Posts Tagged With: skiing

Black Inner Tubes and Snowy Hills: Or How I Survived Childhood Winters and Lived then to Learn to Ski

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”  ~Dave Barry

Photo by MHBowden

Photo by MHBowden

I grew up practically on a mountain, with snow five feet deep in our front yard every winter. (Except for that one inversion year when nothing but fog accumulated.) On the other side of the mountain lived a ski resort. A tiny one, but a place to ski nonetheless. The closest I ever came to skiing as a child or a teen involved black rubber inner tubes, defective ones apparently, because they always inflated lopsided.

Have you ever ridden an inner tube down the side of a mountain on the snow? If not, I have just given you a perfect bucket list item. You might want to save it as the very last item on your bucket list, though, as possibility of severe injury seems rather high.

On an inner tube you have absolutely no control over where you go, how fast you go or if/when you stop. (Why does it feel like I just described life? Hmmm.) The most likely outcome involves bodies splayed across the snow or wedged against objects or perched atop bushes and rocks with the inner tube still rocketing off into the distance another half mile or so. (Life metaphor again? Weird.)

Death Spiral

Photo by Iain Laurence

Photo by Iain Laurence

The advantage of having to hike so far to retrieve the inner tube comes in the contemplative time one has to reconsider the wisdom of perching atop the tube once more for another possibly life threatening ride to infinity and beyond. Unfortunately, screams of joy and terror, (which sound eerily alike to a youngster) push all logic and sanity out of ones frozen head and you find yourself yelling “COWABUNGA” as you leap on  the tube and launch yourself once more into a death spiral of epic proportions.

For that extra measure of danger we often careened in the dark, which added a sense of insanity to an already thrilling adventure. Surprisingly I and my siblings survived many winters participating in this sport.  Oddly, tubing hasn’t risen to the stature of an Olympic event yet. I suppose scoring could present a problem. Highest points for furthest launch from a tube? Extra points for landing in a tree? Bonus points for spinning more than ten times on the way down? It ought to rank in the X-games at least.

Back on Topic Now

But I meant to speak of skiing. My first time. Oddly enough riding an inner tube and using a set of skis and poles have frighteningly similar outcomes, especially those first few times down the hill.

Having slippery sticks attached to cement encased feet does not provide one with a sense of security or control. Neither, surprisingly, does having sharp pointy objects in either hand lend a sense of comfort or assurance. In fact, I wondered at first if MSH had grown tired of marriage after only four months of “bliss” and had found an easy way to dispose of me, à la Robert Redford in a mafia. Whoops, there she goes off a cliff. “I told her not to go down that black diamond run, but she insisted.”

Nah. MSH just wanted to share something he loved with the love of his life. Little did he know what an adventure he’d signed up for. (Life metaphor again?)

Evil Trees

Much like tubing down a snow-covered hill, my most vivid memory of my first day skiing involved a people-eating tree and my limbs hopelessly entangled in the branches of said tree. One leg pointed north while the other leg seemed wedged more south-southeast. Meanwhile one ski pointed down. The other ski had somehow become one with the snow. The poles, miraculously, didn’t shishkabob me, for which I was ever so thankful.

I tried my best to untangle and disengage to no avail. MSH “helped” by explaining which leg to move where, which didn’t help at all since I’d lost most feeling in my legs and couldn’t identify left from right. If I recall correctly I threw my poles his general direction along with a few select words, which I won’t share here. He finally helped by physically moving one of the skis. Once both legs aimed approximately in the same direction, after five minutes of struggle I managed to reach an upright position.

I think I threw a tantrum after that. Or maybe during that. In no uncertain terms, I let MSH know how unimpressed I felt with this sport of skiing. I also may have mentioned that I’d never, ever participate in such nonsense again.

Chocolate Saves the Day

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Of course, after some hot chocolate in the lodge, and watching people shoosh and swoosh effortlessly for an hour, and getting bored beyond reason I found myself attempting to hitch a ride on a lift, all skiwampus, with my pride firmly buried in a snowdrift.

I eventually, somewhat mastered the art of something beyond the pie wedge style of beginners. I’m happy to report that as a family we enjoyed some great times on the mountains in the snow over the years.

To this day my son (who learned to ski with no effort whatsoever at age three) still puts himself to sleep at night by imagining snowboarding down his favorite ski run at his favorite resort. He says it’s the most relaxing thing he can think of, as natural as walking but way more fun.

It’s been a few years (a decade?) since I last threatened my poor knees with such reckless behavior as skiing. All for the best I’m sure. I’m satisfied to have the occasional falling dream and waking to memories of my youth careening down the side of a mountain on a black inner tube.

Ah. Those were the days.

Photo by Dbenbenn

Photo by Dbenbenn

~~~

There are really only three things to learn in skiing:  how to put on your skis, how to slide downhill, and how to walk along the hospital corridor.  ~Lord Mancroft

Categories: Fun, Humor, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Climbing, Shredding and Burning

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’ve been “on vacation” for the past two weeks. As you know from personal experience that means, (ninety-five percent chance) staying with relatives. That’s not a bad thing; it simply means that most of our vacations involve family, not visiting Europe or going on a cruise or hitting the slopes or the beach.

We did do some of that. We had some good times on the slopes for a few years. In fact big J practically emerged from the womb skiing, and little J took to skiing like a seed to dirt. I still get this ache in my stomach about J breaking his collarbone on the first day of a four-day ski trip. No more snowboarding that season. The pain of the break, I’m guessing, felt like nothing compared to the pain of watching everyone else racing down the mountain while you had to lounge around at the lodge every day.

Ouch! I hope you’ve made up in quality what you missed in quantity on that trip.

Given that you put yourself to sleep at night by boarding down a specific run makes me feel pretty good about all the days you managed to get in on the mountain after that.

We never made it to the ocean with all of us together. L and L enjoyed that singular experience. Spring break, we found out the hard way, isn’t really the ideal time to hang out in the Pacific. Chilly, fierce waves, a strong undertow, but plenty of space on the beach. We managed to get a sunburn, sand stuck in every imaginable and unimaginable spot including the sleeping bags. One of my other favorite photos ever? The sun setting orange over the ocean in a thirty mile an hour breeze, and L and L silhouetted just so. Good times, good times.

More than a few of our camping trips involved rain, a couple of them fairly significant amounts. North Carolina rains pale only in comparison to Oklahoma rains. Either way, we ended up soaked, clothes hanging everywhere inside the tent, muddy boots, big smiles, flooded lakes or streams. Good thing we cooked over a backpacking stove or we’d have eaten cold food all those times. I loved big L’s computer drawing, back in the dark ages of computer graphics, of one of our camping in the rain events. Wish we could find that. It’d make a great children’s book. Especially the mud monster part.

Let’s not forget, L and L, Queen of the Flame and Little Muddy Foot. Those two young girls will forever be tender spots in my heart of camping hearts.

Rock climbing and rappelling figure prominently in our getaways. Little did I know what I set in motion when I took that wilderness adventure course. I look back now and shake my head in amazement that I looked on as your Dad roped you in and let you climb at Index or scrambled all over Spire Rock or swing suspended from whatever boulder, cliff or mountain happened to be handy. Dad still refers to little J as “our Arachnid” for your epic climbing abilities.

Yes, most of our vacations involved camping in a tent, which isn’t bad at all.

You also got plenty of experience with airline travel, surprisingly, which has come in handy tons of times, and has become old hat for others. Little J had the chutzpah to backpack Europe once and visit Paris another time. Big J now travels regularly for work, getting around airports and big cities as if they’re simply different runs at a ski resort.

Many of our vacations involved road trips as well. But that, oh my, that is another story or ten for another day and another letter.

Wish we’d taken you to Yellowstone. And I’m sorry, but I never could make myself feel comfortable with taking you to Grand Canyon, even though it’s been less than half a day’s drive for the past eighteen years. My heart couldn’t bear the thought of you anywhere near the edge of an impossible precipice. And Disneyland remains elusive as a family getaway, even though most of you have managed to get there on your own.

I’d like to think we’ll somehow manage one last ginormous family vacation with all the spouses and *babygrands. Maybe that’s why family reunions happen; attempts at reliving or making up for the past.

I’m pretty sure we made good use of our weekends, summers and holidays. I hope you feel the same. Those rank as some of my favorite memories together.

Would surely love some more evenings by a campfire with ya’ll again sometime.

All my love,

Mom

 

*babygrands = grandbabies or grandchildren

photo-23 copy 5

 

 

“…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Fun, Memory Lane, Outdoors, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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