Just got home from a three day trip to Tahoe to see my sister, Trace. She took a job at Heavenly this winter for two reasons: to have a good time and to become a better snowboarder. Let’s be honest. When she started the season, she was pretty awkward, maybe even terrible. But now she is an inspiration to anyone who sucks on the slopes. She’s a great snowboarder! I was very impressed.
Trace and I were never meant to excel on the slopes. We grew up in Iowa, where it snows a lot, but the land is flat. There is a “mountain” for skiing called Snowstar in Andalusia, IL. The lyrics to the theme song went like this: “Snowstar! You’ve got to ski it to believe it! Where to go for some ex-cel-lent SNOW!” I just checked out the Snowstar website, and it doesn’t seem as sad and terrible as I remember, but then again, maybe it was just my one experience there that was sad and terrible.
In 1998, my 8th grade class went on a ski trip to Snowstar. I had never skiied before, but everyone in my class seemed to know how, so I decided to just follow along and not take a lesson. You know, a lesson? What total dorks take? I’m sure that was my train of thought. Did I think about the fact that I was the worst kid athlete in the history of Holy Family Parish School? No. And what good would a lesson do me anyway?
I got my skis on and pointed them down the hill. I flew down the hill, way faster than my friends, proud that I seemed to have some natural talent at skiing. At the end of the hill, I just fell over on the ground because I never learned a proper stop technique. The fall really hurt too, because I was going so fast. But I had to go fast. I never learned proper turn technique.
My friend Mary skiied over to me at the bottom of the hill and helped me get on my feet. “You were going so fast, I thought you were going to hit something, go flying, and DIE!” Mary told me. It was that moment that I found out that skiing was dangerous.
We went over to lift, a two person chair. I ended up being odd 8th grade student out and had to ride the lift with a stranger. A man. We didn’t speak. The chair moved slowly, and I could hear my classmates in the chairs in front of me and behind me talking to each other. After what seemed like forever (it was a pretty slow lift), I could see we were getting close to the top. Without warning, the stranger leaped forward and high into the air, and skiied off. What a daredevil. The lift was now lowering to a level more comfortable for most skiers, no leaping necessary. I was almost comfortable, but decided to wait until the lift dipped just a little lower. It did, more comfortable for me, but it could still go lower. I waited patiently for it to go as low as possible when…it suddenly started going higher! And higher. And it turned around to face the bottom of the hill.
This is where someone is supposed to stop the lift and help the poor skiier get off. Today, the lift operator at Snowstar wasn’t paying attention. And so I rode around, ALL THE WAY AROUND, on that lift while my sweet sympathetic classmates laughed, pointed, and took pictures (for the yearbook). I was embarrassed, pathetic, and alone with a bunch of empty chairs.
Once I reached the bottom, I rode the lift back up, got off the lift correctly, returned my skis, and went to the lodge for six hot chocolates.
Years later, I took ski lessons in Canada. I’m a decent skiier now, but I’m very slow. I’m still very afraid that if I go too fast, I will “hit something, go flying, and DIE.” This weekend, I had a great time skiing at Heavenly with my sister. We had no problems with the lifts, but yesterday we decided to end early anyway and head into the lodge for our equivalent of six hot chocolates: a cold pitcher of beer. And a brownie sundae.