Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Downer Hill Skiing

I recently visited the website of sillyswedishskier who sounded eerily like a younger version of me…I, too, like to peel things! And I am compelled to peek behind shower curtains at parties!

Except that she calls herself a skier. That’s where we part ways. Dramatically. In fact, just the word brings back traumatically suppressed memories….

Warning. This is long.

I’ve snow skied twice in my life. Once was in Nebraska, where I’m from, so it probably only counts as half. In Nebraska, you basically ski down into a giant hole. Since I didn’t have the slightest idea how to ski, I snapped on those contraptions and just went, thinking it would somehow come naturally. It didn’t. My legs were locked perfectly straight with fear, which makes you go really fast. I managed to stay upright due to the same force that kept my legs so rigid—sheer terror of falling. I had no idea how to stop, but the good thing about skiing into a big hole is that you automatically stop when you start to go up the other side.

So I had done that once in my early 20s and thought it was a good beginning.

Then in my late 20s, I moved to Denver for about three years. During that time I only skied once. It was enough. I went to Breckenridge with my friend Deb, who is also from Nebraska, but Deb had truly lost her ski virginity due to having skied on an actual mountain before. Whereas I had maybe only been felt up by one. Deb and I both got instructors, but hers was more advanced than mine.

In hindsight, I should have known that things were not going to go well when Deb got Jean-Claude as her instructor and I got Bob. (Note: These are actual, non-made-up names.)

Bob was proud of the fact that he could teach any beginner to ski. He kept telling me his statistic: “I’ve never been unsuccessful in teaching someone to ski!” I have to hand it to Bob, he stuck with me for a long time—even after he had to take away my poles because I narrowly missed impaling him—long, long after I begged him to stop. But even Bob eventually gave up and left me in a snow bank along with his former record and the shame of being the one person who had broken it.

The rest is sort of hazy because it was so traumatic that my brain actually blocked it out. I believe nuns were involved, or maybe that was my mind playing tricks on me, but I don’t think so, because my mind was too exhausted to actually make things worse. I do distinctly remember these smiley older women zipping past me, and when I would fall and flail about in the snow like a stranded June bug, they would stop long enough to help me up. That’s when I’m sure one of them told me that she and a few of the other sisters were on vacation from some convent in Iowa. But I also think she told me it was their first time skiing…and then she zipped off again. She was about 60.

The EVENT happened, I think, when I was getting off the lift. Or maybe trying to get on. The memory is gooey from the horror of it. I just remember not jumping at the correct time and getting stuck, and then getting tangled maybe, and somehow dropping like a lead weight. I do know that I landed on people. I also know that a little girl was one of the people I landed on, but I also know everyone assured me she was just fine and that there were no serious injuries! Really!—and I know for a fact no ambulances were called—but I also remember that it was scary for a while when they shut down the entire ski lift and had to untangle the big pile of people. Oh, the screams, the horror, the pandemonium.

Because of me.

So nuns were involved in the story, but not in the actual mayhem. I’m almost 100% sure they weren’t using the lift then because I don’t remember their smiley nun faces. Unless they were buried under the pile of human rubble. So at least 60% positive for sure.

But that’s really all I remember, other than searching for someplace that sold alcoholic beverages after that. I do know I never found a toasty ski lodge with a fireplace and cute guys in casts sipping hot buttered rum like you see on TV. I seem to remember a picnic bench, and beer. And I discovered that you can cry pretty effectively behind sunglasses as long as you wipe the tears when they escape from underneath and also if you are careful not to sob much.

What I remember most is vowing NEVER to ski again. My guess is the nuns prayed on it as well.

“In the foster home, my hair was my room.” ~Erin in “The Office”


  1. I am laughing so hard. Woman, write a book! Been felt up by a mountain? Piles of people and nuns to boot? You're killing me with this I love Tammy Episode.

  2. The first time I ever skied my mittens froze to the toe rope (it was on a trash pile in Iowa) and I ended up kicking some poor woman in the head which freed me to fall to the ground. Which I enjoyed. I learned to ski on straight skis. Which is unpleasant. The equipment has come a long way and it really makes a difference in helping people enjoy learning to ski. I assure you, there are drinks and lodges and fire places and sometimes attractive men to be found at ski resorts. If you came to Summit County again (which is where Breckenridge is and where I currently live,) I'd suggest some spots to hang out with comfy clothes and you can skip the skiing. I'll ski enough for both of us!

  3. Thank you, Linda. I deeply appreciate your comments because it makes the whole thing a little more worthwhile to be able to laugh about what really was, at the time, so agonizingly horrible!

    And Silly Swedish, I am so glad to hear that it was all the fault of the equipment! ;D Yes!! Good one!!! I know that whole area has changed dramatically in the 20 years since I lived there, and I'm sure it's lots of fun for normal people! I'm sure it's still one of the most beautiful places on earth!


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