Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Alta ski resort, or Heck no, I'm not skiing and it's all your fault.

Look close. That's me, waving from the top story window, the one under the photo sign here at Alta Ski Resort.

I'm enjoying looking out the window at the pretty snow and trees, comfortably seated on a chair that looks like a rattan snow shoe.

Bernie and Jeff are doing a half day ski session here at Alta.

I'm sure the majority of world would consider this a fabulous moment.

It is...and isn't.

I have a love/hate/REALLY hate relationship with skiing.

I love that Bernie, Jeff and Laura enjoy the sport.

I hate that the first time I skied, in Southern California, I was hustled onto a chair lift moments after the first time I clicked on a pair of skis.

My gentle pleading for lessons was brusquely dismissed.

Instead I got the fifteen second freebie class:

"Just snow plow, point your ski tips in, like you are pigeon toed, and it will slow you down."

Did I mention that the snow was technically solid ice?

As I exited the chair lift, I slipped and cracked that back of my head so hard it is a wonder I didn't get a concussion.

Snow plow DOES NOT WORK on ice.

Period. I repeat: DOES NOT WORK.

Screaming doesn't work either. My beloved husband, daughter and son skied away with nary a backward glance. The early teen aged son and daughter headed to the black diamonds, chuckling merrily.

When I fell on my ski pole, which was as useful as poling into concrete, I rammed my palm and hand. Hyperventilating, and watching my hand blacken, I headed to our car, where I flopped on my back in the back seat, trembling and crying for about an hour.
Boy howdy, can't wait to do this again!

Apologies were delivered later, and I was coxed into attempting skiing again. Maybe it was SLC, maybe it was a northern California resort, Sugar Bowl. Elliptical skis made things much better. (I pleaded with the ski shop, that I wanted the slowest possible configuration made. I switched skis twice, until I finally got a pair that felt right.)

I also got a one hour ski lesson, partly as an apology, partly as a requirement by me before I would consider skiing again.

Here's the most valuable detail I learned:

Point your shoulders the direction you wish the skis to travel.

Aha! Much easier than forcing the skis with ankle turns.

And even bigger news: It is possible to ski in lazy S shapes when you ski on snow.
And snow plow does work when used on snow as opposed to solid ice.

Actually it was kind of fun. I remember one nearly flat path through the trees, skiing alone, and almost enjoying it. I had learned I would be ditched, toot sweet, ASAP, so it was worth it for me to decide where the slopes were flat and unpopulated.

I still had serious problems with the chair lifts. Each trip up ended with my heart racing, me screaming and falling wildly. My body would get shaky, and it would take forever for me to relax enough that I could slowly ski down the slope.

Bernie decided I would enjoy skiing more if I would just try a more advanced slope.
(I know. Unbelievable.)

I still remember looking down the nearly vertical slope, and bursting into tears. It took over an hour for me to ski the run, going side to side and making only a few yards further down the mountain. I had to stop and sit repeatedly, each time considering the possibility of remaining in place until spring, when the snow would melt and I could walk down the mountainside.

I took a few years off from skiing after that.

I began a serious workout program, read up on skiing, and decided that I would *try* skiing one more time., hoping to join in the joy experienced by my family on the slopes.

My big moment came Christmas Eve, 2005.

Bernie, Jeff and I were in line at Alta, they with their custom fitted ski gear, and me trustingly being fitted in rental equipment.

I got my point across about the skis. SLOW, big fat wide short skis.

The boots?

I dunno.

The boot fitter slid me into a pair, and snapped the shaft close around my calf.


"It feels tight," I told the guy in an even tone.

"It is supposed to feel tight," he briskly replied.

"No, I think they are too tight. Plus my socks are now wet from standing in my socks on the melted snow soaked carpet in the ski shop."
"They are supposed to feel tight. Your socks will be soaked as soon as you start skiing anyway, as feet sweat. You'll be fine. NEXT!"

I clumped out of the shop, feeling my legs begin to ache.

"My calves are aching. These boots are too tight," I reported to Bernie and Jeff.

"Just unclip them."
(Huh? I looked at the boot fitting line snaking out of the shop. I unclipped.)

Up we went on the chair lift.

Even unclipped the boots were crushing my legs.

I managed to get off the chair without too big of scene.

It was beautiful up there.

My legs were now cramping.

The cramp started in my calves, and as I slowly skied tight "S" shapes, my legs went into full cramp from ankle to thigh.

Jeff and Bernie, bless them, skied slowly beside me down the hill.

I practiced Lamaze breathing, a pain management system that is useless when delivering, as I did, by C-section, but moderately effective for cramped legs.

Jeff will make a wonderful labor coach someday. He stayed right next to me, encouraging me with "You can do it, you're doing great, just keep it up, you're really skiing good...."

I WAS skiing really good.

ANYTHING to get down that slope and get those boots off my legs.

That was my final run. My legs remained cramped for several days, and did not recover fully for about two months.

Ever heard of flashbacks?

Today as I walked past the ski shop, one year and one week later, it all came back.

The pain, the tears, the disbelief at how horrible it all was.

And the anger at how it felt to be totally discounted when reporting that I was uncomfortable.

I'm a polite kind of girl. Once when a lab technician stuck a needle THROUGH a vein and unloaded a sack of iodine into my muscle, and I told him it hurt and he told me it shouldn't, I bit my lip and tried to focus somewhere else, until he said Ohmygosh, I went through your vein, that iodine is loading into your muscle.

I was polite the time when the nurse came into my room in the night and gave my newly open abdomen a full post vaginal delivery massage, I cried and begged her to stop. Only later did I receive an apology.

I could go on and on. What I don't get is why I have always been so polite when put up with unnecessary discomfort when I should have exercised my authority and made people respect my wishes.

It makes me really sad to think that maybe today I could have been skiing with gusto down perfect snow covered trails with my husband and son, if only I had stood up for myself and gotten lessons my first time out.

If I had declined to ski on ice.

If I had insisted on Bernie skiing with me on an easy slope instead of going with him up a slope too challenging for my comfort level.

And, for the love of heaven, if I had grabbed that slacker ski bum twentysomething boot fitter by his shirt and refused to budge, long line be darned, until I had a boot that fit.

What would it take to get me on the slopes again?

1. Custom fitted boots.

2. Something other than chair lifts.

3. Soft snow.

4. Lessons (make that #1 on the list, and NOT with an former Olympic skier. I want a cautious middle age person who gets it.)

5. No wind.

6. An enormous aquamarine and diamond white gold ring, 3 ct. oval aquamarine, five marquise diamonds on each side, in a leaf pattern.

Really though?

I rather be tubing.

That was fun.


Lovella ♥ said...

Oh my goodness, I feel like I could just post her skiing debacle straight onto my Blog. Why is it that some people learn these tasks so effortlessly and others don't. I never did grasp the "snow plow". And anyways, someone has to stay in the Chalet, right?

Anonymous said...

Mom- You make a lovely snow bunny, the kind that does the smart thing and sits by the fire, the way God really intended snow to be enjoyed! Love you! And I promise I will never, EVER force you to do something like that.

Kate said...

Sherman says the mistake was to rent equipment at the Resort. Always go to a ski shop before you get to the ski resort. As for me, I like cross country (or used to when I was younger and more fit). You can go slowly through the wooded trails enjoying the quiet and nature...and get back to the Lodge for hot buttered rum all in one piece. Of course, it's a workout but that's what hot tubs are for. xxx K Q;-)

Marie Christopher said...

Or, a snowmobile! I'm with you though, Jill, sitting by the fire is best. And sipping hot cocoa. Someone needs to hold down the fort!