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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Wheels and Blades

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I took to skating instantly.  I could roller skate and ice skate, and I could even skate backwards.  But I could not master skiing.  Sure, I didn’t give it much time, but I figured I should be able to ski as quickly as I had learned to skate.

When we lived way up north, Dad took us to a ski resort, and for some reason that has never been explained to me, both he and Mom knew how to ski.  Well, then, it certainly must be easy!

I clicked my rented ski boots onto the rented skis and slid-walked over to the Bunny Hill (beginner’s hill) lift, which was a metal bar at the end of a rope that was attached to a line that was pulled by a motor at the top.  There was a rope and bar about every ten yards, and they hung three feet above the ground.  No one else was using it at the time so I wasn’t sure what to do, but I’d seen plenty of shows and movies featuring ski lifts, so I got in front of the next one, put it between my legs, and leaned back.  I immediately dropped to the ground, and the thing dragged me through the snow for at least ten yards before I could get free.  I stayed there in heap for a long time trying to catch my breath, and it wasn’t until I had crawled back down the slope that I saw the big sign that read, “Do Not Sit On The Bar.”  Lesson learned: always read the signs anywhere new you go.  (In fact, always reread the signs in familiar places because they may have changed something.)

After I recovered, I spotted a small group of beginners being taught by some guy who I guess was an instructor.  I slid over and watched.  He demonstrated how to position the skis into a V, with the front of the skis touching.  That’s how newbies were supposed to start.  I asked him how you turned when skiing with your skis straight, and he said you lean into the opposite direction you want to go.  Well, that was all I needed to hear.  During that, I had witnessed other skiers using the lift, and they gripped the bar with their hands and were pulled up similar to water skiing (which I have never done and am not going to try now).  So I did it that way.

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Finally at the top of the Bunny Hill, I started down with my skis in the V shape.  It turned out the V was like the rubber stopper below the toes on roller skates: it was for stopping.  So I set my skis parallel, and boy did I start speeding down that hill!  Quickly I realized I was going too fast and decided to turn left, and so I leaned to the right.  After spitting snow from my mouth and wiping it from my eyes, I tried it again, determined to get it right.  This time I had to scoop snow from the bottom of my jacket and the top of my pants.  The third attempt I tumbled so many times that I felt like a snowman.  Nor were the ski poles of any use; they were just in the way and a potential means of goring myself.  Sitting up, I discovered my skis had detached from my boots and were tangled.  (There’s a short cord connecting each boot to each ski, and during that last fall I was sure the cords were trying to swing those long slats of laminated wood around to crack my skull and break other bones.)  I tried to unravel them, but I got so frustrated that I unhooked both skis, and suddenly one shot down hill.  I watched in horror as it narrowly missed other skiers (it was then that I understood the purpose of the cords) and with further dismay compounded by dread, I expected the ski to spear through the wall of the lodge after reaching the bottom of the hill; it was going right at it!  It slowed to a stop halfway on the level land surrounding the lodge.  The distance looked shorter to me from that high up.

I gathered my poles and remaining ski, walked slowly down on those boots not made for walking, turned everything in at the lodge, and sipped hot coco in front of the center fireplace while watching through the big window all those skiers, including my parents, who seemed so effortlessly not to fall.

Later I figured out that the instructor meant that you should tilt your skis to the right to turn left, but lean your body to the left.  It’s counter intuitive to me.  But skis are not flat; they’re bowed, with the fronts and backs drooping down, and somehow that makes a big difference. 

I was very disappointed with myself, and I guess I should have taken more lessons.  But after all, I didn’t need lessons on skating.  I should have taken to skiing right away!  But apparently I’m only good on wheels and blades.


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