Once I went skiing. My wonderful in-laws invited Chad and me to tag along right after Christmas one year. Chad’s sister came along, too, and I was really pumped about my first skiing adventure.
The Edgingtons skiied a lot while the kids were young. Chad and his brother and sister are all excellent skiiers. His dad is, too, of course, and even his mother, who took a lot of ribbing for stopping the ski lifts as she tried to get out of her seat every time, was good enough to go up on the mountain and enjoy herself.
Chad and I went to a used sporting goods place to stock up on clothes and supplies. I pictured myself turning out like the women you see on TV in their tight little black ski pants and coordinated jacket, gloves, hats, and cool goggles. How I ended up looking was something akin to Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story–puffy. As in, three times my normal size. Not at all coordinated. Not even remotely cool. It turned out that uncoordinated was a pretty consistent theme of the skiing trip. But, at this point I was still naively confident that skiing would make me look cool, regardless of my lame apparel.
Our first day “on the slopes” (see how I picked up cool skiing lingo) was my introduction to ski school. I learned how to put my skis on. They showed me how to snowplow and (theoretically) stop myself when I needed to. The very first time they put me at the top of a tiny incline I skiied directly into a crowd of by-standers, completely powerless to stop or change direction.
I probably should’ve taken off my skis then, headed for the lodge, and enjoyed a view of the mountain with some hot chocolate. But, I was determined to be a good sport and I really wanted to show Chad that I can be athletic. (By the way, I can’t be athletic.) So, I pressed on, through several more rounds of plowing into strangers, through being literally skiied around by four and five year olds in ski school. I would’ve shaken my fist like an old lady and hollered at them to slow down, except that would’ve definitely caused me to fall on my face.
Finally they let us just go up and down the bunny slopes on our own, and I started really enjoying myself. The surroundings were beautiful. I could go at my own pace. I could snowplow my way all over those tiny slopes.
Then came lunch. I met up with the whole family at the lodge, and they suggested, now that I had mastered ski school, that we should all go up on the mountain together. You know, a real bonding moment. Ignorant as I was, and still eager to be a good sport, I agreed, and we went and got on a lift.
This lift was nothing like the one I had been taking all morning. This one was really, really tall. As we started moving, my stomach got all knotted up. I realized that we were going way up the mountain where things are steep. Where there are trees. I pictured myself falling, rolling, taking out half the skiiers on the mountain with me as I tumbled all the way to the bottom.
Another issue was the speed of the lift. I knew without any doubt that when I was supposed to stand up out of that seat and ski forward, I was going to fall, big, with injuries and a shut down of the whole place. My fall off of this lift was going to make Chad’s mom look like an Olympic skiier. I was completely panicked by the time our “stop” approached, and Chad was frantically trying to coach me on how to get off of this lift. The ground came up to meet us, my stomach dropped to my knees, and I somehow awkwardly managed to get into an upright position without causing too much commotion.
But, that was just the first ten feet.
I looked around me and realized that I couldn’t see the bottom of this mountain. I couldn’t see anything but lots of snowy death traps that were supposed to lead me back to safety, to a lodge with a fireplace, hot chocolate, laughing children, kittens, musicals, happiness, and all the things I thought I would never see again after I perished somewhere on this huge snow-covered rock.
We started out, the whole family gathered around me as if they could help, but we all knew that skiing is like birthing a baby. It’s just something you’ve gotta do yourself. They watched me fall. They tried to coach me. They knowingly glanced at each other over my head as my rear hit the snow. I literally got up, skiied two feet, fell, got up, skiied two feet, fell. Everyone on the mountain was watching me. Thank goodness no one had smart phones back then or I would have definitely ended up on Youtube.
Finally, this blessed angel of a woman who was patroling the mountain told my mother-in-law that if they didn’t get me off the mountain I would never want to ski again. (“Too late,” I thought.) She walkie-talkied some very compassionate people who came and picked me up and literally carried me, little puffy me, with skis in hand, back to the lift, which they put me on and sent me back down the mountain.
I refer to this part of the story as “The Ride of Shame.” The really humiliating part about riding DOWN the lift is that you have to pass all the people who are riding UP it. So, here I was, meeting all these skiiers eye to eye. Tight black pant wearing, coordinated skiiers. Easily one of the most uncool moments of my life. I didn’t start tearing up until they started shouting out encouragement.
“Bless your heart!”
“It’s alright, honey.”
“You poor thing.”
Some just pointed and laughed. But, you know what? All I cared about was that I made it to the bottom of the mountain SOMEHOW. In one, teary, puffy, non-broken, non-dead piece.
It took a little time before I developed a sense of humor about the whole experience. I recall possibly asking Chad and his dad if something was funny when they giggled about it at the end of the day. They were wise enough/scared enough/kind enough to stop laughing and help me get my ski boots off.
The next time someone invites me to go skiing, I will definitely go. And sit in the lodge with a good book, sipping hot chocolate by a big roaring fire. I’ll leave the skiing to the cool people.