It’s that time of year again, where I perform my little dance for the gods of winter in hopes that the white stuff will fall from the sky in copious amounts. When a fluffy layer covers the ground sufficiently, I dress like a colorful Michelin Man and strap the equivalent of 2 x 4s to my Transformer boots so I can slide down the mountain over and over again. And I love it.
I wish I’d learn to ski when I was a tiny tot. Watching those fearless tikes bomb down the hill effortlessly makes me just a little jealous. But I didn’t learn to ski when I was two – more like twenty-two. Although I was a late ski bloomer, I made up for it by learning the sport at the spot that is internationally known for sweet powder – Southern Indiana.
With a 900 foot elevation and 300 vertical feet, this ski hill was the local mecca for the downhill enthusiast. Actually, it was the only place to get your snow on within a four hour radius of my home. The 18 inches of annual snowfall combined with February daytime highs that often permitted lawn mowing effectively transformed the entire hillside into a slightly vertical ice rink. This, of course, necessitated night skiing because that’s about the only time the whole place would transform states of matter from a liquid to a solid. The only place I imagine skiing could possibly be worse is in Alabama. But the regulars used to brag, “If you can ski here, you can ski anywhere.”
I beg to differ.
Truth be told, the seven runs of this Indiana ski bump were more like a naturally iced luge course in St. Moritz and even more dangerous. The longest run, which took all of seventeen seconds to navigate, required skiers to make a single turn to get to the lift. And it was always a heart stopping ride careening down this frosty slope. Because on a busy night, not only did you have to steer around the curve, you had to maneuver around the piles of bodies who didn’t make the turn not to mention the massive yard sale the accumulated higher than the snow. While this black diamond run had some quaint name, like Elmer’s Revenge, it really should have been called The Tonya Harding because most nights somebody lost a knee.
Many skiers performed moves on the ice that even the French judges would have deemed worthy of an Olympic ten. Lutzes, loops and axels, all executed involuntarily on skis, were inevitably part of the exciting evening line-up. In one of my first ski outings, an untimely encounter with an icy patch enabled me to clothesline myself on the rope tow just before wiping out an entire lift line like a frost covered bowling ball.
Today, I’m much better thanks to real snow, great teachers and the demise of long, skinny skis. And I’m learning wherever I can. Since my boys have been skiing, they’ve given me some good lessons on how to shred some powder and how to know when it’s just too gnarly for my limited abilities. I know that getting big air is never the result of a voluntary act on my part. And I’ve learned I’m not the kind of girl who likes to amp it up, dude.
And there’s one other thing I’ve learned, the right equipment makes all the difference. Because if I ever head back to that Southern Indiana ski hill, I’m bringing the only gear I ever really needed there: ice skates.