Please excuse me if this is brief; it’s really hard to type when you’re in traction.
Just kidding. Some of you thought that was a real possibility, though, didn’t you? But I am home, safe and sound. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from skiing after 23 years away from it. But just like me, some things were the same and some were radically different. Here are a few of my observations:
Observation #1: The Weather Channel is never to be trusted.
Last week they said it was going to be bright and sunny for our trip. Just what I wanted – spring skiing! So imagine my surprise when on the first morning we woke up to snow. I went to the Weather Channel app and drilled down to their 15 minute forecasts. They said the snow would stop by 10:15. It didn’t.
Observation #2: Ticket pricing makes no sense.
I was surprised to learn that the age for a “senior” ticket is 65. This struck me as strange. Last week I went to the movies and was able to buy a “senior” ticket and the sum total of my physical exertion was to amble down a concourse, balancing a Pepsi and popcorn, and sit in a cushioned seat for two hours. Here, they strap two fiberglass boards to my feet, haul me up to 9,000 feet, expect me to slide down on snow and ice, and somehow I’m just an “adult”. This whole “senior” ticket thing is going to require some investigation.
Observation #3: Technology is a beautiful thing.
And specifically, I’m talking about the improvement in fabric and equipment. I have lots of memories of skiing while freezing. I used to dress in so many layers that I looked like a shoplifter. And I still froze. No more. I wore a thin ski t-shirt under my parka and I was toasty, even in snow and 20 mph winds.
Skis are better too. They used to be the height of my arm raised over my head. Now, the skis barely come up to my chin. I like anything that gives me more control and these new skis are like my own little minion, awaiting my command. Even the tickets are digital. They look like a hotel room key, and when placed in your pocket, allow you to ski right through the lift portals. The portals look something like the security scanners you go through at the airport only without the annoying TSA agents frisking you and stealing your stuff.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is ski boots. Although they were comfortable and warm, they gave me all the grace and agility of Frankenstein. It was not lost on me that I could survive the skiing, only to break my arm doing a face plant coming down the steps from the bathroom.
Observation #4: The 60’s are alive and well in skiing.
One of the major changes to skiing in these 20 plus years is the advent of the snow boarder. Most of these kids (and they are almost ALL kids) look like real slackers. I sized a few of them up on our first day. They probably thought I was staring at their great outfits. I wasn’t. I was assessing each one of them as potential human missiles that would later be careening down the hill aimed right at me. But on some of our gondola rides we met a few of them and almost all were college graduates, just “chilling” for a while before they got a real job. For those of us who came of age in the ‘60’s this sounded awfully familiar.
The other similarity to the ‘60’s was the spirit of fraternity and honesty among skiers. When we stopped to get lunch on the first day I suggested that we rent a locker to store our skis while we ate. My husband looked at me like I had lost my mind (this happens off the ski slopes as well). We simply leaned them against the railing and left them there, for the entire world to see – and steal. We also left our parkas, gloves and goggles on a table while we went to another room to get lunch. And when we came back, they were still there. Maybe I’ve lived in major cities for too long, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is still a place where people don’t take things that don’t belong to them. That said, I’m not sure I’d leave my iPad unattended.
Observation #5: It pays to set reasonable expectations.
I used to be a pretty good skier. But after such a long absence I set new expectations. Very LOW expectations. The last run I skied all those years ago was at Mammoth, and it is called Stump Alley. I’ve always assumed its name refers to the trees, not the appendages of humans who have fallen. It’s a fairly steep intermediate run and I pretty much knew that my days of skiing “Stump” were over. I was perfectly content to start – and stay – on the bunny slopes. You know, the ones with six year olds whizzing past and people bent over like they are in a perpetual state of looking for their car keys.
But here’s the thing: just as everyone assured me, skiing is like riding a bike. By the second run of the day I had my “legs”. That familiar pole plant-weight shift feeling came back. It was awesome. The rest of the trip was one joyous run after another.
There’s also a big mental benefit to skiing; it requires your complete attention. Usually I’m a prodigious day dreamer. I contemplate a million things on the golf course – the fabric for the family room chairs, what to fix for dinner, why that person said she had a 5 when I know she had a 6. But a lapse in focus while skiing can have disastrous results. So for the entire time I was skiing I didn’t think, or worry, about anything except keeping my knees bent and my weight on the downhill ski. As my husband said “Skiing is good for the soul.”
Observation #6: There’s a missed opportunity here.
Okay, it wasn’t all perfect. I did fall once. I put my weight too far back when I came to a stop and fell backwards on my butt. Nothing spectacular, in fact it was one of those stupid things you do and then look around in the fervent hope that no one saw you. But that wasn’t the worst part. I could not get up. After several humiliating tries I finally had to take my skis off. The only way I could stand up was to roll over and claw my way to an erect position, looking like a polar bear digging for roots. So here’s my idea: Life Alert for the ski slopes. One little squeeze of a button and some cute ski patrol guy would come along and help you up. I think I’m on to something.
So, that was my trip. I’ve spent some moments being mad at myself for having missed all this fun for so many years. I don’t know why we tend to be afraid of active sports as we get older. I suspect it is the fear of getting hurt. But living life being afraid just isn’t a very satisfying way to live. So from now on I will apply my re-conquest of skiing to other things in my life that I have been afraid to try. Except hang gliding. I’m not completely stupid.
Oh yeah – guess which run I skied on the second day? Stump Alley! Here’s a picture of me at the bottom of it. At 61 I skied the same run that I did at 38. Next time I’m not waiting 23 years between runs.