Christmas night is usually for hanging around the house with family playing with new gadgets and toys. But this year I was on the road through the snow and sleet to Boyne Mountain. My brother was taking his kids up for a kids ski school on Saturday and he would ski all day with his girlfriend, the lovely Shelley.
It sounded fun, but I wasn't wild about it for a few reasons. Number one, Julie didn't get to go because someone had to take care of Ed, our new dog. Number two, this Shelley has a volatile relationship with my brother and I had know idea what it would be like being locked up for a day and a half with her. Number three, it was expensive. And number four, and most glaring, I have never skied. Ever.
But like most things in my life that I initially poo-poo, it turned out to be fun.
Christmas night at a ski lodge and a water park with the kids could easily be a new tradition for me. We woke up early and I scrambled to get the kids ready for their first time skiing. Breakfast was painless as I nimbly dodged the bill. The kids went to begin registering to rent their ski equipment and I headed to get them some goggles.
$60 for two pair of goggles... and wait for it... they never even put them over their eyes all day. But they made for nice pictures.
WE'RE SKIERS! LEAH DID A GOOD JOB OF HIDING HER TEARS FOR ONE PICTURE
As the class started, Leah realized she'd lost one of her gloves. I race back, retracing every step we'd taken that morning. No glove. I go back to the sports store and hope to find some cheap gloves. The sales girl felt my pain and starts bargain hunting alongside. $30, $40, $60 freaking dollars-- are you kidding me? Finally, she gasps.
Sales Girl: Oooh, how about $16?
I finally hunt down Leah who is in one of several groups in and around the learning center. As I suspected, her meltdown had begun. What you need to know about Leah is, at 9, she is a good student, very smart and a perfectionist about everything. When she can't master something immediately, she gets frustrated. That's something she gets from me unfortunately. But Leah takes it to another level. She breaks down, cries and wants to quit and go do something she's great at. The caption "Overcoming Adversity" has never appeared under her picture. You know, making it so kids don't strike out anymore in Little League, taking away dodgeball, and trying to fix activities so there are no losers-- how will kids EVER learn how to overcome adversity? But that another rant.
Anywho, this was no different as she informed me that she wanted to go home. In addition to being the only kid missing a glove, she was also having a tough time on the skiis.
I assessed the situation with all my parenting expertise, drawing upon all my knowledge of my daughter and her state of mind and what the correct move would be. What would my dad do (oh, God!)... what would my grandpa do (ouch!)... what would Cliff Huxtable do (ha ha!)? Well, since I wasn't prepared to swear, smack or make a joke, I did what I thought was right. I quickly snapped that after spending hundreds on a room, goggles, gloves with zippers on them, and this class-- there was no way she was leaving.
I went back to check us out of the room and on my way back to the hill, I wondered if I should give this skiing thing a try. What the heck? When in Rome right? Besides, I felt like an idiot as one of only three people on the moujntain not in skiis. Even all the Asian tourists with cameras were on skiis. When I found out it was only $28 to rent the stuff it was decided.
I started on the little Bunny Hill that you take a conveyer belt up to. I slowly navigated around kids and other beginners to glide down the hill into my pizza stop. My brother showed me how to stop by angling my skiis into a triangle, like a piece of pizza, to stop. I went up the conveyer belt and came down a handful of times to great success, i.e. not falling down. Truth be told, I did fall twice trying to get on the conveyer belt-- once on my back and I couldn't get up. So, everyone stared as some guy lying down on the escalator thing with his skiis in the air because he couldn't get up waved at them.
Then I went on the lift to the top of the beginner hill. Now I was nervous. The guy on the lift with me was just as new and he knocked me over as we got off the lift because he fell off hbis snowboard. I got up and proceeded down the mountain. Honestly, I thought it wasn't hard at all. I thought I would be falling all over myself trying to learn this, but suddenly I was thinking it was easy.
I ran into Ryan and Shelley and they decided to test me by going up the big lift to the real hills. I went down the easiest of the bunch and it was still every bit a test for me. If anyone had gotten in my way I would've killed them. No way I could've stopped or shushed around them. But I never fell in about 7 or 8 runs and even was able to turn around some folks by the end.
Then I saw the face of God.
I found myself just off the lift trying to figure out which hill to try next. Ryan and Shelley were getting lunch or something so I went for it alone. I remembered he said don't go to the left-- they were the tough runs I looked open-mouthed at from the bottom. On the right, some MTV/X-Games wannabe snowboarders were going down the hill. They were stoked. I wasn't about to let them see me fall. I looked back left and saw a teacher take a bunch of little kids down the run I thought was the Black Diamond. Black Diamond, if you don't know, depicts the toughest and most dangerous runs on a mountain. Some have Double Black Diamonds. Seeing the kids go, I figured it was something else and of course thought, if they can do it, I can. I was getting good and if it turned out to be tough I'd just pizza my way down.
So I confidently eased into the run which looked very serene at the top. I turned the corner to see the instructor and the students stopped at the top talking. I glanced to the left to see a bar and in the middle I saw a cliff. Suddenly scared in a way I have never been, I quickly wondered if I should ditch. But a small part of me thought I could do this. By the time I decided, it was too late-- I was going down the mountain. Immediately I was too fast to pizza my way down or to turn at all. I had no choice but to go straight down. I actually said the words, "OH NO!" They echoed in my mind over and over. My lift ticket that hadn't made a sound all day on my jacket suddenly was jackhammering off my face. In between my "Oh No's" I wondered how bad I was going to break my leg. For a moment, I enjoyed the speed, but the daredevil in me was pushed aside by thoughts of a compound fracture of my femur.
It started to level out and I realized I was going to live. Stopping before I hit something metal, maybe not. I turned to the left and stopped as hard as I could and cozied up to the back of the line for the lift. I couldn't breathe. I was exhilarated and still shaking. I needed a drink.
I found my brother and told him the story. When he stopped laughing we went to the bar on the slopes and got a stiff drink.
Yes, I will ski again and yes, I think I'm getting good even after one day on the mountain. No, I will not be going down the Black Diamond for a long long time.
By the way, the kids finished the class. They didn't love it, but went skiing with us after class. A couple falls by each and our day was over. At dinner someone asked them if they would do it again. Before either of them answered, I said, "Their goggles cost $60. They will ski again."
AJ AND I ON THE SKI LIFT AFTER SHE GOT OUT OF CLASS
We hit the water park one more time, which eased their pain, and we came home. Now that's a Christmas story!