To Ski or Not to Ski (Silly Question?)

The modern day "Pink Ladies" are ready to tear it up! (My daughter and me)

The modern day “Pink Ladies” are ready to shred it! (My daughter and me)

There’s snow up in the mountains, the annual ski swap is the “happening” hot spot and ski school is booked (don’t tell my kids…for some unknown reason they want to ski with Dad and Mom).  Everyone in our southwestern Colorado town is counting down the days until the official start of (downhill) ski season.  That is, unless you are one of those hard core individuals who enjoys the relatively insane sport of backcountry skiing, then you have been schussing for a few weeks now.

My son was unhappy with me yesterday for telling him we couldn’t go skiing after school.  Never mind a) he doesn’t yet have skis and boots as he outgrew last season’s, and b) the ski resort doesn’t open for another several days.  But I love his enthusiasm.  And my daughter’s…but her excitement is drawn not just from the fun of tearing though the half pipe but also from the fact she has a brand new, bright coral ski jacket to wear.

As for me, I approach ski season with relative trepidation, although less so than I did last year.  My first foray into the downhill sport came just three years ago, when I was 41, and let’s just say it’s been a bit of a hard sell.  Last season, however, with a better-fitting pair of ski boots, I met my goal of skiing down a blue, or intermediate-level, run.  Then I did several.  “Zinfandel” is my favorite, as this is what I want (need) when I get to the bottom of the mountain.  To say I am a proficient skier is going too far, but I can handle the expected.  I cannot handle moguls, but let’s not talk about that.

However, in honor of the opening of ski season, here is a repost of To Ski or Not to Ski, is That REALLY the Question? from January 29, 2014.  

When my family moved to Colorado a year ago, we were frequently asked: “Do you ski?” Being new in town I could hardly state my feelings on the subject so instead gave the hard, cold facts: “My kids and I are taking lessons.” My husband learned as a teenager and has several of the premiere ski resorts in Colorado under his belt so he already fit into the fold of our ski-adoring community. But the kids and I didn’t even know what “binders” were. Needless to say, we had a long way to go.

Oh, yes, I mentioned “feelings,” didn’t I? Um…well. Let’s put it this way: I do not feel the need for speed. And barreling down a slippery slope attached to two long, tractionless slabs of…ski-material-stuff… sounds like a bad idea. Terrible, even. Thus, this midwestern girl (read: someone who thinks her driveway is a steep grade) wouldn’t have even though to become a ski bunny had she not landed in the mecca of skiing bunnies, bums and everyone in between. And all of them ski the double-black-diamond death runs at that.

Now, I firmly believe in second chances. But that means there’s been a first chance somewhere out there. Plus skiing is culture, a way of life, in the Rockies. Yet another avenue to appreciate the astounding beauty around us. A way to make new friends and get involved in our new community. Why be an idiot and reject something most everyone loves? Especially without giving it a shot. But on the other hand, why be an idiot and break a hip?

I consulted with the wonderful young woman who cuts my hair, also a midwestern gal. She had similar fears about skiing when she moved to Colorado. But she learned to do it and love it. And then she broke her leg and lived to share her experience. Then dared to ski again. In Telluride. That got my attention. Telluride is wicked-awesome any time of year. But skiing there? That would be a story to write home about. So I thought maybe I should give this downhill thing a go.

The kids and I signed up for ski lessons at a resort not far from where we live. My daughter was completing turns by the end of morning. Me? The only “turns” in my day were the turns different areas of the ski slope had in meeting my rear end. And I was DONE. So DONE. I hadn’t learned a thing. Despite my instructor shouting pointers such as “You’re doing it wrong!!!” in the direction of my twisted array of limbs, poles and skis, I wasn’t interested in hitting the slopes again.

But here’s the thing. Well, two things. I believe in second chances. And I also wanted to set a good example for my kids. While I waxed negative to my husband about everything ski-related from my idiot ski instructor to the uncomfortable ski boots, I spoke nothing of the sort to my kids. I wanted them to also believe in second opportunities and understand that failure is a part of learning and practice breeds improvement. I waxed positive to them and wondered privately how I would motivate myself to take on more of what I had suffered that morning. I had so many bumps and bruises I felt like I had played four quarters of gridiron football.

The next week, the kids and I took a family lesson. From Cody. Sweet ski-dude Cody. Cody treated me just like one of the kids. I guess my fear and nervousness was palpable not only to me but to him as well. He gave me extra reassurance and also spoke a language I could relate to: “Pizza” and “French Fries.” Which got me thinking about the amazing marriage of pizza crust and macaroni and cheese concocted by the ski village pub. THAT was worth tumbling down an icy hill for. In short, Cody had my number.

He also had my six-year-old daughter’s attention. She was still at the age where seeing her flirt was quite amusing. Her mischievous smile as Cody caught her and kept her from skiing out-of-control kept me entertained and enjoying our instruction on the slopes. I even learned to turn, tentatively. Toes up the way you want to go. And simultaneously, toes down the way you don’t. Cody made sense. Probably because he took the Elmo approach to teaching and my first instructor took the way of Bobby Knight. My advice? Chose your ski instructor based on your mental age (mine must be age six) and find one that teaches to that age group in physical years. Miracles will occur.

We all had fun. My son and I got tangled up and giggled our way through the sorting out of limbs. We “Three Stooged” our way off the ski lift. The kids screamed, “Pizza, Mom, Pizza!” to my back as they watched me skid down the bunny hill. (In ski-speak that means “Slow down” not “We’re hungry!”.) We were learning how to schuss down a mountain. “Schuss,” of course, being an overstatement at that point but the four of us realized our potential. And yet again, I saw that second chances have a real payoff. And my kids saw what a fun, family activity skiing could become.

Now second second chances are not my forte. The payoff there has been nil (as in the sampling of marmalade and Vegemite…separately, not at the same time) so I approach those opportunities with trepidation. Sometimes I need a little nudge. When ski season rolled around this past fall, my family and I went to the local ski swap offering deeply-discounted used equipment for purchase so a family of five (like ours) can avoid spending the equivalent of a Disney vacation on new stuff. I laughed to myself when my husband sent me to pick out a pair of skis for myself. I had worn skis exactly three times and was no where near qualified to choose a pair, that being glaringly evident when a young couple I passed by were looking for skis with “sex appeal.”

Fortunately a volunteer got me outfitted in a flash with a cute set…gold and bronze and maroon. The odd “sex appeal” comment on my brain I had thought about asking him for something that wouldn’t make my butt look too big, but decided a guy tossing out terms like “camber” “sidecut” and “twin-tip” wouldn’t be amused. I was now outfitted for the upcoming ski season, and very cheaply at that. Easy on the wallet is good for a rookie who probably would be falling more than schussing.

And a few weeks later….

“It’s just like riding a bike!!!” said the lift operator as my husband and I hopped on for the first ski run of our first full ski season in Colorado. I was timidly excited, if that makes any sense. I ended on a high note last year so I hoped he was right.

He wasn’t.

I fell.

I cried, I was so sore.

The next week I returned to the Bunny Hill (not the mountain, which I now know was a stupid move on my part, while not accustomed to my own equipment).

I took it slow.

Then I sped up, making turns, digging my outer ski into the powder.

Soon I was whizzing to the bottom of the hill and coming to a stop right in front of the lift, not a hundred feet away. This was important to me: I never thought I could be one of those skiers who could do that.

I was making headway. Or more accurately, “legway.”

More importantly? My kids are now skiing. Taking intermediate runs down the mountain. And loving it. I’m so happy I kept my mouth shut on my skiing frustrations because now they are hooked. And I am getting there. For a midwestern girl who is ingrained with the dread of winter, I am now hoping for fresh powder… a HUGE shift in mindset. But I’ll be honest, slippery slopes scare the heck out of me: fluffy snow (pow-wow as I understand it’s called) is a newbie’s friend. I think I’ll start believing in those second-second chances. That’s bigger than any ski mountain around.

So. “To ski or not to ski?” As a billboard in our town would state: “Silly question!” And I think that response is spot-on. The real question? “To give second chances or not to give second chances?” Well, you know how I feel…

We may be smiling, but this ski lift is scary: it bounces and it scoops riders up and spits them out at the top. I'm hanging on for dear life.

We may be smiling, but this particular ski lift is scary: it bounces and it scoops riders up and spits them out at the top. I’m hanging on for dear life.

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