My friend, Kay, emailed me a story the other day from her brother who lives in Vail, Colorado. It was a report of a man who boarded a chair lift at one of the Vail resorts and slipped through the seat - which apparently malfunctioned. This poor guy got trapped because his ski got caught, but his bindings didn't release - dangling him upside down (and pantless!) for fifteen or so minutes. Aside from the fact that this is probably the most humiliating position to be in (literally AND figuratively), he was probably truly freezing his *SS off...and of course...um...other things.
And here I thought that I had the most embarassing ski-lift moment. (Not that I mind giving up the crown, or anything.)
When I was a senior in high school my best friend, Joanna, urged me to learn to ski. Now Joanna had been skiing for several years (and, like everything else, she was good at it). We cut a deal that I purchase her old skis - because she was (of course) getting new Head skis. I also got her boots out of the bargain. I bought poles and ski pants and a parka and a lovely new cable-knit sweater, and joined her Ski Club (Mountain Madness, Merced, California). Every Saturday for 8 or 10 weeks we boarded a chartered bus at the sporting goods store that sponsored the club and rode the 90 miles to Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park.
I disovered, early on, that I am NOT a skier. At first it seemed okay. The sky was blue, the mountain was white, people were schussing down the slopes in some sort of intricate ballet. But then...I put on my skis. They're LONG. REALLY LONG. You can't walk in them. You can't turn around quickly in them. And you can't STOP in them!
If sitting in the snow on your butt makes you a good skier, I could have qualified for the Olympics.
Nothing worked right. All the layers of clothing I wore made movement difficult. My goggles were constantly fogged up, and none of my outer layers were soft and absorbent, so I'd have to remove the goggles, remove the gloves, pull up my parka and try to wipe the moisture off with my sweater (which was nylon...so no good there, either). I was too hot or too cold...and I was always wet.
We started on the Bunny Hill. (I should have stayed there.) We graduated to the tow-rope (which I hated). I couldn't wait to get on the chair lift...but of course that meant I would have to ski DOWN one of the bigger hills. But I was willing to try as long as I got on that chair.
We'd had a banner snow year. So much so that they'd had to dig the lift out of about fifteen feet of the fluffy white stuff. There was a sign reminding everyone to keep their tips up. The first time I tried the chair I didn't see the sign. I'd waited in line for twenty minutes, there were lots of people, I still was unsteady on these long wooden things attached to my feet, I'd had to scramble sideways to make sure I was in position - the darned things don't stop...they just keep moving. So I felt relieved enough to have made contact - posterior to wooden seat. Then my companion, Patty McMaster, and I were lifted up. Airborne we began to move forward. The tips I was supposed to remember to keep up came in contact with the large pile of snow at the base of the mountain and I pitched forward violently.
It might have ended there, but my ski (like the poor unfortunate man in Vail) got tangled up...with Patty's skis. As the lift moved higher, I was carried further away from the ground. Patty began to panic and tried to dislodge me. My ski finally came loose and I plummeted about eighteen feet to the ground, where I landed (hard) full-length on my stomach. My nose, mouth and goggles were full of snow. (I think my ears were too, because I can't remember any sound.) I stayed still for a moment, praying for an avalanche to come dieseling down the mountain and bury the lift, the operators, the skiers and the entire resort...AND ME. But, as usual, my prayers were unanswered. I would have to get up - not the easiest thing to do, since sitting in the snow was my forte...getting UP was not.
As I lay, trying to gather my energy and nerve, someone came sliding up. The skier came to a stop, in that flashy way that sprays snow everywhere...everywhere meaning all over my prone, flattened body. Then I heard a male voice: "Need any help?" I looked up, peering through snow-filled goggles and water-blurred glasses to see...a member of the Ski Patrol. (Now I don't know if you've noticed, but there isn't a single Ski Patrolman that isn't gorgeous - in the extreme. And this one was no different...except I knew this one. His name was Steve Spendlove, he was the brother of one of my best friends...and I'd been in love with him since Seventh Grade.)
I was mortified (to say the least). So I scrambled up, pulling at my skis, untangling my bindings, and with as much dignity as I could muster, I muttered a terse, "NO." I clasped my skis to my bosom and turned around to leave...and the chair coming DOWN the mountain clipped me in the back of the head and sent me sprawling back down onto my stomach in the snow.
I don't remember much about that...except I think the lift line was cheering.
Now as bad as that was, the pathetic thing is that the very next winter at the very same lift line...ski trip courtesy of my brother as a Christmas gift...I left my tips down and did the very same thing.
I gave up skiing...
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