NOVICES ON THE MOUNTAIN – 1975

1/5/75
Took this journal with me into the snow country yesterday but never wrote a word. Too busy. Paige begged off skiing so the boys and I dressed for warmth, letting fashion run a poor second. Yesterday’s rain storm, or I should say the-before-yesterday’s storm, of course, generously produced snow in the higher elevations. We left bare pavement about 5 miles before our journey’s end, creeping past lines of motorists chaining up. We had snow studs on our rear tires so ignored the warning – “snow chains required.”
Reached Summit where A-frame ski shops were over-run with winter enthusiasts. School and church buses disgorged hordes of apple-cheeked youngsters. The closest parking was about a quarter mile down, so our walk to the ski rental shop was made against hard pellets of snow. As luck would have it, another trip was required as I.D.s were needed for rentals. I’d taken only cash, having locked my purse in the car trunk. When we were finally in the customer line, we fell into conversation with two friendly blond boys, neither apparently affluent; one tall, one short, but both with merry eyes and smiles easily earned. They too were uninitiated in the art of skiing.
Struck by this similarity, we mirthfully exchanged prophecies and pledges….such as calling ambulances or undertakers should this prove necessary. The tall boy was Jay and the shorter, Paul. By the time we reached the counter, boots in our sizes were out of stock though Jay offered to try an 11 over his usual 10 and Paul opted for a 4 instead of his regular 5. Wishing them well, we gloomily wended our way through the crowd of snowy, laughing people, noting especially those clad in regulation outfits, zippered nylon pad-pants and jacket, matching caps like World War I flying aces complete with goggles jauntily turned up and, most significantly, wearing the clumsy, thick, status-symbol—ski boots!
Another shop proved a bust. A third could be seen about a half mile down. It was snowing like crazy and I was getting antsy, suddenly afraid of being stuck on the mountain. As one grows older and becomes responsible for other people, one’s adventuring takes a beating. The glory of conquest and lust for experience is often over-shadowed by more-than-likely consequences. Perhaps, that’s why bachelors and “spinsters” make the best explorers. Although that may include married people who retain a oneness of self –
The boys were dashed and I was sorry, so we checked in at a kind of Swiss Alpine ski shop. We got equipment there but at $10 apiece, not the $4.50 that Summit offered. I felt a very scrooge-like crunching of willpower that peaked on hearing the ski lift tickets were to be purchased separately.
Off we trudged to Multopor Ski Bowl – wearing those much admired ski boots that resembled their medieval counterparts, the iron boot. Snow everywhere, great drifts banked beside the icy roads. We finally got to the ski center, climbing past a rope to get tickets at $3 a piece. The smallest slope looked damn steep to my uninitiated eyes. As children whizzed past us, we knew we were outclassed. Still, we struggled into our rented skis. Any slight depression sent me skittering downhill in odd positions; sideways, front ways, and backwards.
Novices who periodically cracked up were now looked upon with a kindling eye of sympathy. PJ took the downhill first and wiped out, halfway down, skis up and orange hat frosty with snow. Once vertical, he completed the descent with only one other spill. Joey cruised clear to the bottom, but on trying to stop, went head over tea kettle. Awed by this display, I only watched their efforts to use the rope tow. “That’s the hardest part of it,” they told me later.
Standing at the top of a small hill off to the side, cross-country skiers tracked past me, as well as a young couple instructing their infant. When two youngsters pulling sleds appeared, I stood aside to watch the older boy glide down. Then, as the younger readied himself, my skis began to slide. I fought vainly but was unable to stop my downward trajectory. Dreadfully, one ski picked up both child and sled, rolling them aside. I continued, upright but covered with humiliation. Returning to the top, I spied the snowy little victim cheerily climbing out of a drift. He greeted me with a smile and a friendly hello. He was either accustomed to such eccentric behavior, or he didn’t recognize me.
The huge, white slopes above held daring athletes doing the slalom courses–the trees were heavy with mounded snow – lovely to see but clearly beyond the novice. After several, less dramatic cruises down “my” modest hill, I noted the cold increasing and time passing. Retrieved the car keys and money from PJ’s pack and stowed them safely in my mitten. Told the boys to meet me at the ski rental. Then, summoning a kind of desperate courage, decided to risk the big one as I had to get to the bottom of the run anyway. After waiting for a relatively clear course, I took the plunge. But halfway down, my acceleration became alarming. Hoping to slow my frantic descent, I dug a pole in, an act that resulted in a spectacular somersault. My right thumb was yanked backward while my skis kept going. After an ignominious trip to the bottom, I limped to the shop where I turned in the whole shebang.
The bliss of stepping into my waffle-stompers was exquisite! The free movement of ankle released from the cruel grip of those iron ski boots! Joy! The boys were still to be tracked down as they hadn’t showed up at the appointed time, but once reunited, we crawled into our snowy car and drove home. As the snowbanks and fields receded in our rearview mirror, it seemed as though the whole day was already fading into memory. Reality rose to meet us in the rain wet streets of the valley.
Well, it’s Sunday morning and everybody is in bed. My right hand is worthless and there’s a twinge in my left thumb in certain positions. I wonder how I’ll do as a waitress tomorrow!!??

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Published in: on November 23, 2018 at 11:43 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great memory! I’ve only cross-country skied and that was enough for me! Never had the urge to brave a hill. You’re a brave woman!

  2. I don’t know if I was brave or foolish. That was my first and last foray on skis though. Did go down the hills on inner tubes though. Thanks for your thoughts and shared experience!


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