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Posts Tagged ‘Ski’

For the Love of Skiing

January 25, 2011 6 comments

It's a ski day at Whistler

As I don five layers of clothing (moisture wicking base first, merino wool layer second, various thermal things that will fit thereafter), carefully stick my toe warmers on top of my wooly socks, and wedge my foot into my cumbersome ski boot, forcing the buckles closed an aerobic exercise in itself, it strikes me that skiing is an absurd sport.  I stuff my pockets with money, tissues, hand warmers, lip balm and granola bars, and head out into the dark morning looking like the Michelin Man as I juggle my helmet, skis, pole and gloves, with no free hands to do things like open doors.

Despite dressing at a speed that could rival the Six Million Dollar Man, I’m overheating before I get outside, the frigid outdoor temperatures turning my sweat into an ice cube that inconveniently coats my body, transforming me from a barbecue to a freezer before I can yodel yard sale.

But then I’m at the lift and anticipation washes over me: some days you ski, and some days you don’t. This one I’m skiing.

Symphony Bowl - can you hear the music?

I can never decide what I like best about skiing: The vistas, when you have them? The act of hurling yourself down a mountain at break-neck speed? Floating almost effortlessly through champagne powder? Laughing, (hopefully, once you make sure all of your digits are moving) with friends over good wipeouts? Enjoying a cold beer apres-ski? The thigh burning workout, always negated by a big bowl of chili and white bread at lunch?

Even the days they are handing out garbage bags at the lifts to shield you from the rain, spending a day skiing always seems better than the alternative.

Unlike the real world of line-ups, in front of a ski lift everyone is happy. A sea of smiling faces. After you! No, after you!  How do you like those skis? Have you been to Symphony Bowl today? Typical chatter amongst skiers, comfortable in the skiing fraternity. There is hope for humanity after all. This is one of the things I love about skiing.

A bluebird day, clear skies making the white snow glow neon.  Peaks and snow and sky as far as the eye can see, skiers darting like ants back and forth down the slope. I breathe mountain air and it goes straight to my soul. Surely this must be the best thing. This is why I love skiing.

Gliding over a piste you spy some untouched powder and want to be the first to trace an s-like trail through it; never mind it comes out looking more like a mathematical equation – you floated! This, surely, is what I love the most.

In the gondola, you strike up a conversation with the woman next to you, who has traveled from Hong Kong or Austria or New Zealand and is in love with your country, telling you how lucky you are to live here. Reminding me. This, too, I love.

Sitting afterwards in a crowded bar as a local musician covers Free Falling drinking cold Kokanee Gold, in the company of friends who also have aching legs and some war stories from the day. The apres-ski tradition is surely the best part of skiing. Or is it?

Black Tusk sitting above the cloud cover, up where we belong

As each part of the ski day unfolds my loyalties shift, my favorite aspect changes like the snow conditions at Whistler; swiftly and without warning.

Hitting the slopes, nosepickers in toe

January 5, 2011 4 comments

A bluebird day at Blackcomb - what's not to like?

There are many things I love to do with my children: read books, watch movies, discuss dental hygiene, impart didactic stories from my youth, tickle them silly.  Absent from the list is anything requiring physical strength; for all of my redeeming qualities, patience does not make the list, and boatloads of patience is required when cajoling three children of different sizes and abilities into breaking a sweat.

I love to ski, and have from the first moment I forced my foot into a borrowed ski boot that was two sizes too small, so from the get-go I can’t for the life of me understand their opposition to this sport.  I cringe inwardly when I hear these words come out of my mouth: “When I was a little girl….” so I don’t say it to them, but I just realized I CAN say it here.  What follows is a diatribe.

I dreamed of skiing as a child.  I watched ski race coverage religiously on the ABC Wide World of Sports, salivating at the spectacle of skiers effortlessly flying down steep slopes, averting my eyes when they careened into fences and spectators.  Fascinating stuff.

Nova Scotia, my old stomping ground, is not known for its mountainous terrain, the closest hill (or bump, or mosquito bite) was an hour away.  Despite this, there was an active skiing community that I longed to be a part of, even though my parents didn’t ski and it was prohibitively expensive.

Here is where having several older siblings of driving age is an asset (because sharing one box of cookies amongst nine children certainly wasn’t).  My sister was part of this hot-rod skiing community, and she took my pain-in-the-butt-ten-year-old self, for some reason, skiing once a year for a spell.

My siblings liberally chime in about my many misgivings as a child  – and now adult – but even they will admit I was a joy to teach skiing; I’ve probably not been as keen or as excited about learning anything since.  They may, however, have been embarrassed to be associated with me, since my thrown-together, borrowed ski ensemble resembled a garage sale more than an outfit.

I wish I had a picture to show my own kids, who’s splashy ski suits and matching gloves and helmets never seem to make their grade.  I grit my teeth.

Ella, not so happy

I remember refusing to go in for lunch, choosing to eat a sandwich instead while in line for the t-bar (It was all t-bars and rope tows in those days, so sitting down was out of the question).  I remember thinking my hands were going to fall off from cold, but not wanting to complain in case I was made to go inside.  I remember drinking nothing, despite almost unbearable thirst, so that I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom.  I remember legs shaking from fatigue, and swallowing snot in lieu of finding Kleenex.

Granted, I am not as hard core these days, but you see where I’m going with this: I was so thankful for the opportunity to ski that I thought I’d never have, I was determined to make the most of it.  Those nights when I came home from the slopes, I would lay in bed with the sensation of the t-bar pulling me up the hill, reliving each moment of my ski day.

None of my children have this ski bug, despite the phenomenal ski terrain at our doorstep and access to the best instruction in the world.  Kids today.  The mere mention of going skiing sends them into a tirade of reasons why we shouldn’t.  It breaks my heart.  If I hadn’t birthed them myself, I would be seriously questioning their DNA.

Like playing golf is a good way of ruining a nice walk, skiing with my children was the worst way to spend a day that I could think of.  The expense and time of suiting them all up, only to log three runs between hot chocolate/lunch/pee/cold feet breaks, not to mention the tears and complaints, was not worth the colossal effort.

But there is hope on the horizon.

On New Year’s day, under the ideal conditions of a bluebird sky, temperature inversion, and no line ups, I had a pleasant ski day with my children.  We stuck to very doable blue runs, had fun with jumps in the terrain garden, and raced through the gates on the GMC race course.  This is big news in my life.

Finally, all smiles

I learned years ago that my children will be the opposite of me, despite my best laid plans; but where skiing is involved I might win the day yet.  Very fitting with my New Year’s mantra: Anything is possible in 2011.