Saturday, February 1, 2020

To Ski or Not

Bill Skiing
Bill taking a leap while skiing
I married a skier. He was instructing skiing at Mount Brighton in Michigan while we dated in college. Bill is an old-style skier carving his turns in his downhill runs.

Now when others skiers see him coming down a slope, they stop and admire the ballet-like beauty of his descent for his technique is pure splendor in motion. It’s the old style of using the skis to carve turns type of skiing. He goes down the diamond slopes in stylish ease and handles moguls or powder with equal grace. He also dances and does other acrobatic feats on his skis.

Bill still teaches skiing. I expect I am his single failure, but it wasn’t his fault. It was mine. He had our daughter and son on skis like he had been—at the age of eighteen months, and yes, he taught me when we met. I was nineteen, didn’t like the cold, and was afraid of heights. We skied Mount Brighton, Cannonsburg in Grand Rapids, Caberfae in Cadillac, Schuss Mounting in the Traverse Bay area, Boyne in Northern Michigan, and took a really great trip to the Georgian Peaks in Ontario, Canada.

I became an adequate mid-level skier, but not being an athletic person, I never fell in love with the sport. When I would stand at the top of a slope and could only see the curve of where it drops off to the ground, I would panic. What if it literally dropped off? I know—nonsense. But I couldn’t see the rest of the hill, so didn’t know what I might have to avoid. When we moved to Colorado Springs we skied at the surrounding ski sites. I always avoided the black diamond or advanced skier slopes.

Fast forward and my son is doing an internship for his college in the Salt Lake City area. We visit in winter and everyone decides to go skiing. The rest of the family wants to go to Alta. I go, but I don’t feel particularly excited, it is more the family excursion that I want to participate in. The good family skiers decide on the chairlift called ‘Wildcat.’ The sign by the lift claims the runs are diamond, actually at the time I swear I saw multiple diamonds, like four. They all reassured me that once we reach the top of the chairlift an easy slope trailed off to the left. Okay, I got on the lift and rode it up and up.

The view on the ride up this very long chairlift was inspiring: mountain views, snow, and sky, with many small moving forms skiing down the slopes. The surprise came at the top. That easy slope to the left was closed. The kids take off and are gone floating down the run. I gingerly ski some distance and then fall, but I fall into a deep pocket of powder, and I cannot get out. (Never could ski powder.) Bill stops and tries to help me. It takes several minutes. I couldn’t find anything to brace against to right myself. I am now embarrassed, scared, and angry. God help me, I’m crying and out of breath, perhaps due to the altitude of 8500’ altitude, but maybe due to fury.

Bill talked encouragement to me, but I do not remember his words. I’m wondering just how do I reach the hill’s base? I’ll have to ski.

“You can take the chair down,” Bill suggests.

And let everyone coming up seeing me descend in defeat? No, I can’t, so I will ski down.

I don’t know how I got down. I don’t remember any of it. I did not fall again. I don’t know how fast or slow I went, but I finally saw the bottom of the hill. Once there I took off my skis and walk into the Wildcat Base building and waited for everyone else to finish their day.

I never strapped skis on again. I did not realize until much later that the slope, even though I got down it, defeated me anyway. It made me tell me I just couldn’t do it even though I did. Chicken shit.

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