For a millisecond I considered playing a game here with you all: Guess the contusion site? It’s fun, kids. I’d insert photos of the many abrasions and bruises I acquired skiing Wednesday and Thursday, and you would guess where you thought they might lie on my body. My husband was all, “Holy crap, we need to take a picture of your elbow!!!” and I was down with that because these are battle scars, hard won at that. But even a swollen, rainbow elbow could look like an ass without context, and I’m not opening this up for “No, it’s really not my ass because there is nothing that would bring me to a point of maybe showing my ass on internet” and having to prove it by posting photos of my left calf, right shin, hip, other hip (a study in indigo at present), rib, middle finger, and ankle. The finger you’d recognize in a close-up snapshot, but honestly, the only picture I took was my elbow. It’s spectacular.
Skiing is like riding a bike: even after twelve years, the muscle memory persists. You think you can’t, but you surely can–it comes back.
Mostly. Since #1 was born, I’ve skied just once. I’ll never be featured in a Warren Miller ski film, but I am a capable, not pretty and pretty stiff, downhiller. I fell just twice in two days, which, HEY, go, me!! What I lacked in frequency though, I corrected with intensity. If you’re not a skier, you may not know that ski runs are categorized by the mountain’s relative difficulty: green circle are flat, wide runs for novices; blue squares indicate more difficult terrain for intermediates; black diamonds are steep and bumpy, the most difficult traverses; and double blacks are for experts and lunatics. Blue is my color.
I’m more difficult. The jokes write themselves here, huh? I am comfortably challenged on blue runs, but when you ski with Justin, your early 30-something, born-to-downhill nephew and so-happy-to-be-back-in-Vail husband, you land upon a black diamond called Red Zinger, and yes, literally, I landed on Red Zinger.
I started strong, man–slow, wide turns work to cut the hill’s 110-degree vertical drop. I didn’t carry a protractor, so I can’t say it was a straight-up 90-degree right angle, but 110 couldn’t be far off. When you pause at the crest of the ridge and can’t see the face of the run until you’re craning over it a full 50-degrees yourself, the run is steep, yo. I criss-crossed about a third of the way down, killing it, and announced, “I got this, you can go ahead, Honey,” which apparently was the wrong thing to say because immediately my legs went east and west, pulling all of me south. Gravity wins. Every time. And since my husband rarely listens to me, he let me go first.
(Disclaimer: Although Tom doesn’t always listen to me in general because I talk a lot, and I think he legit has to tune out about 42% of my speech anyway just to try and make sense of the other 58% of the shit I say that’s actually important or relevant, he is a genuinely thoughtful ski buddy. He remained above because my hubris was no match for the slope, and I think he knew I’d need the help. And yeah, I wrote a 60+ word sentence here, so you can see why Tom has to ignore me every so often. Survival instinct.)
When you crash on a hill steep as this one, you fall a really long time. A really, really, really long time. Really. Long. Time. Long enough that you become aware you’ve got to consciously problem-solve just exactly how the hell you’re going to stop, because gravity wins. Every time. When I finally recovered, Justin yelled up that he got the whole thing on his GoPro. Super. It was my lucky star rising that YouTube has to wait for its next #epicskifails star. Justin hit still photo when he meant to roll video. Luckiest fall ever.
The whole point of this tale is not to brag on my Vail vacation or my battle scars.
Tom has been hoping to take me skiing for years now, and I’ve found a way out every time–school breaks didn’t work, kids had something scheduled, “Oh, just go yourself or with your brothers and have fun without me, it’s cool.”
The point is this: If something scares you, do it. Try it at least. You’re stronger than you think you are.
From the moment my husband booked the airline tickets, I felt scared. Clamping boots into bindings Wednesday morning, I was just short of terrified. Red Zinger is not the black diamond that left me purple, but it was just one of two diamonds I had the nerve to hit at Vail. It’s OK to know your limits, but it’s OK to push your comfort limit too. It wasn’t just the diamonds I had to fear, but fear itself. And a nasty little groomed, but still frozen early morning run, a BLUE run no less, that owned me. I love you Vail, but you can keep Dealer’s Choice for some other chump. I would love to see footage of how this ass-over-tea kettle went down. I have bruises on every angular part of my body, and one distinctly not pointy part.
Find your brave. I could’ve gone the rest of my days never skiing again. But I’d have missed this:And this: And this: Breathtaking. Hard. Worth it.
In closing, I offer these helpful travel tips:
- If your nephew is employed by the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels, take him up on the employee rate. I’ll never experience such luxury again, though I’m not gonna lie–I felt like a fraud the whole time we were there. I’m a 99%-er, you guys, but it was a lark for the Empress to don the emperor’s clothes. Even if we rolled up in a rental Nissan Sentra. #imposter
- If your nephew is married to the beautiful Jocelyn, take advantage of every minute you can with her, with them both. Even when you’re so tired you prop your eyeballs open. Do it. Be enchanted by their one-year-old daughter who already out-fashions you, and has a smile that melts mountaintop snow caps.
- Skiing is a costly proposition. You know this going in. You want to ski a second day? Do it. Do it while you are still physically able, and without considering the day’s receipts.
- Toast the bar guitarist figuratively and literally toast aprés ski marshmallows. Hammer down a couple s’mores while you identify constellations in the clear, mountain sky.
- Until the pilot arrives at the gate, sit the f-word down. Two drunk girls sprinted toward the Airbus lavatories as soon as wheels met ground last night. And while they giggled themselves silly and LOUDLY, the sober remainder of passengers was forced to wait until they returned to their seats to taxi the final 200 yards of our journey.
- Vacation without your children once in a while. You’ll regret leaving them. Leave them anyway. They’re fine without you, and for the first couple days, you’re OK without them too.
- Remember what Dorothy said: There’s no place like home.
My husband said that writing about falling was selling myself short, that I skied much more ably than I give myself credit for, and that focusing on the only two falls I had doesn’t represent what I did accomplish. Glass half full guy, that one. The wipeouts, however entertaining, are not the moral of the story though, are they?
Go. While you can, go. Do. Do the thing that makes you push that much further. Tomorrow is no guarantee. All the platitudes and internet memes that apply here? Yes. Absolutely. Your bruises will fade before your memories do.