What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Skiing with Fiends

The other day, several fiends had the bright idea that a ski trip was in order. The idea was actually born a week or so ago, but the concept came to fruition Wednesday at an ungodly hour when we (the fiends and I) piled into a fifteen passenger van and rumbled toward the frozen slopes. We arrived, after a ride with thankfully little incident, to a view of a beautiful California slope and, this should have sent off the warning lights, a novice skier taking a nasty spill off the carefully manicured snow onto the cement parking lot ten feet below.

This was to be my second ski trip in five years. On my first outing, at an age much more tender than the one I now boast, I had an unfortunate accident and ended up breaking my thumb. I say unfortunate, not because of any permanent damage it caused (my finger was ugly before the incident), but because of the way it predisposed my mother against future skiing. During that period, any mention of a ski trip was met with a disgruntled look that clearly expressed “no;” I was forced to satisfy my fantasies of snow-scapes by making sand angles in our neighbor's unused sand box.

I still don't know why she approved this trip. Maybe she was distracted by my double-jointed thumb or perhaps she saw it as a punishment, a possibility that looks frighteningly real in retrospect. Whichever motive encouraged her consent, I had gotten the go-ahead and intended to ski with the best of them.

After picking out rental equipment – including a bright orange titanium helmet that emitted a strobe light and emergency beacon (my mother's idea) – I went on my first ride, the “kiddie slope.”

Before you start laughing at me, you gotta realize that these hills are poorly named. The slope looks a lot steeper from the top than it does from the bottom. And the fact that I took three nasty spills on a three percent grade in my first five minutes is perfectly natural given that I was wearing the skis backwards.

After I got my gear straightened out, I went with my fiends (who had only barely stopped laughing) up a large chairlift, toward the top of the mountain.

Getting on the chairlift was an experience in and of itself. Ours was a small “two-seater” lift and, after I was able to secure a place in line (“'scuse me!” “coming through!” “sorry about that!”), I was waved to the loading position. Two-seaters are designed with a couple of extra-small, obesity discouraging chairs attached to a cable via a sturdy bar. The unit, bar and all, came up behind me with all the speed of a raging bull and, before any of the attendants could react, spirited me away up the mountain.

I thought for sure something had gone awfully awry; I was sitting wrong (it was really uncomfortable), I was too heavy for the seat, the chair was broken (it kept on making these clicking noises). I am, to this moment, convinced that something was amiss and that sheer providence kept me from plummeting to broken bones.

You do a lot of soul searching thirty feet above hard packed snow with no buckle and only the gentle swaying of the chair to keep you company. A lot of soul searching. Why was I even going skiing? My mother's warnings ricocheted around my head like so many racquetballs and I pictured myself strung out in a full body cast à la Mad Mad Mad Mad World. My thoughts were so real and my dreams so vivid, sitting up above the snow, that I almost did something involuntary.

Were I weaker species, I would have stayed on the lift all the way round and returned to my departure point. But no! I could do this skiing thing.

With little more than a faded sign as warning, the chair dumped me unceremoniously on the snow, where I crumpled like a folding chair. I stayed there until an alpha male employee tapped me on the shoulder and informed me I was blocking the exit. I collected my skis and went to the trail head.

As I gazed at the assorted alpine sport enthusiasts zipping their way through the ice and powder, I was once again empowered. My fiends had chosen the “trick ride” slope for my first excursion. Littering the hill were oddly shaped jumps, rails and loop-d-loops. A few skiers were trying some of the tamer tricks, but the snowboarders, oh those snowboarders, were really tearing things up. One of my fiends was completing death defying (or is it death inviting) stunts at speeds I could only dream of.

Another fiend flew several feet in the air off a natural “jump,” or pile of snow and landed hard on his tail bone. The collective grimace of our party was audible, but our enthusiasm was unaffected.

With a “well, let's go,” I pushed off the hill, pointed my skis toward the bottom and tucked into the aerodynamic position reminiscent of Olympic down-hillers. That didn't last long. Whether the obstruction was a patch of ice or a loose twig is a question history can only guess at. One fact we can be assured of is that when things stopped moving my skis were fifty feet up the mountain and I had a mouth full of snow. My fiends thought this was funny.

My first trip down the mountain was a painful retelling of the above episode.

When we reached the bottom (my fiends some fifteen minutes before me), we hopped on the lift to attack the same slope a second time. As one fiend explained it to me (the one who fell on this tail bone), “you have to do the same run a couple times to get used to it; you can expect some falls the first time through.” Right.

When we got to the top, after another chair dumping, I decided, after much prodding from my fiends, to attempt some tricks. Following the hot dogging example of the snowboarders on the slope below, I turned off my brain to see what would come out. What did was a painful finish to a brilliantly conceived trick.

I approached a deceptively easy-looking flat bar at a fairly fast quip (for me anyway) and pushed my skis onto the platform. There I slid with my hands in the air, enjoying the encouraging calls from my fiends. The landing brought me back to reality. I came off the bar with a violent jolt and the next thing I remember is that I was sitting on the bar with a searing pain in the region we just don't talk about at parties.

I could walk; but my chief concern was for the next generation.

That run was to be my last of the day. I rode gingerly down the mountain, holding my skis in a “pizza” as my fiend showed it to me to keep from moving too quickly. When I got to the “lodge,” I collapsed in a chair and waited for the stiffness to set in. That, and a cup of hot chocolate, occupied the remainder of my afternoon.

Given the opportunity, I think I will go skiing again. When the skin finishes flaking off my sunburns, my knee learns how to bend again and frostbite heals, I'll be ready. In the meantime, I think I'll stick to sand.


Anonymous said...

That was Awesome!
I like your "story". I'll try to send some pix and vids from last year.

Onea of your fiends,

a. shannon said...

LOL! That was hilarious (and well worth the wait...).

Jesse Sloan said...

ROTFLOL!!!! That's awesome! Almost as fun as my first snowboarding experience! (I was the one with the broken tail-bone:)

Just one question, . . . which one of you wrote this one???


Lady A said...

NANO!!! Send me a copy!!!!! I wanna see!

Besides, from the stories you were telling earlier, I kinda think *NAMECENSOREDTOPROTECTPRIVACY* deserved it.

Anonymous said...

wow who wrote that?????
that is the person i pity most in the world!
i laughed my head of