Lost in Midlife column: Skiing by the seat of your pants
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
I am not a terrible skier, but I am not a particularly good skier either. On the Official Bumbling Ski Scale, I fall somewhere between a 3-year-old on the bunny slopes and those beginner adults you see on the intermediate slopes with their arms flailing wildly and their faces frozen in an expression of sheer panic. Having skied for about 15 years now I can usually manage to get down one of the lesser slopes without careening into either another skier or a tree. Therefore, I am at my best when there are neither other skiers nor trees in my path. And naturally, things can get a little dicey when I encounter both.
Such was the case when I hit the slopes over the holidays. I hadn’t been skiing for three years because I’d had a knee replacement, and for some reason, I was under the delusion that my limited ski skills had improved tenfold during my hiatus. Without a second thought, I hopped on the chair lift and skied over to one of the more advanced slopes.
This was probably my first mistake. When I got to the top of the trail, I realized the slope was not only steeper than I’d remembered, it was also narrower. It was also much busier than the easier slopes I usually skied. As expert skiers whizzed by me, I wondered if I might be better off feigning an injury so I could get a ride down in a stretcher, before I got an actual injury skiing off a cliff.
Unfortunately, as I stood there wondering if my will was up to date, I got caught up in a tide of teenage snowboarders who carried me over the edge of the slope. I managed to get about halfway down doing a combination of skiing and sliding and was actually beginning to believe I would make it down alive, when all of a sudden I came upon a wall of skiers. Apparently this group thought it would be fun to ski down the mountain with arms linked, side-by-side, like some kind of special skiing Rockettes. This may, in fact, have been fun for them, but it created a bit of a problem for me since I was going much faster than they were and there was no place for me to pass them. Since I couldn’t go through them and I couldn’t go over them, I did the only thing I could do … I tried to go around them. The good news was, I managed not to hit any of the people in the ski wall. The bad news was, I hit a tree instead.
Did I mention I’m not very good at stopping, either?
I guess I should thank that tree for jumping out in front of me like that and helping me stop. However, I think it might have been a softer impact had I slammed into a person rather than a tree.
Somehow though, somewhat miraculously, I escaped from my tree altercation completely unscathed. As I plucked pine needles from my helmet and confirmed that I had no broken bones, I got back on the slope, which was now less steep and completely uncrowded, and skied down to the bottom.
When I arrived at the base I ran into a friend who was headed for the chair lifts.
“Hey, is it a good ski day?” she asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said, “But it’s a great day for careening into a tree.”
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