Ten years ago, I fell into a tree well while skiing. I was in Smithers, B.C. for a swim meet (make sense of that). But in January 2012, I decided to take to the slopes again, hoping to make an impressive return to the sport.
I watched a bunch of pro ski videos on YouTube the night before we went to Mount Washington, so I was pretty pumped to get some planks on my feet and start shredding some slopes. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and jumped out of bed already dressed in my long johns and Merino wool under layers — it was a long, sweaty night but totally worth it.
We drove up the mountain in the Jetta and passed all those sporty SUV families with the “I heart skiing” stickers on the back window, but no winter tires. We arrived before the lodge was even open. I had to wait for the rental shop to finish having their morning staff meeting before some tired, pubescent ski-punk fitted me with the wrong size of boots. But not even a young punk could dampen my spirits on the day I was going to prove my ski abilities to the world. I strapped those beautiful planks onto my feet, and with the joy of a child feeding goats at a petting zoo, I took to the hill.
Now, hill is the wrong word. It was more of a gradual decline that led from the lodge to the Hawk Lift. Either way, as I started picking up marginal speed, I realized that I didn’t know how to stop or turn. I like to think I glided with both grace and an element of heroism into the snow bank, stopping just metres away from a steep drop-off.
My buddy swooshed in beside me, thinking I had experienced an unexpected bout of narcolepsy or suffered a limb-locking stroke. But no, I just couldn’t ski. It turns out he was a ski racer in high school and we had both overestimated my abilities. Although I had only skied once before, it should be just like riding a bike. It isn’t.
We ended up on those magic-carpet lifts with all the toddlers for the entire morning. I don’t think my ski buddy had a very great day as he would unclip from his skis and carry them up the carpet instead of gliding up with the rest of us (I would have unclipped, too, but I didn’t know how).
A year later, I’m doing much better. I don’t watch pro ski clips anymore because they make me feel bad. I’ve learned to turn and sometimes to stop.
In general, I’m better than toddlers, but still not as good as school-aged children. Those kids have no fear. They bomb down black diamonds going full French fry, laughing the entire way. Kids fly down with their arms out and no poles. They look like little wild seagulls or fluorescent snow-suited falcons. If I tried that, I’d get kicked off the hill and/or put on some personality altering medications.
No surprise, I’m not very good with kids, and I’m even worse with the ski kids. One time, a pack of 10-year-olds learning to ski trailed behind me. I was trying to take it calm and slow down the hill when the crazy, fearless ski-baby swarm attacked. They were weaving past each other down the hill, enveloping me on all sides. All I could see were their bright pink, blue and green snowsuits as they blurred down the hill at the speed of sound. I think they were aiming for me, like slalom, trying to come as close to the human flag as possible. The worst part is, through all this, I wasn’t worried about hurting them. I was worried about them hurting me, and I think it’s frowned upon to use ski poles as a weapon against the ski-babies, even if it’s defensive.
But yeah, a year later I think I ski better than a toddler. I went up to the hill last week and skied all blue runs, so I’m basically hot shit. I French fry, I snow plough; I like to mix it up.