We all have those funny stories we share about our times at skiing. This is one of my favorites.
A friend and I had decided to go for a trip in the Rockies to go skiing. As all trips are hatched from a desire to “get away”, this trip was nothing extraordinary. The concept was simple, drive to Colorado and rent a room, easy task and successfully accomplished.
Now I must inform you that I am no slouch on the slopes, I can even do a few tricks, such as 360’s and small jumps. I have always been a quick study and athleticism is in my nature. But snow skiing is something that when not practiced for years at a stretch, usually requires some rejuvenation of the muscle memory. It is not unexpected that the first ‘run’ down the slope will not be very graceful, and falling down or having a tumble is almost always a certainty.
So we finally have our gear rented, Boots locked on, skies latched and riding the ski lift up to the the upper slopes of the mountain. I have never understood this inaccurately donned nomenclature, Ski Lift. Shouldn’t that be a people lift or better yet a vista glide?
The views gliding up the vista glide, for my part, are breathtaking, and always have a sensation of tranquility. I do not suffer from the effects of nervousness, I like the thrill of doing dangerous or scary activities, it wakens my spirit.
As the tops of the pine trees move slowly past our dangling hardware and the mountain seems to shrink in scope. I breath the cool crisp mountain air deep into my lungs and the purpose of this getaway is taking its effect. I am at one with the world, all is right again. The chaos, that over the past few months, has evaporated like smoke from a snuffed-out candle. It is just in time too, for it is our turn to raise the safety bar and dismount the vista glide.
I may approach this exercise without fear but there’s always that moment of uncertainty. That vision in your mind of collapsing and taking your vista glide companions to the snowpack in a hep of entangled bodies.
Maybe it is not miraculous that we all disembark without a mishap, but there is always that feeling of a disaster that has been avoided. We slide on past the marshaling area just beyond the giant sideways windmill apparatus. I slip into a mutual understanding of Don Quixote’s vision of “the giant that must be vanquished”.
My travel companion is like a child when it come to bravado and responsibility, He jets down the mountain without a word spoken to me. I know how he is and I will find him waiting for me, again, like an impatient child, at the vista glide. I on the other hand like to take my time, where speed is my friend’s objective, style and technique are mine.
I take it, turn by turn, down the long wide slope with measured exactitude. I feel every undulation under my feet, leaning into the turns, the grip of the ice and packed snow as it catches the edge of my skis. It is a ballet, a dance between me and the mountain. I do not squirt over the top of the slope, like a meteor zooming towards a sudden stop. I meander with artful purpose. I take in the beauty and majesty of the nature that has welcomed me into its fold, as an old friend.
As I am slaloming like a champ, I see that the way ahead has a modification in the slope. The easy meandering must be altered to travers a tight downward turn to the right. So I set my skis and follow the tight alley that is discovered to be a short cutback that will soon turn left. This left turn leads down a very steep slope that will open back out into another low slung meandering and graceful trail.
As I am planning my turn down the left bank, I notice a High berm. This additional, and optional detour was developed by many more adventurous daredevils, over a very long period of time. This magnificent feature raises about forty-feet up the facing embankment like an inverted ‘U’. I only have a few seconds to make up my mind. I go for it!
Now mind you, I am still only about five minutes into ‘finding my sea-legs’, as it were. Yet, this thought never made it into my formulation and decision making process. The vision of impending catastrophe, of what could go wrong, has also been, found vacant in the idea of storming up this obstacle. It is as if the demon on my shoulder had a megaphone and the angel was fast asleep. I barreled on!
As I take up speed to reach the apex of the berm, I calculate the trajectory of my accent. Yes, I was wholly committed to it now. I was calculating this part, but obviously, I was only using half my brian, the childish part of my brain. That, of which, my companion always applied to his reckless behaviors. I zoom up the berm like Zeus reaching for lightening bolts to shock the world with his great power! At the apex, I turn deftly, like a pro, I was at my best form and like a pendulum I lingered but a moment as I started to plunge down the steep slope at a breakneck speed!
Then something seemed a bit out of place. I could feel under my feet, that this side of the slope was washed in the suns glare for a good part of the day and it was now a sheet of ice! The soft gliding snow had instantly become a rough washboard of glass and there was no way to gain purchase with my skis. I had instantly became a falling object heading straight for the bottom. Where, from this new perspective, it then took a radical turn to the right.
I mastered my mind and body and did my best to conquer my trajectory, it was more like a rock sliding down a mountain. But I somehow caught enough bite with the edge of my skis to master the turn, I had made it. Not the most graceful act of falling/skiing but success must be accepted. I was now barreling down the sharp drop to the plateau a couple hundred yards away. A place where I could return to the leisurely dance I had first started just minutes before.
Then a curious thing happened. It was as if the world was pulled out from under the apparatus seemingly permanently attached to my feet. I was rolling and bouncing like a rage ball in a clothes dryer. After what seemed like forever, the bouncing and crashing stopped and with the lessening of the momentum, the sliding and spinning started. I was flat on my back now, the sky framed by the tree tops that were spinning in front of my eyes. I must had looked like Bambi sliding on the frozen pond, all limbs spread out in a windmill arrangement. Then I finally came to a stop.
At first, I was dumbfounded, then I felt the extreme pain in my knee. The pain in my knee was clouded by the initial pain from every other part of my body. I just laid there, in shock I suppose.
I must add here, that I have never been prone to breaking easily, I have ever only broken my nose, little toe and the mandible in my hand. I could tell the pain was bad but I also felt I was still intact. I was alive. I was embarrassed and I was alone. Thank god, no one had seen this disastrous attempt at me trying be a daredevil.
As I lay their gathering my senses and mentally licking my wounded spirit. Out of the silence, I heard a load swoosh! That ever familiar sound that a snowboard makes when grinding to a stop. Then a voice. It was clearly not God, so I was not dead! It was the voice of a young teenager or perhaps a young man.
“Dude! That was gnarly! Are you alright?? In the most California, skateboarding slang you could imagine!
He was now bending over my face, his upside-down to my eye. The ski cap on his head with dangling ear-flaps and yarn balls swinging freely in front of his face and mine. It made me smile and blurt out a snort of a laugh at the sound of his voice and the visage of his image. It seemed both surreal and hilarious at the same time.
“Ya, I think I am alright, my knee hurts but I think”…
I lifted my knee from the ground and flexed it gingerly. It was bruised but not broken.
“It isn’t broken but I will be sore for a few days for sure.” I replied with a grimace that couldn’t be masked.
“Should I get you the ski-patrol Dude?” Again with that thick skateboard accent.
“No, I will be fine.” I started to get up slowly and the ‘Dude’ assisted with a gloved hand under my armpit.
“That was radical Dude. My buddy is collecting your stuff, man what a garage sale!” He started snorting out an uncontrolled laugh now that he knew I was okay.
Garage sale was the correct term too. It means you have stuff scattered in every direction. I had lost both skis, poles, my stocking cap, my sunglasses and one glove! My dignity was scatted everywhere!!
I now took time to look to how far I had ‘fallen’, it was about seventy-five yards from the base of the berm. That tumble took up a lot of real estate!
The two ‘Dudes’ helped me get my crap together and as soon as I had. They speed down the slope, laughing and talking about how “that was an epic crash”.
I too, followed their lead down the steep slope, gingerly at first to make sure I really was not too seriously hurt. They soon where but a memory.
As I reflected upon my situation I knew my pride had taken the biggest hit. But know I had my muscle memory back and would be fine from that point forward. Until I came back to the slopes a few years later.