It went something like this…
Hey DaniGirl, it’s the Universe calling.
Oh hey, Universe! It’s been a while! Always a delight to hear from you, though. What’s new?
Oh you know, the usual – lately I’ve been entertaining myself cooking up theories on black holes with Stephen Hawking. He’s a riot! But that’s not why I’m calling.
I wouldn’t think so. I love cosmology and am fascinated by quantum physics, but I never did take any high school science.
Speaking of things you never did – that IS why I’m calling. I saw you out there on the slopes at Calabogie yesterday with the Grade 6 ski trip.
Ha, did you? I had So! Much! Fun! I had chaperoned last week, too, although I have to tell you I was pretty much in it for the drive up and the photo ops. Watching the kids last week inspired me, though, so I screwed up my courage and tried it out.
You’d never been skiing before, right?
Not really. I went out once with some friends when I was 23 or 24, but I hated it. The chair lift intimidated me, I never got the mechanics down and I think I might have quit after one or two runs down the bunny hill, during which I barrelled straight down the hill screaming the whole time. Years and years passed and I never had the opportunity to try again, and as I got older my knees got quirky and I kind of wrote off skiing as something that I just couldn’t do.
So what changed your mind?
I was hugely inspired by the kids last week. Many of them had never skied before, including Tristan. A few of them were so frustrated and discouraged after an hour they wanted to quit and go home. But they got some one-on-one help and I could see them making amazing progress during the day. One of the moms in particular went out of her way to help Tristan and a few others, and by the end of the day he told me not only did he have an amazing time but he wanted his own skis for Christmas.
Sounds like a good lesson in perserverance for the kids.
It was! Tristan is like me – he doesn’t like to do something if he won’t be good at it right away. So I had that in mind when the second day of skiing came up. It was a little bit embarrassing being so clueless to everything, including how to get the ski boot into the bindings and even how to attach the ski pass to my jacket. But everybody was terrific, from the friend who attached my ski pass to my jacket to the instructors who seemed to take a special interest in getting me through the basics.
Lookit me, I'm a skier!
So how did you do?
I had only one goal in mind for the day. I wanted to ski once down the bunny hill, preferably not barrelling straight down and out of control like I did 20+ years ago.
Well to my great surprise, after an hour or two I was feeling pretty comfortable on the learning side of the bunny hill. I moved through the drills pretty much at my own speed, and instructors would stop me every now and then with corrections and pointers. On the other side of the bunny hill was a little test course, and the kids had to ski it to the instructors’ satisfaction before they were allowed to on to a lesson on the big hill. I started out the day with no real goal beyond one run down the bunny hill, but after a while I thought maybe I would even try that out. The first time I tried it was a little embarrassing – it was too steep for me and I lost control. Rather than sweeping down the slope in big turns, it was 1993 all over again and I was shooting straight down like a cannon ball.
Trust me, it's scarier than it looks. Bunny hill indeed!
But you didn’t give up.
Nope. Back to the practice run I went, over and over again. I had to convince myself to go inside and get some lunch, I was having such a good time. By mid-afternoon I was getting tired, but I’d become comfortable on both sides of the bunny hill and could control my speed and direction far better than I’d ever expected at the beginning of the day. I only fell once, and I was nearly at a dead stop when I did – I just lost my balance and tipped over sideways. Getting back up on my feet was the hardest part of the day!
So did you feel like you’d done what you’d set out to do?
Oh, way way more than what I expected. I was ridiculously pleased with myself not only because I exceeded my own expectations of myself, but because I wasn’t done yet. The wonderful friend who helped Tristan and his friends get their ski legs last week had remarked on my progress and offered to accompany me on the chair lift for a run down one of the big hills. Although the logical part of my brain was telling me to quit while I was ahead, I knew I had to try it once.
Good for you! Were you scared?
Terrified. But sheer donkey-ass stubbornness has gotten me through a lot in life, and this was to be no different. As it turns out, one of the instructors who had been helping me on the bunny hill hopped into the chair lift line beside us, and between him and K they offered me tips and advice on the ride. What I think they were actually doing was distracting me, because the chair lift brought us up about three times higher than I thought it would from the ground. As I often do, I was imagining my fate splayed across the front page of the Citizen: “Mom of three maimed in freak ski accident.” I’m glad they were there to distract me from myself.
My ski instructor, protector, human security blanket, videographer and new BFF!
Where are the scenic photos from the top of the hill?
Ha, that’s a measure of how freaked out I was. It never even occurred to me to pull out my camera, although the views were stunning. In fact, I hardly took out my camera at all during the day – that, too, is a measure of how much fun I was having. There’s very little that will pry that thing out of my hands for long!
So how did you do on the big run?
Well I don’t know how people do this without their own personal ski instructor and safety blanket, but I really felt like K made all the difference for me. She told me what to expect from each section, warned me on the steeper bits and even told me not to be surprised if she grabbed by jacket to slow me down if she thought I was out of control.
And were you out of control?
Only a couple of times for very brief interludes, but K never had to intervene. I wiped out once, and pinwheeled my arms frantically another couple of times to get my balance back, but I think I was pretty good most of the time. The hill was way WAY bigger than I’d anticipated. By the time I hit the bottom of the run I was positively drunk on adrenaline, pride and terror – that is a powerful cocktail!
So you hopped right back on the chair lift and went for another run?
Hell no. My knees were shaking so badly I could barely make it back to the chalet. I kicked off those skis and called it a day, but I was beaming the whole time. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Well done! You proved something to yourself.
I sure did. In the grand scheme of things, learning to ski down one hill may not seem a huge accomplishment, but I really feel like I proved something to myself. I overcame my fear of being embarrassed about not knowing how to ski – or even attach my ski pass! – and proved to myself that I am perfectly capable of doing something physical like this “at my age.” I’m pleased that Tristan saw the whole thing, too. It was a great day all around. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll consider a family ski trip before all this infernal snow melts. If nothing else, I’ve still got two boys’ worth of class ski trips to look forward to!
You were worried about being sore today from the exertion. How are those knees?
My knees fared better than I expected. They’re a little tender today, but I was expecting worse. My shins and the tops of my feet ache from the ski boots and my core muscles all the way up to my shoulders are a little tight today, but I feel pretty good. Heck, I even got a bit of colour from the sun – didn’t even cross my radar to put sunscreen on my face as it was supposed to be cloudy verging on rainy, but we had hours of blazing sunshine. I never expected to soak through my clothes in sweat, either. It was a day of unexpectedly pleasant results!
Great to hear, DaniGirl. Now don’t be so quick to assume you can’t do something – or worse, are too old to do something – in the future.
That’s the best thing I learned yesterday, Universe. Thanks for calling, always a delight to hear from you!