After surviving 51 years on this earth, I broke down this past weekend and went snow skiing with the 6 year old boy, 7 year old girl, and my wife. I have never once considered such a thing. I like hot weather and cold beer.
If I had been an early pioneer, once we reached the first sign of snow, I'd have done a 180 degree turn and the West would still be home to the Buffalo and Apaches. I'd send a few sketch artists every year during the Winter to record the beauty of it all and then sell the scenes at Walmart.
But, the little ones were dying to go and my wife and in-laws are all accomplished skiers. So, there I was, all dressed up and no place to go. I figured I might as well try to ski so I hit the bunny slope while my wife, brother in law, and sister in law instructed me on proper skiing techniques. They may as well have been trying to teach a turtle the 400 meter hurdles. I doubt few men in the history of the United States have spent as much time buried in the snow as I did.
After a two-hour bunny course lesson, I progressed to the easiest slopes, not by benefit of graduation but apparently a social promotion. These slopes were known as the green slopes. One can then ski the blue slopes and the black diamond slopes if good enough. I'm not sure what degree of incline the green slopes are but I can sure as hell guarantee one can reach speeds in excess of 60 mph on 'em if you don't know how to stop.
It is truly amazing to see the look of pure unadulterated fear when a 6'5", 235-pound man is hurdling toward the bottom of a hill, all the while flapping around like James Brown on crack. Not fear in my eyes, mind you, but rather all the other skiers as they scurried for cover. By some stroke of luck, I managed to traverse the green slope two of three times without a crash. I shall go to my grave without discussing the third time.
The next day, I arose in the morning confident and prepared to head back to the green slopes. It was at this point my family conducted an intervention. A unanimous decision was made that I needed to take skiing lessons. The original plan was for a private one hour lesson. These were all sold out and eventually I ended up with a five-hour group lesson.The group consisted of me and 12 women, all approximately 16-18 years old. Quite frankly, there was a time in my life when I would have considered this a stroke of luck. But here, at this stage in life, they all looked at me like one would a poor homeless man on a street corner.
One of the problems with skiing is the fact that you must dress appropriately for the cold weather. I had on the Under Armor gear, fleece jacket, ski pants, ski coat, etc. I could have gone to sleep in a Frigidaire chest freezer and been quite comfortable. Unfortunately, once the female ski instructor began her lessons, I was soon sweating like Charlie Sheen at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. By the time she got through running us through various beginner lessons, I could have skied the slopes in a Speedo and been comfortable. Now mind you, this would have been a horrific sight but to tell you the truth, me skiing in full skiing gear was too.
I can only say that whatever shred of dignity I had remaining prior to the lessons were soon readily stripped away. I managed at one point to ski backwards for 300 yards, which would have been, I suppose, a nifty trick if only I had intended for such a thing to happen. There is only one way to end a 300 yard backwards ski run, and it ain't exactly pretty. Before the day was out, little 6 and 7 year old children were skiing by me all the while passing out tips. Bend your knees, straighten your back; that is when they weren't exclaiming startled words like "Oh my gosh, what is Lurch doing on the ski slopes?"
Oh well, I may be stripped of dignity but not determination.
Next year I'll be back, the kids need something to talk about.
Contact columnist T. Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org.