Getting in line, I relaxed slightly, but couldn’t feel joyous about my accomplishment. I’d skied down, but with many false starts and spills. I had to do it again, but I knew my second trip would be like my first. Cold, wet, and painful.
The line for the South chair lift wasn’t crowded, so we headed up the mountain without a wait. Still learning how to walk in skis, I scooted to the starting line, just ahead of our chair. Trying to let the chair catch me from underneath, I anticipated its arrival. I misjudged and got smacked in the leg. It knocked me backward, slamming my butt into the seat.
Generally, they did an excellent job of sweeping snow from the chair, but that doesn’t make it warmer. The temperature was mild, but the metal bars of the chair held the cold. Because I’d skied slowly down the slope, I hadn’t built up a good workout sweat. I shivered, from the cold and the anticipation of having to ski down the slope again.
Danielle encouraged me and worked to focus me on my success and improvement, but I dreaded the experience, so I answered with “yeah, but”. For every incident of me doing something well, however monumental (tiny monumental, but still monumental), I’d point out a little kid skiing with ease down the slope beneath us.
As we continued the journey up, it reminded me of how long the slope was. It’d taken us a few minutes to ride up the first slope, and much longer to ski down as a result of my stalling.
As we reached the top of the mountain, I tried to anticipate how the next journey would turn out. Fortunately, the incline down from the chair to the top of the slope was smaller than the first ride, so I managed this exit without a dismount. Danielle skied ahead to the map while I adjusted my gloves and hat. Hoping to map the quickest route to the parking lot, I joined her for the planning session.
As I looked at the map, I felt bad for her that she was only going to get 2 trips down the slopes and she’s an excellent skier. I suggested that, once we reached the bottom, I’d hang out in the lodge while she skied a few more times. She agreed that we could do that, if I wanted. She reminded me that I was doing well for my first time. Uh, huh.
Looking at the map now, notice that the top of the South Chair lift is the highest peak depicted on the mountain. Forget Everest. I’d reached the top of the world and I had to descend at once if I intended to live another day.
Based on this new plan to make this my last run, we decided to bypass Snow Ball and ski Twinkle, diverting at the Lower Shuttle to end up at the lodge. Scary, but I (incorrectly) figured that half of the journey was sideways across the mountain, so I could manage it. I took a deep breath and we departed.
The path from the map to Twinkle had a slight incline, but it wasn’t steep. Gravity took hold and I accelerated at a manageable pace. Intending to slow down, I scanned around me and noticed traffic. Any drastic panic now would ripple through behind me. I focused on the path instead.
Being in the middle of the lane, I wanted to avoid blocking everyone when I fell, so I edged to the right side of the trail. Once I’d reached the edge, I realized what I’d done. I’d adjusted my skis to turn right, while moving. Amazed, I edged my way to the left. I only moved a few feet to the left, but I moved where I’d intended to move. What was happening?
Instead of sliding quickly down the mountain, I was skiing. I was moving faster, but under control and in my direction of choice. Before I let my mind interfere again, I focused forward and picked up a little more speed. I didn’t want anything dangerous, but I knew I’d unlocked the fear so that it could fade away with continued focus and effort.
Danielle reached the clearing at the top of Twinkle ahead of me, so she’d stopped to check on my progress. She saw me skiing toward her, under control and on pace with everyone around me. Surprised, she smiled, then faced the slope and skied towards the Lower Shuttle. I followed.
I didn’t have enough confidence to ski straight through the turn onto the Lower Shuttle that I knew was coming, so I stopped after I passed Twinkle’s first hill. There was a hill to surmount before the Lower Shuttle, but I wasn’t afraid of it. I wanted to gather my thoughts, focus on the task, and plot my entry into the narrow path that constituted the first half of the Lower Shuttle.
Danielle waited. She was too far away for us to talk, but I could see how excited she was that I’d let go and skied. I gave the thumbs up, followed by a wave to indicate that I needed a second.
I needed to plot my path from the right side of the slope to the left, where I’d connect with the Lower Shuttle. Since left turns were my only strength in the beginning, this didn’t concern me. I looked over my left shoulder to determine the number of people behind.
On the slopes, the person in front of you has the right of way. I knew I’d need that, but sudden moves causing fellow skiers to careen out of control didn’t seem wise. I only needed a short opening because I’d pick up speed this time, but there were a couple of people near me. While I waited, I decided to ski at an angle to the left to cover some distance, ski down the hill to gain speed, then ski left into the Lower Shuttle. I’d use this speed to get as far as I could before I’d have to walk the shuttle. I signaled to Danielle as the traffic behind me cleared. We departed for the hill.
I followed my plan exactly. I’d maneuvered left to the middle of the slope when I reached the hill. I went down, picking up speed as intended. As I neared the bottom of the hill, I turned left and zipped into the Lower Shuttle.
Before I could get overjoyed at the accomplishment, I had to navigate the narrow path. It was ominously lined with orange latticed tape. I’d seen enough competitive skiing on television to know that patches of orange latticed tape, while a warning, also has magnetic powers to attract skis. I used my motorcycle training to “look where I wanted to go”. It worked. Into the turn at a reasonable rate of speed, I turned toward the middle of the shuttle. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that the shuttle has a slight incline, so I didn’t have sufficient speed to reach the top.
Danielle didn’t know that either, so I noticed her in front of me trudging her way up the incline. I caught up with her.
“I can’t believe it. I did it!”
She smiled back at me. “I knew you could. How do you like it now?”
“I don’t know how I did it. I was following you, then I realized that I was skiing, so I kept going.”
“You’re doing a great job.”
We reached the top of the incline. Thunder Run opened onto the Lower Shuttle, so I asked “Which way are we going?” That’s a stupid question, but I was so scared at the top of the slope that I didn’t focus on other slopes. Danielle pointed to the right, where I saw the shuttle open onto the end of Mistletoe, where we’d begun our introductory lesson only a few hours earlier.
We skied towards the end, Danielle next to me until we reached the opening. As we neared I told Danielle to go ahead. The end of Mistletoe would be the steepest incline I’d encountered, so I wanted to make sure no one was near me as I skied down. I stopped and looked around. I let the fear creep back, but quickly squashed that. I took a deep breath, decided to go, and took off.
I swooped back and forth, making exaggerated turns to slow myself down. Once I neared the end, I straightened up and skied to the end. I made an intentional hard stop, turning left and spraying snow to my right s I turned. I raised my hands in triumph. I looked around for Danielle.
Waiting at the chair lift, she smiled. I ventured in her direction, remember
ing the steep journey to the chair lift. As I neared her, she asked “do you want to leave now?”
“We have to do that again. Right now.”
I couldn’t believe it. I’d made it down the slope faster than it took us to go up the chair lift and it wasn’t me tumbling wildly out of control. I loved skiing more than anything in the world at that moment. By accident, I let the joy open for me. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
I chatted like a little kid while Danielle smiled and reaffirmed how well I’d done. The lift came and carried us up the slope again. As we rode up the slope, snow began to fall. A snow mobile rode up the slope below us. That Guy rode past us down the chair lift.
Looking around while we chatted, the mountain no longer looked intimidating. I watched little kids jetting around other skiers and snowboarders racing down the hill. I understood why they did it instead of being perplexed by it.
I noticed the snowboarder in front of us didn’t have his safety bar pulled down. “That guy is balls-to-the-wall,” I said.
“Did you just say balls-to-the-wall?”
“I did because that guy is crazy and doesn’t have the safety bar down.” I pointed. She laughed and agreed.
We reached the top of the lift. I prepared for the exit, pointing my skis perpendicular to the ground. My skis settled onto the ramp. I stood up. Learning from my last experience, I leaned forward. I zoomed down the ramp and away from the lift. Cleared from the lift, I was still standing. Outstanding.
We skied to the South Shuttle. Again, learning from my last experience, I picked skied down the first hill, picking up speed instead of slowing myself down. After running out of momentum again, we
walked scooted to the opening for Twinkle. Without pause, we headed down.
Skiing down the slope, turning left and right to slow myself when necessary, I approached the Lower Shuttle within seconds. This trip, I had enough speed to maintain my momentum. Once again, I noticed the orange latticed tape, then shifted my sight to where I wanted to go.
Racing through the shuttle, I looked at Danielle and said “Is this green?”
Laughing, she said no. I’m glad I didn’t know that before because I would’ve been nervous. With my ignorance, I’d skied the harder part of a Blue Square shuttle on my second and third trips down a slope.
We continued through the shuttle, me following behind Danielle. I didn’t pause at Mistletoe, choosing to ski it while I had momentum. When we reached the bottom, there was no question we’d be skiing again. We headed to the chair lift.
We got in line and caught the chair lift almost immediately. For a beautiful January day, the crowd was perfect. I don’t have any comparison, but the weather was wonderful, so I’d assume it would pull more skiers. No complaints.
On the lift, we continued chatting. Danielle almost dropped her poles. I almost dropped my gloves. Snow accumulated on our clothes. The snow mobile passed under us again.
At the top, we followed the same path to Twinkle. When we reached the entrance to Thunder Run, Danielle decided that she wanted to ski a Blue Square. I told her I’d be fine and I’d meet her on the Lower Shuttle. She headed down as I worked my way to Twinkle.
Once at Twinkle, I took off immediately, despite some apprehension that if I wiped out, I’d have no familiar face to rescue me. I didn’t need to worry.
I entered the South Shuttle at my fastest speed yet, focusing on making a tighter turn to the inside once I’d reached it. This worked perfectly, except for one thing.
When I reached Danielle, who was waiting for me, I said “I can’t see a shittin’, fuckin’ thing.” She started laughing.
“Seriously, the falling snow is in my face. I’m skiing with my eyes nearly closed. But I don’t trust the goggles.”
“Are you going to be ok,” she asked.
“I’ll be fine. I just need to get real goggles for next time.”
We continued through the Lower Shuttle and headed towards the bottom of Mistletoe.
I let Danielle go ahead while I adjusted my hat and scarf against the snow. I didn’t want to get snow in my face as I tackled the steep bottom of Mistletoe. After checking the traffic, I journeyed down the slope. Danielle was waiting in at the chair lift with her camera. Here’s the video she took:
We got on the chair lift again. While journeying up the mountain, we chatted about my readiness for a Blue Square. I knew I wouldn’t ski one that day, but it was an interesting turn from being frustrated by the sport earlier in the day. As we rode up, the snow mobile passed us again on its way up the mountain.
At the top, we noticed the beauty of the trees as the lights came on and snow continued to fall. Since we were taking a moment to enjoy the experience, I knew it was the right time to bring up an important topic.
“We should decide now how many more trips down the mountain we’re going to take. We’re too excited at the bottom to say no and it’s getting colder. I also need to munch.”
“That’s a good idea. How many more trips do you think?”
“We should just make this the last one.”
“I agree, two more trips is perfect.”
“Yes, three more and then we’re done.”
“Ok, we’ll take two more, then see how we feel. Agreed?”
We skied over to Twinkle.
Part five (the ending) still to come…