03/09/2015 12:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I'm A Fast Learner

Nancy Roman

I hate the expression "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

Learning has nothing to do with age. Why, just in the last few years, I have figured out how to write and manage a blog; how to install and use a scanner; how to work my new iPhone -- I've even downloaded two (count 'em, two!) apps.

I drove my husband's truck with the plow attached. (I am not claiming to have parked it.)

And I learned how to make pretzels.


(I may need a bit more practice on the shape.)

But even though I believe you can learn anything at any age, I will admit that there are some things that are better learned when you're young.

Like skiing.

I learned to cross-country ski at age 32, and I did pretty well. Of course, cross-country skiing is sort of like how you skated across the kitchen floor in your stocking feet when you were 8. And there's nothing to be afraid of. If I come across a steep descent, I just snap my boots out of my skis and walk around it.

But at age 37, I met a man who ski skied. Like downhill. Downhill skiing isn't really downhill, it's down mountain.

But I was game. (Actually I was in love, and therefore insane.)

So, I went to a medium-sized local mountain with this man and his son. I persuaded Boyfriend not to watch me, and so he happily went to the black diamond hill with his 11-year-old. I rented boots, skis and poles, and inched my way to the instruction slope.

'Slope' was an exaggeration. The grade was about the same as the floor of my shower, so that the water runs into the drain. But I was cool gliding down the gentle path with the rest of my class. The rest of my class were toddlers.

"Don't feel bad," said the teacher. "Toddlers have a very low center of gravity. You are much more tippy, so it's harder for you."

I was pleased by this, since I thought by "tippy," he might mean "stacked," and that made me like my new ski jacket quite a bit.

After about half of hour of easy practice, I graduated. I went to the bunny hill. I had to get on the little ski-lift and take a short ride. Getting off was very brave. and then I made slow, wide (almost horizontal) zig-zags down the hill.

My boyfriend showed up and I did it again with him. I was very pleased with myself. And I had that little tag on my jacket that told the world I was a skier. It was exhilarating.

We broke up the next week.

The following year, I met the man who became my husband.

And unbelievably, he was another skier! But OK, I could tell him that I skied "a little."

More unbelievably, he seemed to be in love with me. He planned a ski vacation, and when I told him I would rent equipment, his smitten little self took me to the local ski shop and bought me skis, boots, poles, goggles and an even cuter ski jacket with matching pants, mittens and headband. I was a doll.

So we go to a REAL mountain in Vermont. I donned my new ensemble and we headed for a very big ski lift and a very tall mountain. Only it was called The Bunny Hill. "This can't be the bunny hill," I told my sweetheart.

And I got to the top and fell off the ski lift. "I'm OK," I said cheerfully.

And we started down. DOWN.

My boots hurt, I couldn't control my direction and I was unable to make those big sideways swaths I had learned the previous year. I went straight downhill like a racer, only with my poles flailing like cockeyed windmills.

For about 30 feet. I managed to stop by using my face as a brake.

After I got my head out of the snow, I sat down and cried a little bit. My sweetie tried to coax me back on my feet, and I cried harder.

"Can't I take my skis off and walk down?" I asked.

Eventually, we took it little by little, and he guided me slowly down the mountain. I skied all the way down in snowplow position. Which is exhausting.

And I didn't ski again. And he married me anyway.

But I learned to ski as an adult. So don't be telling me you can't teach an old dog new tricks!


Photo and Illustration by Nancy Roman.

**Read more from Nancy at her blog "Not Quite Old."