Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"When you step on the brakes, your life is in your foot's hands."              ~ George Carlin

"Skiing? Me?"

"Yeah. Let's drive over to Steamboat Springs, and you can finally learn to ski, Terry. Let's DO it!" said my husband, who'd already learned how to ski when he was working in Montana. He'd learned "the Montana way" to ski, and it had worked for him!

Richard hated the cold, but he bought a pair of skis and drove up and over and into those western Montana mountains. The first thing he did when he jumped out of the car was to look for a ski instructor. Turned out that there wasn't a ski instructor. Nope, there were just those huge, snowy Rocky Mountains and more snow...  and a few skiers. Someone said, "You don't need an instructor. This is Montana!  Here's what you do... Lash those skis onto your boots, jump on that lift over there, jump off, and come down the mountain. That's Montana skiing, friend!" So Richard did that...

When he came home to Omaha for his monthly weekend visit, he could barely walk. He'd pulled something inside his knee during that ski trip, and, mostly, the poor guy groaned all weekend.

But he got good, really good, and I was excited because the ski outfits were darling. So, off we went.

When we checked in, Richard led me over to sign up for my beginner's class, and I was so ready. He walked me to the class site, and then he went off to ski the intermediate runs at that Western-feeling, totally beautiful skier's haven.

First, I sized up the other students. They all looked like Moms-on-skis. I, on the other hand, had been told by all my friends that I was so athletic that I would be a "natural." How hard could it be! The ski outfits saleslady had even told me I "looked like a skiier." What more did I need... one thing... Terry, MODESTY! Above all, don't call any attention to yourself. This is going to be soooo easy, and you sure don't want to make those Moms feel badly. No showing off...!

The ski instructor came over and led us to the tiniest hill... No, I can't call it a "hill." It was a barely discernable rise in the ground. When he told us to make a line, and watch him, I, of course, took the last place in line out of courtesy. He showed us what to do, and he said to do that same thing, one at a time. "Just point your skis down that bump, I mean hill, and you're good to go." 

The first Mom nailed it. (No fear, Terry. You'll do that, too!) Then the next lady went down the bump, and the next and the next... They all nailed it, and now it was my turn. 

Down I went... NO!  DOWN I went! I had bumped my skis on the flat snow! "Try it again, Terry!" the ski instructor announced to the world. "You can do it!" Darn those stupid giant-sized name tags, anyway!

During that entire lesson, I fell every single time. The Mom's, being true Mom's, had been so kind with their whispered encouragementss to me. None of them wanted me to fail like that, and they sure didn't want to embarrass me. They truly were the darnest, nicest ladies I'd ever met in my darned life... darn it!

I'm NOT even going to try to explain what happened when he was teaching us how to ride the T-bar, except to say that if you fall on the T-bar, EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE ROPE-LINE, skis over you! There is no way to avoid it, except to try to roll off the tiny up-hill path with hundreds of beginners clutching the rope for dear life, perfectly willing to ski right over you if it means that they won't be the "fall-guy!" 

Now, listen here! I had a reason for being a mess on the T-bar! I had looked longing up at the mountains, thinking that I'd much rather paint them than ski them, and who should be sitting there watching everything? Yup! Richard waved to me from his sitting position, and he was trying really, really hard not to make any noise as he laughed himself silly.

A few ski trips later I did learn to ski. I called myself an "advanced beginner," and I was happy and proud to be at that level. I even ski-jumped repeatedly over a 6-inch "mogal!" We were visiting our friends who lived right near A-Basin, and it had been a lovely 3-days so far. I'd ski by myself, even skiing off the chair-lifts without falling. Every once in a while, Richard would come by to see how I was doing. He'd make a graceful curving turn, covering me with snow, before he stopped. 

Then he said it! "Terry, you're ready for the intermediate runs. C'mon, let's go down this one."

"No, Richard, I like being an advanced beginner! Don't worry about me. I'm really loving this, seeing all the trees and mountains and stuff. I'm fine."

"Aw, c'mon..." So I c'mon-ed.

I wish you could have seen that hill. There was a bottom to it, but it was really, really far away down there. And it was narrow! I could ony traverse in one direction, so I probably wasn't truly an "advanced beginner." In fact, I never heard anyone ever use that term, "advanced beginner." I think I'd made it up all by myself! But Richard was so sure I was going to be goood. And I did have on darling ski-togs!

Down he went, and then I followed straight down that mountainous hill. Why didn't I traverse? Who knows! As I flew past a group of little boys and their ski instructor, all I could think of was just get me to the bottom of this hill, and I'll never, ever ski again. PROMISE! 

But it didn't happen that way. Suddenly, for no reason I could see, one of my skis dug into the snow and wouldn't let go! My whole body twisted as I fell, but that stuck ski wouldn't give. Everything twisted, in fact, but my calf, and so my knee took it on the chin... actually it took it in the ligament, which tore.

My head was pointing down the hill, my one leg was sticking up with the ski stuck in the snow, and the rest of me felt like I was going to be sick. I saw Richard at the bottom of that beastly hill, and he was helpless. You can't ski UP-hill, after all!

Then a face floated over mine. It was a handsome face, a Scandinavian-sort of blue-eyed face. It was an angel! 

The angel said, "Are you hurt?"

I said, "Uh huh."

The angel said, "Don't worry. I'll get the Ski Patrol," and he took my skis off and put them in the international criss-cross-crisis sign behind my head.

And then his heavenly baby ski angels came over and surrounded me. I thought it was possible that I might get sick, but you can't do that in front of baby angels. The baby angels suddenly began to sing to me! I will never forget those heavenly lyrics...

"Shoot her! Shoot her! Put her out of her misey! Shoot her!" Those little rats couldn't be angels, the little devils! They chanted that unholy chorus over and over and over as they stood in that hellish circle around me until the REAL angels came. Lucky for them, I was hurt!

The Ski Patrol arrived. They all made graceful turning curves to stop, covering me once again with 4 times the snow that Richard could turn out. 

"It's my knee..." I whimpered.

"Does it hurt?" said the man with the orange ski hat.


"That's bad!"

Then I was lifted onto a stretcher by the four Ski Patrolers and we went down the hill... straight down the hill... at top speed all the way down to the flatland, no turns, no traversing, and no problems. These guys were professionals. 

At the bottom, or somewhere, we drew up to a little wooden cabin with double doors. I was carefully set down in the only space left on the cold wooden floor, right between a little girl with a broken wrist that someone had skied over, crushing some of her wrist bones, and a groaning person lying there with a very weird-looking shoulder problem. When the entire room was about three-people-deep, an ambulance came. The little girl and I were in the first load that they dumped off at the hospital. The rest is boring... A torn knee ligament takes soooo long to heal...

As you've probably figured out, I never skied again... I still love the mountains, but in my mind, they're nothing to be played with. They are to be admired from afar.           


  1. Well, you probably were better at skiing than I was.i never did like the down part, lol. But cross country skiing was fun and good exercise.

  2. I did think about cross-country BEFORE I had to spend a couple months teaching junior high with a thigh-to-toes plaster cast on my leg. I'd have to sit in a wheel chair with my leg/cast propped on top of a table so it was higher than my heart, and teach ninth graders English. Oh, it was a sight to see, alright! :}