It’s a sad thing seeing a native Floridian try to ski for the first time. The round bodies are made rounder by excessive layering. Stiff legs take rigid steps in an attempt to walk in something other than flip flops. Wobbly legs spreading into a split formation before giving out and causing a one-man wreck on ice. They seem so pathetic as you, the skiing prodigy, breeze by gracefully, shredding snow all over their foreign blubber.
It was at this point where I furiously shake my heat pack-filled glove at you and fruitlessly attempted to hit you with a poorly shaped snowball.
As part of my Christmas present from Santa (thanks Mom and Dad), I was given the gift of skiing. I’ve lived in Colorado for nearly two years now, but until last weekend I remained a ski-virgin. And let me tell you, my first time was as awkward and painful as any.
My sister and I signed up for beginner lessons at Arapahoe Basin in Keystone, Colorado. My dad and brother are three-time professional snowboarders, so they hurried off to the beginner slopes, leaving us to stand rigidly waiting for our instructor for another hour.
It was the Saturday morning after Christmas, so the resort was busy, but not packed. We watched as infants rushed by, sneaking into the lift line. I had a terrifyingly vivid vision of those babies sweeping out of the womb with tiny skis on their feet.
Lieutenant Loopy finally arrived and drilled us with mundane questions: Where are you from? What do you do for a living? Are you wearing sunblock? Do you like frostbite? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Actually, Lt. Loopy was a nice guy but my sister and I came to the consensus that he had see way too much time on the battlefield… of which we later found out was only the courtrooms.
Of we were, five women who have never skied before and our drill sergeant. He had us line up near the base of the slope, exposed to oncoming traffic. We practiced securing our bindings, shuffling up, down and across the hill, de-fogging our goggles, and pizza slices — except he didn’t call it pizza slices because “we weren’t children.” Yes, sir, Lt. Loopy, sir.
Eventually we moved on to the bigger playground with the toddlers, where we rode uphill on a conveyor belt and practiced our turning and pizza— sorry, I mean pointing our toes inward as we slid downhill. My sister fell once, tangling her legs and was met with a stern “just get up.” On the other hand, I am a quick learner and easily whizzed by those silly toddlers on their baby skis. The lieutenant’s “good job” growl was like earning a golden star in the class and I was eager and happy when I finally graduated to the slightly steeper beginner slope.
Unfortunately, we spent our entire time on the kiddie hill that we were only given the opportunity for one ride up the lift and one ride down the slope. Well, we were only supposed to go down once. I miscalculated the steepness of the slope and didn’t factor in my speed so I bolted past where the rest of the group stopped and blazed downhill.
It was a rush, though. I felt so light and powerful as the wind blew through my hair. I’ve never gone so fast on foot — a whopping, maybe 15 miles per hour. Even so, I was howling like I was on top of the world.
When I reached the base I looked up to see where the others were. I saw my instructor start after me. “I’m in trouble,” I thought, quickly trying to figure out an excuse for my accidental deviance. “What happened there?” He commanded. “Uh… I was going too fast and couldn’t stop… sir.” He simply grunted and we made our way back to the lift. I quietly celebrated the fact that I got a second turn but quickly changed my attitude when he glared at me (I don’t know that he actually glared, he had dark lenses on).
At the top, I slowly edged behind him. He looked back at me and said “follow me this time” before pushing off. I did as commanded and again felt that rush.
I mimicked his moves, turning left and right down the hill. I watched as he banked into the training area where we would take off our skis. I made the same maneuver and found an idle snowboarder in my crosshairs. Wanting to avoid a collision, I tried to turn my toes in the opposite direction as hard as I could. I was successful in avoiding the snowboarder, but it didn’t come without consequence.
My right leg kicked out, tripping me backward and I slammed the back of my head onto the ice. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet, but the snow pack is deceivingly hard. “Are you okay?” I looked over from my position on the ground and saw a man who looked freakishly like my uncle walk over and help gather my poles, which I had flung away from my body. I managed to untangle myself and shuffle over to where the Lieutenant stood watching. His gaze made me feel like an embarrassed puppy, tail tucked and head down.
“What happened there?” he barked.
“I don’t know,” I said sheepishly.
“I do. That snowboarder was in the way. Damn snowboarders…” he grumbled as he walked off.
I was in a daze. Whether from the fall or from the Lieutenant’s comments, I’m not sure. When I reunited with my sister, she howled with laughter at my tumble. I quickly reminded her that she fell first on the bunny slopes and we were both silenced by embarrassment, but not for long.
With our lessons, we earned a lift pass for the rest of the day and we both took several more runs down the beginner slope. After all, I had to make up. I still had trouble turning and stopping, but after more runs I eventually got some sort of grasp on it.
I don’t think the lessons were completely necessary, because I could have probably just watched others and practiced on my own. That’s what it felt like anyway. It’s still mid-season so I have plenty of time to get back on the slopes. I just need to work on those pizza slices first.