“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s what makes it hard that makes it great.” That was Tom Hanks’ line in the women’s wartime baseball movie, “A League of Their Own.” I think it applies to skiing too.
For those of us who have been skiing since we were shorter than a ski pole, it is easy to take for granted the multi-step process involved in hitting the slopes.
First there is the road trip to the ski resort. Few of us are fortunate enough to live slopeside. You begin your expedition to the slopes by stuffing all your ski-related belongings into your vehicle, trying to overcome that gut feeling that you have forgotten something. You rationalize that within the 49 pounds of gear, surely you have everything you need. There is the mental checklist; hat, boots, boards, goggles, pass, gloves, money, and the list goes on. A well-equipped skier needs a Boy Scout mentality, be prepared for anything.
Next, you hit the road, before sun up, for first tracks. Travel conditions often include snow – which is cause for celebration, but also intense concentration for the white-knuckled drive (as if you weren’t anxious enough to get to the slopes?).
Arriving at the ski area – finding a ski area parking space is not an issue since orange-vested attendants flag you to a spot, seemingly as far from the lodge as possible. You try to leave room to open your doors and tailgate to access the aforementioned plethora of gear, while the wand-waving attendant vehemently shoehorns in the next eager skier’s car.
Unloaded your gear, and carry your skis, poles and boots to the lodge or put your boots on at the car like the hard core skiers do. Balancing on one foot in your shoe, while stuffing the other into the tight awkward plastic ski boot is a skiers’ calisthenic. We all must admit we have accidentally put that socking foot into the dirty parking lot snow on more than one occasion.
Carrying your skis can be downright comical if not done with proficiencyncy; this stunt makes the highlight reel of many Warren Miller movies. It’s not innate to wield five feet of metal-edged gear with composure and grace.
Buy your lift ticket at the ticket window, being careful not to drop your gloves in the snow, while you shovel out big dough. You balance everything as you fold, peel, and stick the ticket to the wicket – positioning it so it won’t later flap in your face.
Climb to the lift. Why are loading areas typically 20-vertical feet above the lodge?
Balance on one boot as you whack the other with a ski pole to dislodge accumulated snow stuck to your sole. Every good skier knows the critical sound of the clean binding click.
Enter the lift corral past the “wait here” to the “load here” sign, and prepare for the 400-pound chair to knock your knees out from under you as you take a seat. Ironic that one of the seven skiers’ responsibility code is to have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload the lift. Does anyone ever ask the lift attendants for instructions? I doubt it.
Swiftly disembark, without wiping out, and put on your pole straps like your mother taught you; “the bunny comes up through the hole and then grabs the carrot.”
And at last, you are skiing. It’s all worth it. You glide over the silky snow. The pull of gravity accelerates you down the slopes. Wind whistles in your ears. Your lift ticket flaps as you ski shimmering birch tree glades past snow draped pines. You build up speed and rock your hips to engage a smooth turn, feeling the g-force that springs you into the next sweeping arc. Now you remember why you do this. There is no sensation quite the same, it’s exhilarating, like flying without the height concern.
In the next lift queue, you see familiar “same time each weekend” faces, and exchange satisfied smiles. Ride up, slide down, and repeat a ridiculous number of times. Awaiting you at day’s end is that well-deserved après-ski drink and hot tub, where you recount your downhill drama and stretch (the truth – that is). Ah, skiing. No one said it was simple, but it sure is sweet.