The instructor gave us our first task: glide a few yards down the slope, then turn left. That seemed easy enough. I have a much easier time turning left than right when ice skating, so I assumed this would be the same. I was right.
I didn’t factor in my position in line. Needing to observe and analyze put me into a more challenging position because the line at the top became the line on the side of the hill. The first person went a few yards and glided left. As the last person to try, I had to glide down a few yards times 8. I succeeded, but pulled into my turn going faster than I’d hoped. It brushes up a big snow burst, but that wasn’t the point. Worse yet, I knew what came next.
Our instructor explained the right turn. “Like the left turn, but push with your left leg instead of your right.” Oh, yes, it is that easy, my friends. He skied further down the hill and stopped on the right side.
Since I was the last one to try the left turn, I should’ve been the first one down for the right turn. I wasn’t ready to go, though. I needed to prepare. I didn’t want to stare at Death without care. I doubt Death enjoys a nonchalant gaze, so I didn’t want to be punished.
The first person at the top of the hill departed, followed by everyone else. I stayed where I was for an extra moment. Knowing that, even if I wanted to quit, I had to get down the slope, I prepared my mind with the actions I need to perform.
I felt extra conflict because of my position. This maneuver required a 180 degree shift in my direction. I’d seen the mesh fencing on the right side of the slope, but I didn’t want to tangle myself in it. Everyone else was at the bottom of the slope, getting in line for the J-Bar ride up, so I had to act soon. I turned downhill and skied.
I tried turning right, but that did not happen. I wobbled from side-to-side, turning left when I needed to slow myself down. After a brief rest, I stumbled to the bottom of the hill. I’d succeeded on my first trip down because I hadn’t fallen.
Since we’d put our poles aside while we learned to balance ourselves, I had to fight my way up the tiniest incline I’ve ever struggled against to get in line for the J-Bar. I wanted to use the ski poles, but we’d left them too far away. Once up the incline, I joined Danielle in the queue.
I caught my ride and prepared for the combined left and right turns that waited once I reached the top. I was stoic as she looked back at me each time the J-Bar stopped. People fall off a lot, but I avoided that indignity. As I neared the top, Danielle smiled encouragement at me. And the J-Bar stopped three feet short. Stranded on the bunny hill. Again.
We formed the line when everyone reached the top. Here is where I admit I was the last one to reach the top. As nervous as I was, I didn’t mind holding up the class. Besides, it’s all about me. Learn that now and it makes life easier.
The instructor explained how to relax and put multiple turns together. Since this will slow a skier’s descent, I listened. He told us to try it. Still lacking confidence, I hesitated. After everyone skied down (I’m last again?), the instructor asked me what size skis I had. I told him 158.
“Get shorter skis next time. It’ll give you less work to do when turning.”
I like that concept. I’m tall and lanky, so anything that will improve my mobility is helpful. (There was this one time, playing basketball at a friend’s house as a kid, I had some repeated troubles with a row of cobblestones surrounding the court. I won’t go into it.) He gave me his last words of encouragement, then told me he had to go for his next class.
“I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
Fine right where I stood. He skied down. When he reached the bottom, I noticed Danielle coming up on the J-Bar, with both sets of ski poles, so I waited for her. Once she got to the top, we discussed my issues with turning right and how to overcome them. Then she said she’d meet me at the bottom and skied down.
Alone, I prepared my plan. I was not ready for this but I had to do it. I hatched a safety plan. Skiing down the hill slowly, with my legs turned in and feet turned out, I could practice multiple skills. I would learn to slow myself, maintain balance, and navigate obstacles. A brilliant idea.
While facing right, I turned to my left and headed down. Picking up speed, I turned the back of my skis out and pushed into the snow. I descended, but slowly and under control! I made slight turns as necessary, and stayed composed.
At the bottom, I tried to contain my excitement. I looked up and noticed Danielle filming my journey. I assumed she was taking a picture, but realized she was capturing video when she kept filming. I raised my arms in triumph. A simple task, but I’d done it. I started to ski to her in line for the J-Bar ride.
Have a look at my triumph.
What you can’t tell in that video is that I’m laughing like a crazy person at the end. I had no other possible response to that absurdity.
After a few moments, I tried to get up. No one said getting up with skis strapped to my feet would be so hard. I attempted every body twist I could imagine to get up, but nothing worked. I looked up to motion Danielle to come over. Once she got to me, I tried to get up by pushing myself off the ground. When this didn’t work, I discovered that I needed to lean back, then push downward, while she pulled my up by my hand. Once I was standing again, we skied back to the queue for the J-Bar. While in line, she knocked the snow from my coat and jeans as I continued laughing at myself.
I grabbed the J-Bar first, so I rode up the hill ahead of Danielle. After a few stops because people still couldn’t hold on to the pole, I reached the top without being stopped three feet short. I skied away from the J-Bar to position myself for the next trip down while I waited for Danielle. After positioning myself, I looked over at Danielle. As she got to the top, the J-Bar stopped her three feet short of the top. She smiled at me as I laughed. “Neener neener,” ran through my head.
Once she reached me, she offered words of encouragement, explaining more details about turning right. I had to learn this before moving on to the next slope, I began to think I’d spend the entire afternoon on Candy Cane. It seemed a plausible, positive dream.
At this point, we both knew that I needed to ski down, whatever the consequences. I could make turns as I went, even if it meant a face-first dive into the snow. It seemed too simple, but skiing was the best way to learn to ski.
Danielle offered a final pep talk, then left me alone. When she reached the bottom a few moments later, I knew I had to follow.
I scoped out the path ahead and noticed a clear lane down the right side of the hill. This was the time to try right turns as I skied down the hill. I calmed myself, then leapt forward. Once again, I was out of control and had to skid to a stop, but I did it with a right turn instead. Pleased, I headed down again. My descent was ugly, but I managed to turn left to steer away from the edge, then right again to practice multiple turns. I reached the bottom with a triumphant smile on my face.
“Let’s go to the chair lift,” Danielle said. “We’re going to ski Snowball.”
“But I want to try Candy Cane again.”
“No, you’re ready for Snowball.”
“But…” Unconvinced, I followed her to the chair lift.
Part three still to come…