Before I met Arlene (ex-wife) I had lived 27 blissful years neither needing, nor wanting, to ski. Unfortunately for me, after meeting Arlene and her family, things quickly went downhill (that can be taken in so many ways). Arlene and her family were all skiers -- they had even skied in Austria. After dating for three months, Arlene wanted to bring me on a ski trip with her family. Being a foolish young man in love, I happily agreed to get ski equipment and learn how to ski.
My friend Phil (Blues name Blind Dog) was already a skier so I thought I'd borrow some of his equipment to save money in case this whole ski adventure (and Arlene thing) did not work out. I knew nothing of skiing, so when he handed me his snow bibs, I squeezed into them.
"How's this look?" I asked, with no idea why Phil was laughing so hard; I thought the gear looked fine, maybe the top of the pants were a little snug around my waist.
"You realize," he was able to say between his gasps of laughter, "they are supposed to come up over your chest."
Okay, so now I had to buy ski clothes.
After a short time (and a great deal of money) I appeared in the role of an experienced skier -- short of the fact that I had yet to touch a mountain. My first trip with Arlene and her family was to Breckenridge, Colorado. During the van ride from the airport to the ski lodge I was not comforted by the news story on the radio -- a story I would hear the entire time I was in Colorado: there had been an avalanche and they were currently looking for six skiers who were all presumed dead.
Tell me again why I was doing this? Oh, yeah, love (sex).
The next day I found myself at the bottom of the mountain waiting to get on the chair lift. After my one hour lesson on the bunny slope (I felt prepared). I was told it was easy getting on the lift -- getting off the ski lift was a whole other issue.
"When you get off the lift, just snowplow," Arlene told me.
By the end of that week I had learned to hate the word "snowplow." Apparently, in the world of skiing, "snowplow" solves every problem.
"Oh my God, I can't stop!"
"I think I'm going to run into those trees!"
"You look really fat in that dress."
Okay, maybe not every problem.
As we headed up the mountain on the lift, I fixated on how I would get off that thing. As we climbed skyward I was terrified, not of skiing down this mountain, but of the small little slope of snow that awaited me at the end of that ride. With all that, the small voice in my head just kept repeating, "don't fall off the chair -- don't fall off the chair."
Surprisingly, I jumped off the chair, did not fall, and slowly "snowplowed" to a safe gentle stop. That was easy.
Now filled with a confidence I did not deserve I slowly skied toward the top of the trail. I skied to the right -- my plan was to serpentine the mountain until I reached the bottom.
The mountain, however, had other plans for me.
As I started back to my left the tips of my skies turned and pointed down the mountain like nails toward a magnet. In less than the time it took me to scream, "oh s*it!" I was off. Faintly, in the distance behind me, I heard Arlene yell, "SNOWPLOW!" At this point I needed a real plow to be parked in front of me because I had no idea how to stop. My speed increased as I divided the skiers in front of me. Some shouted encouragement as I flew past them; others cursed me as I tried not to die.
As I neared the bottom of the trail I had no choice. I tensed every muscle and just fell over. I skidded and rolled and eventually came to a stop. I jumped up, hands raised in victory toward the sun -- yeah, I meant to do that, I hoped they'd think, but people had stopped watching.
After a few more runs I did start to feel comfortable in my new skin, so on the second day I went up with Arlene and her family to the restaurant at the very top of the mountain. There was a green (novice) and a blue (intermediate) trail I could take back down after we had something to eat.
As we headed back down after lunch Arlene and her sisters assured me that I should follow them and they would point me in the direction of the green trail. I skied behind them and just as I picked up a little speed, they all turned at once and screamed "GO BACK!"
The combination of snow, skies, and gravity does not allow anyone to "GO BACK" no matter how loud you shout it.
In another moment I saw the reason for their concern -- the only way down from this point was a Double Black Diamond Moguls trail which is the Darth Vader of ski trails. I crept to the edge and looked down. If I could get past the moguls I might be able to survive the trip to the bottom. With great trepidation I navigated through the mine field I found myself in and came out clean on the other side -- but still had the mountain to conquer. Emboldened by that accomplishment I started to snowplow toward the tree line on my right. Then, much like the day before, my skies turned on their own, and I found myself once again heading toward my demise. This time, with much greater speed and not so much heading down the mountain but towards the ominous tree line.
Within seconds I wasn't given the choice to fall, I just did -- but my momentum did not. I was still heading toward the trees. My goggles flew off my head and my poles deserted me. I kicked at my skies, trying to disengage them from my boots but, unlike the poles, they felt compelled to stay with me to the bitter end. I threw off my gloves and tried to grip the mountain itself -- a cartoon character leaving miles of fingernail scratches in the snow.
Eventually I felt myself slow down and then stop. Flat on my back I lifted my head and watched as Arlene casually skied toward me picking up the scattered rain of my equipment and pride that peppered the mountain face.
My belongings returned, I told Arlene I had had enough. I did the skier's walk of shame as I headed down the mountain and back to the lodge, skies on my shoulder, pretty sure that the only snow covered mountains I ever wanted to see again were on the label of a cold bottle of Coors.