January 09, 2005

Going Downhill, Fast

A few years ago, my seven-year-old son begged to go skiing. I looked into the prices at the nearest ski resort and realized that the deals they have for local people are pretty affordable. ($110 for six Sundays of skiing, which is less than $20 for each day.) When I called to sign up my son for lessons, I asked, "Do grown-ups take lessons too?"

"Oh, yes," the voice on the phone assured me, "We get lots of adult students."

Well, when my son and I showed up for the first lesson, I noticed immediately that I was at least 20 years older than anyone else, including the instructor who looked about seventeen. Luckily, I have no problem making a fool of myself because really, that is the only way to learn to ski. The cheerful instructor would say confidently, "Follow me," and then head down the hill, while this straggly line of small children and me would weave after him. I had absolutely no control over my speed and I'd often take out a few of the little kids before crashing into some deeper snow and falling into a crazy position, with no clue of how to get up. The instructor told me later that he could always tell when I'd fallen because he'd hear all this wild laughter behind him.

I don't think I actually harmed any of the little kids. A pretty resilient bunch, they were, and pretty good natured. By the sixth Sunday, the little kids were zooming all over the mountain like they owned it. Patiently, they'd wait for me at the bottom while I skied back and forth, zigzagging my way down, attempting to go as slow as possible.

This will be my third year of skiing and I'm still not particularly good at it. But I think I enjoy skiing more than most people because I have so damn much adrenaline going through my bloodstream while I'm out there. I'm so terrified most of the time that even the easier slopes are a thrill.

And I love everything about the whole ski scene. I like riding the chairlift and catching a glimpse of the show-off boarders doing fancy moves on the halfpipe. I love the trails that go through stands of pine trees all piled with fluffy snow. I love the encouragement I get from local teen-agers who yell hello from the chairlift above as they watch me wipe out dramatically. I love spending a whole day outside in the fresh cold air in the middle of the winter. I love the speed, the rush, the feeling of accomplishment when I do make it down the hill. I even love getting cold and wet and chilled through because then it feels so wonderful to come home to a cosy house, take a hot bath, sit in front of a crackling fire, and get into bed with a warm spouse.


dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

For me, the best part was going up the ski lift. When I was about the age of your instructor (like, 20 years ago) I went for my first ski trip to Stowe (sp?) in Vermont. Well, my friend-of-a-friend guide happened to be some sort of pro who had skiied since birth, and promptly took me down one of those black diamond mogul trails for my first taste of skiing. Suffice it to say, i never went back, save for a few tiny slopes near where I went to University in Virginia. Yikes!

Nevertheless, there is something wonderful about those few gliding, breezy moments when i'm not face down in the snow that really, now that i'm thinking about it for the first time in ages, is liberating and fun.

Dr. Vegeta said...

It's good that you are not afraid to make a fool of yourself while learning how to ski. My sibling is a skiing franatic, and last winter I reluctantly went skiing with him for the first time. After that first embarrassing lesson, I vowed never to set foot on a ski resort. Introverts are better off staying at home.

jo(e) said...

From what I hear, skiing with an expert is the worst way to start. I am lucky to be skiing with little kids. They are completely unself-conscious. A little kid will attempt an impossible maneuver, take a dramatic fall, and then get again and head back down the hill without hesitation.