The very first time I went skiing was when I was a freshman in college. Less than three hours into perhaps one of the most frightening days of my life I hit a small child on a Blue Square incline, and I ended up wrapped up like a mummy on the back of a ski patrol sled. The kid lived, but my hands were frozen in a terror grip — I had worn cloth gloves and nothing over them — and my JEANS were frozen against my ass. Yes, I skied in jeans, and a cotton hoodie. The only thing I could think of as I was carted down the side of the mountain was, “I am going to die, frozen, dead, and I haven’t yet repented of the yearning in my heart to see all those rated R movies.”
The second time was a year later and I made it past the three hour mark. Before the four hour mark, however, I had spit a string of obscenities at my roommates who wouldn’t wait for me on the mountain, and after they had convinced me that it would be a good idea to practice my beginner’s ability on a Black Diamond hill, I marched over to the the ski patrol hut at the top of the mountain and demanded that someone get me the heck off that hill. Actually, it was more of a pounding of my fists on the windows of the hut as I screamed, “I AM GOING TO DIE!” I rode the ski lift the opposite way down the entire mountain.
I promised myself that two close-calls were enough and that I would never again participate in the insanity that is winter sports. I hate the winter anyway. And skiing? YOU HAVE TO BUY ALL THAT GEAR. And that gear does not come cheap. And then you have to put on that gear. And then you have to drive all the way up a mountain. And then you have to wait in line in the bitter cold to hurl your body down a slippery piece of hillside without any way to stop your fall except by using various body parts, risking death or at least full-body paralysis. IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. I DO NOT GET IT.
Why not just drink tequila and stay in bed?
I have to admit that I was having these thoughts as Jon and I drove up to Solitude Ski Resort on Sunday morning. I had been snow-boarding with him three years earlier and didn’t find it very fun, only marginally better than skiing because at least you’re only trying to maneuver one plank instead of two. The odds of making it out alive were better, but that was the only advantage. I still fell hundreds if not billions of times. I still hit that point in the day when I jerked my feet out of the snowboard, threw it all of four inches (those things are heavy!) and screamed, “JUST SHUT UP. SHUT. UP. STOP TELLING ME HOW TO DO THIS BECAUSE I CAN’T. SHUT UP.” Can you believe he agreed to be the father of my child?
Sunday morning it was raining in the valleys which meant it was snowing at all the local resorts. Jon said this was a good thing, and I had to trust him. He is unbelievable on a snowboard. Watching his form and grace on the hillside is like watching an artist paint a canvas. He belongs on the mountain. He has also taught countless friends how to snowboard including his former wife, and while she may have gotten the Rushmore DVD out of the divorce, I wasn’t going to let her get the snowboarding legacy. Sunday I was determined to make Jon think that his investment in this marriage was earning interest. I was going to snowboard and like it SO HELP ME GOD.
By 11 am, less than two hours after setting foot on the hill I had reached that point, the beginner snowboarder’s boiling point, the point at which all the FUCKS in the world are being uttered by one individual who has fallen on her ass just too many times to continue. Snow was falling so hard that neither of us could see an inch in front of our faces. The wind was burning my cheeks. I had already fallen at the top of the lift so awkwardly that they HAD TO STOP THE LIFT until I could get my mangled body out of the way. I was trying so hard to hold my shit together, so instead of telling Jon to shut up I yelled, “NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP TALKING TO ME SO STOP TALKING TO ME.”
He suggested we take a break for lunch and regroup. Snow had been falling so hard that our entire bodies were soaking wet, my hair curling from the moisture. We ate warm chili dogs and watched little snooty five-year-old skiers walk by, kids you could tell hadn’t fallen even once that day. Do you have any idea how horrible it is when your ego is handed to you by a five-year-old who can perform a complicated skill better than you can? I can throw temper tantrums better than most five-year-olds, but skiing, those litter fuckers CAN KICK MY ASS. I felt like shouting, “Yeah, well THERE REALLY IS NO SANTA CLAUS, SO SUCK IT.”
Before heading back out to give the ole mountain another try we purchased goggles to keep the snow out of our eyes thus officially emptying Leta’s college fund. I was planning in my head how I was going to break it to Jon that I wanted to go home after the next run, to tell him that the woman he thought he married was really just an uncoordinated dork with no courage or stamina whatsoever. But he already knew that. It wouldn’t work.
Halfway down the next run with our orange and purple goggles shielding our eyes from the blizzard Jon yelled out to me, “Toes or heels! Toes or heels!” Since I had the heels part down right — I had spent the entire day going down the mountain on my heels, the board parallel to the bottom of the mountain, at a speed of less than 1 mile an hour — I just decided to go for it and I hit my toes.
And I started flying.
Powder was in foot high drifts everywhere, soft and marshmallowy, and just when I hit the speed of sound something happened. Something almost supernatural and holy and sacred. The only thing I can compare it to is the first time I ever got a buzz from alcohol, the realization that, OH MY GOD, THIS IS WHY PEOPLE DRINK. Things clicked and I knew how to use my body to use the board. At that moment I understood the insanity, and the insanity was WICKED GOOD.
We were at the bottom of that run within less than 10 minutes compared to all the other runs which took us 30-45 minutes to navigate. Without hesitation I looked at Jon and yelled, “AGAIN!” And again we went, and again and again. After every run I would be the first to reach the lift calling out for Jon to hurry up. THE SNOW! IT WAS LIKE COCAINE! EXCEPT WITHOUT ALL THAT NON-STOP TALKING! We didn’t stop for another three hours until my body could take no more, carving in and out of powder drifts that were like religion in white mounds. I continued to fall, once directly on my face — don’t ever let your husband try to convince you that “falling forward is much better than falling backward” because THE HELL IT IS, Mr. I’m Jonnny Moseley and I Haven’t Fallen on My Face In 10 Years.
Yesterday my body was a mess of sore muscles I never even learned about in biology. Thank God it was a holiday because every time I sat down to use the bathroom Jon had to come and help me up off the toilet. I could barely walk, let alone get up from a seated or lying down position. This pain comes close to childbirth, and when I started out this post I promised myself I wasn’t going to make this horrible metaphor but IT IS SO APPROPRIATE. It’s like, you go through all this shit and pain and gear-buying, and you strain muscles and cuss and fall over. And you’re like, why the hell do people do this? This is so stupid. But then you’re like, you mean I can do this? And it feels like this? Oh, and over here you can see God’s face? So this is why people snowboard. This is why people have kids. And this is why people go snowboarding more often than they have kids.