The sky sits directly on top of the snow blanketed landscape. The sun shines so intensely the snow twinkles as though diamonds are buried beneath. Welcome to Switzerland in the winter. It may sound like a cliché, but is it absolutely accurate.
The ski slopes are beckoning. Everyone is outside; on skis, snowboards, sleds, skates or something moving. The neighborhoods resemble ghost towns. If you ask someone where they were - they were skiing. Curious you ask, “You took the little one too?” “Of course,” they reply, “he’s already four years old!”
That’s when I got this ridiculous idea that I, a 35 year old southern bell, could learn to ski without a boat. I envisioned myself on skis, jumping elegantly from side to side, traversing the slopes gracefully leaving a behind a zig-zag trail in the deep white powder.
Elegant and graceful do not describe my skiing; awkward and undignified do. Skiing introduced me to the true meaning of total and absolute degradation, humiliation and pain. Walking and falling down, stopping and falling down – it was so frustrating. I expected some bumps and bruises; I didn’t expect mental humiliation. I don’t know what was worse, having total strangers, or my own kids laugh at me.
Rule Number 1
One afternoon my husband took me skiing. Rule number one, a beginner should never learn to ski with her husband. He “worked” with me briefly on the bunny slope and decided he should be rewarded for his hard work. He wanted to make just one fast run – alone. Personally I think he was too tired to do the snow-plough anymore! He left and I figured, “Okay, you can handle this, right?” – wrong!
As I got to the pony lift built for mini-people, I tried to remove my ski-poles from my wrists, unsuccessfully. The next thing I knew the handle attached to the ski pole on my right wrist was hung on the pony-lift handle, it tangled with my ski boot which caused me to turn backwards. To add insult to real injury, I fell down. Imagine, a grown woman being dragged feet first, on her stomach, 500 meters to the top of the bunny slope. After the first moments of panic passed, I heard high pitched, shrieking noises. I saw Globi, Ronald McDonald’s Swiss cousin, and his three-year-old ski bunnies gesturing and laughing hysterically. You would have thought I had been hired for their entertainment.
The panic increased to rage as I caught a quick glance of my loving and supportive husband ski by, at downhill speed, shaking his head back and forth. Afterwards his only comment was, “I told you to go up the lift, not hang your clothes on it.”
The war with the lifts
Oh the lifts! Skiing isn’t nearly as difficult as taking the lifts. I’ve fallen off, fallen under, knocked others off and even had to jump over them in order not to send them to the hospital. Once, on a T-Bar, I reached the top successfully when I realised the bar was inside the drawstring opening of my jacket. Suddenly I was raised in the air, feet dangling and was heading towards some kind of wall. Finally the lift operator, no doubt a member of “lift operators out to get Vicki syndicate” had his laugh of the day and shut down the lift. I crashed to the ground. Now, we go to resorts with lots of cable cars.
My family is the reason I started this sport. I wanted to spend quality family time together. When the kids were five and seven years old their father announced, “We’re going skiing!” The kids got all excited until they saw me. They whined, “Does she have to go, all we do is wait on her?” So much for good ideas.
There have been days when a few places on my body weren’t black and blue. After one, really nasty fall, I attracted the attention of the ski patrol. It must have looked pretty serious. I had one ski folded under my bottom, and the other folded under my head. I kept saying,”Hilf mir”, help me! I couldn’t move my legs because all of my weight (no comments please), was on them. The paramedics thought I had broken something and wouldn’t help me change positions until the stretcher arrived and thank the Lord, someone to translate.
I did it-really
I won’t embarrass myself any further but I am proud to say that I didn’t give up. I have managed to triumph over mind-blowing odds – most of which I create myself. The first time I skied from top to bottom without falling, picking up the tempo as I went, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I felt free. It was amazing. Now I can ski down just about any slope, preferably red or blue and as wide as an Autobahn.
My vision of jumping from side-to-side in the deep powder remains a dream because I sink and there is no way out unless a crane is involved. But visions are good; they give us something to aspire to. Until then, I am more than happy to enjoy skiing on a gorgeous winter day with my family. What do I care if the rest of the family has to wait 10 minutes until I catch up with them!
P.S. I wrote this article before I broke both arms, simultaneously, while skiing. I am in the process of searching for a new winter sport. Any ideas?