard a couple whistles and some clapping. They must have thought I was showing off.

I was gasping for air...my entire body was shaking. I felt like I would faint and had black spots before my eyes. I suddenly realized someone was talking to me...yelling at me actually. "Beck! Hey! Are you ok?? That was unbelievable!" My friend Kathleen had finally caught up to me. She had me by the shoulders and was shaking me. I looked at her in a glazed way and asked "Am I alive?" She burst out laughing and said, "Congratulations...you just went down a black diamond slope."

Lessons learned:
1. Skiing sucks.
2. Avoid pretty looking unmarked trails through the woods.
3. A healthy fear of falling may actually keep you from FALLING.
4. Don't let your friend's voice override your inner voice that tells you to just STAY HOME.

LOL. I don't ski.

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