Monday, March 14, 2011

When Writers Ski

Saturday the family went on a ski-trip. My fantasy about skiing and ski-trips is gauzy and rose-colored. We get onto a lift, which takes us to slopes where we disembark and swoosh downhill on the powder, all holding hands and singing The Lonely Goatherd; repeat, and add cocoa by a roaring fire in the lodge. The reality is that I'm an intermittent skier at the beginner level and everyone else would like to imitate an avalanche on the double-black-diamond trails. If there were parachutes involved it would be a different story. So skiing turns into a strategy to ditch everyone.

Swooshing down the slopes was a last-minute decision for me. My memory was that we went two years ago. When we were talking about it, Mark reminded me that I haven't been skiing in about four years. Mark doesn't ski, he snowboards. I don't really ski so much as I RollerBlade.

The biggest lesson I brought away from the skiing was: whoa, I am so totally out of shape. I expected that pushing through snow to turn would be difficult, but getting out of the lift chair was harder than I remembered; I felt like I looked like my grandmother trying to get out of an easy chair. Getting pushed into the snow by the lift as I exited probably didn't help. And this was the "easy rider" lift on the bunny hills. The secondary thing was that it took my body a little longer to remember how to do things than I thought it would.

Eventually, I was ready to graduate from the bunny slopes with the brightly colored traffic cones (so fun to swoosh around!) and reacquaint myself with the beginner's trail.

A blizzard hovering on the edge of a rain storm dumped snow onto the area. Snowflakes melted on my goggles. Icicles hung from pines. The lift operators had to squeegee snowmelt off the seats before we sat in them. So the snow wasn't exactly the best, but that was fine with me because I wasn't freezing my fingers off, either.

While riding the lift, the dichotomies of the day were especially striking. On one hand, the snow hushed everything; on the other, loud music (first country, then hip-hop) played. I sat alone on the lift, isolated on a seat dangling from a cable; but there were skiers and snowboarders ahead of, behind, and below me. I glided along tree-tops, with wind whistling snowflakes around me, surrounded by a wintry wildland; and then I passed a black lift tower, its spinning wheels tugging the steel cable along. I only thought about what would happen if the cable snapped or the lift chair broke a few times -- mostly when the lift stopped and cable and the chairs in front of me swung like a Newtonian physics demonstration.

Suspended in nature, I ask myself questions like:
  • From this height, would the snow break my fall? 
  • How is this cable constructed; Is it woven; how do the chairs attach? 
  • If the cable snapped, would it recoil and hit me? 
  • If the chair started to fall off the cable, would I have enough time to grab the cable? 
  • If I did grab the cable, would I be able hold it in such a way to keep my fingers when the cable went over a tower's wheels? 
  • Or would I have to try to jump onto the tower? 
I'm not worried about me, I'm wondering how I would write a scene for a story.

And then I saw Mark, snowboarding beneath me, swooshing and swishing as he followed a trail beneath the lift. There was a moment as I was watching him and moment of admiring a stranger turned into the discovery of admiring Mark. Then the lift moved again and it was time to de-chair. By this time I had re-learned how to get out of the chair.

There was more skiing. And hot cacao.

As we left, misty clouds shrouded the mountain in mystery.

And yes; my calves are sore today.
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