At the beginning of this month, I went to Colorado with some friends of mine. We went to Steamboat Springs for the Music Fest and some skiing. I have only skied once in my life and I was horrible at it so I wasn't really sure about partaking of the skiing on this trip - I really would have been happy to be the girl in the lodge, drinking hot chocolate and reading a book. But my friends are all good skiers and I didn't want to be the only one not doing it.
Peer pressure STINKS.
So, our first full day there, I decided to go skiing with them. When I woke up that morning, instead of getting psyched up for all the fun skiing that lay ahead, like my friends were doing, I was mulling over more important issues. Like shaving my legs - I wanted to make sure that, in the event I broke one or both of my legs, I would be able to focus on the excruciating pain and not the fact that someone was holding my unshaven leg. So I went ahead and shaved my legs and then began the long process of getting the ski gear on. I put on my long underwear, my wool socks, my SUPER flattering ski pants, my undershirt, my shirt, my overshirt, my ski jacket, my scarf, my ear and neck warmer, and my hat. And then we headed out the door to the mountain for our big day of skiing.
That first day, I decided to sign up for ski school. The only other time I had skied, I did not take the class first and it was a disaster. So I decided to NOT make the same mistake again - I signed myself up for the all-day clinic for first-timers. My big plan was to be in ski school while my friend Hannah was off skiing the slopes. I would finish just in time to meet up with her for a run down a green slope. She would be so impressed with my skiing skills, she would declare me her best ski friend and then everyone would ask me for tips on how to negotiate a green slope with such perfection.
I believe in dreaming big.
As I was heading off to my ski school and Hannah was off to meet her husband to ski some blue and black slopes, I was feeling pretty good! I had my lift ticket, my skis, my poles, my ski boots . . . I TOTALLY looked the part. And if I looked the part, I was bound to be a good skier, right?
My confidence was high. I had chosen my super cute black and white hat and my black and white scarf for the occasion. And such cute accessories are the key to success. As long as I looked cute, there was nothing that little ol' mountain could do to stop me! Cute Catherine was on her way to ski school!
Aaaaaaaaaand then I started walking in those ski boots. With the skis. And my poles. Uphill. And the cute got sucked out of me along with every ounce of breath I had. Suddenly, I was panting like a 400 pound man trying run a marathon. And, on top of that, I had to stop at least 28 times to pick up a ski or a pole that had slipped out of my grip. So my ridiculously long trek to ski school ended up going like this: step, step, gasp, wheeze, adjust skis, step, step, gasp, wheeze, adjust poles, step, step, pass cute guy and pretend I'm not out of breath, look back to make sure cute guy is gone, gasp, gasp, gasp, adjust skis. It was awesome.
I met my instructor (who shall forever be known to me as Sweet Josh because he was so sweet and patient) and he took us to what appeared to be a bump in the snow. He had us put our skis on and practice side-stepping up the little bump and then skiing down it to get used to being on our skis. I was a natural. Sweet Josh said turn to the right - I'd turn to the right. He said turn to the left - I turned to the left. He said do a triple sow cow - I . . . no, that's figure skating, isn't it? Whatever. You get my point - I was skiing and I liked it!! So Sweet Josh decided to take us over to an actual hill. Not an official "slope," but a steeper practice hill. With a lift that looked like a conveyor belt.
Now, let me explain this lift. It's called the "magic carpet" and it really does look like a conveyor belt that runs up this hill. The idea behind it is that you step on the "magic carpet" and it carts you up the hill so that you can practice skiing down it over and over and over without having to walk up the hill or take a chair lift. Super easy, right?
Enter Catherine Palmore.
Now you have to understand that walking with skis on is very difficult. At least for me. I thought I'd be good at it since I've been a size 10 shoe since I was like 3 years old. But it turns out that I am actually NOT good at walking in skis. So as I tried to step onto the magic carpet bad things happened. The conveyor started trying to take one of my legs up the hill without the the rest of me. In a panic, I tried to quickly swing my other foot forward to get it on the conveyor belt. But, instead of moving forward like my brain told it to, my foot swung wide with the unwieldy ski and got caught on the fence next to the conveyor belt. So then I had one foot moving up the hill, the other foot caught in a stationary fence, and I'm being forced into the most awkward split ever done. My inner thigh muscles were being stretched in ways they were not meant to be stretched. I actually heard them shouting curse words at me and mocking me by saying things like "Knock it off, Mary Lou Retton!" In that moment, I wanted so badly to maintain my composure. To look up with a laugh and say something clever like "Well, I'm gonna need that leg!" or "Seems like a bad place for a fence!" But, instead, I began shouting "Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh Nononononononononononono!!!" Luckily, the attractive guy operating the lift saw the problem and stopped it so that I could extract my leg from the fence, get myself situated, and perhaps rub some Bengay on my inner thighs. And then he started the lift again with me safely on board. Sans fence.
When I got to the top, the attractive lift operator held my hand to help me off. He managed to only have a small smirk on his face and I appreciated his restraint. Adding to my attractiveness and coolness, I slowly side stepped over to a spot at the top of the hill for my first trip downhill and/or my quick and terrifying death. My instructor told me to ski toward him and then turn right. I said "Sure!"
And then stood there.
He told me again to ski toward him and turn right to stop. "Sure, Josh! Be right there!"
My knees started shaking and my fear paralyzed me. I couldn't move a muscle for fear that I would begin careening downhill, take out a few small children, and end up on youtube. I would have curled up into the fetal position and began sucking my thumb if I could have figured out how to do it without my skis sliding forward. But somewhere inside me, Motivational Speaker Catherine emerged. She grabbed me by the shirt and said "Snap out of it! You know how to do this! So just do it!" And Motivational Speaker Catherine was right - I DID know how to do it! I just needed to have confidence. I had left most of it at the foot of the magic carpet lift but I had JUST enough left to give this a shot. So I looked at Sweet Josh, gritted my teeth, and skied toward him just like he asked. Then I turned right . . . and actually stopped! I was so proud of myself!! And Sweet Josh was proud of me, too. So he gave me my next task: ski toward him and turn left to stop. So I did that. Then he wanted me to ski down a bit more and turn right to stop. So I did. I was on a roll. I was on top of the world. I was ready for a black slope - moguls even!
Then Sweet Josh told me to ski down to the bottom and turn left to stop. No problem, Josh. Watch and learn, my friend. So I took off and skied to the bottom, gaining quite a bit of momentum along the way. And when I say "quite a bit," I mean "HO. LY. CRAP." But I stayed calm because I knew how to stop. I had done this. I just had to turn left to turn and stop like Sweet Josh told me. So, as I got toward the bottom, I tried to do just that. I turned left. But couldn't stop. I remained calm and tried to turn right to stop. So I turned right. But couldn't stop. Suddenly, I found myself careening out of control, turning left and right, arms flailing, yelling super-cool things like "I'M GONNA HIT SOMEBODY!!" and "IT'SNOTWORKINGIT'SNOTWORKINGIT'SNOTWORKIIIIIIIIIIING!!" Mercifully, I fell and that stopped me. Before I killed anyone.
Sweet Josh came running over to me to make sure I was okay. He got me back on my feet and let me recover for a few minutes before making my next trip up the magic carpet lift. When I was ready, he coached me on how to properly get on the magic carpet. He said you line your skis up in front of the lift and you inch forward bit by bit until the conveyor belt just naturally takes your skis forward and then you just go along for the ride. Seems like this would have been helpful information to have the first time around but I'm no ski school teacher so what do I know? So I followed his advice: I lined up my skis, I inched forward, ignoring the long line of people behind me, and waited for the lift to pull my skis forward. And it did! When enough of my skis were on the lift, it pulled me forward and I was on my way. For about 1.3 seconds. And that's when the lift pulling my skis forward caused me to lose my balance and fall backward. And that caused the attractive lift operator to stop the lift for me. Again.
This is when I began to truly loathe skiing.
So Sweet Josh and another instructor helped me up and took me to the bottom of the lift again. This time the attractive lift operator just stopped the lift altogether to let me get on fully and just enjoy the ride. When I arrived at the top of the hill, I gave him my best "sorry I'm a bad skier but call me!" smile. But before he could smile back, I lost my balance on the snow and lurched backwards. Happily I caught my balance and didn't fall but the damage was done. I was never going to make eye contact with him again.
That's when I vowed to not make eye contact with any person while wearing skis.
I tried going down the hill again but this time I was too scared. I would ski a few feet and fall. I would ski a little more and my skis would cross. And I'd fall. I'd tell myself I was going to make it all the way down. And then I'd fall. It was miserable. I had completely lost my confidence. Motivational Speaker Catherine turned in her resignation. And poor Josh was at a loss. He wanted to take me up on a chair lift to teach me how to negotiate that whole thing but I was too scared. He tried to tell me that I was doing really well and that I was totally ready for the chair lift but I didn't believe him. So I lamely stood and watched the others in my class go up on the chair lift and ski down the bunny slope with ease. Sweet Josh came back to me a few more times to see if I wanted to try it but I said no and apologized for my fears over and over again. I felt so LAME. And then the class was over and my ordeal had finally come to an end.
PRAISE. THE. LORD.
I was embarrassed to report my experience to Hannah and the rest of the gang. They're such good skiers/snow boarders and they just simply don't let silly fears like plummeting to your bloody and untimely death stop them. So I knew that they probably wouldn't really understand my fear. Or my loathing of skiing. Or my decision to never put a ski on again.
Never ever ever ever.
Uuuuuuuuuntil Hannah convinced me to try going down a green slope with her the next day.
But THAT, my friends, is another story for another day . . .