Over the weekend, many parts of the United States experienced the first snowstorm of the season, which prompted me to reminisce about my one and only attempt at snow skiing. It was an adventure that I (and sadly, a few innocent bystanders) will likely never forget.
It was the winter of 1992 or 1993, and I was in my early twenties. The office that my mom worked for was sponsoring a day-long bus trip to the Wintergreen Ski Resort, and though my mom did not plan to go, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and give skiing a try. I’m not sure what possessed me; I absolutely hate the cold, and I am not exactly what you would consider athletic. What is it they say? There is safety in numbers? That must have been part of my rationale. It was a group outing. There would be children among us. Certainly, I could keep up with the kids without looking foolish. There was absolutely no need to feel self-conscious.
I attached myself to my mom’s coworker Ray and her nine-year old son Eric. On the bus ride to the resort, we made our plans. We would all take ski lessons and see how things went. After that, we would stick to the bunny slope or head inside to enjoy hot cocoa and snacks. Whatever happened, the three of us would stay together.
Our lessons went well. We learned how to use our poles to push ourselves off and how to form a pizza slice with our skis in order to stop. Over and over again, we went down the modest slope of the training hill. It was a huge boost to my ego that I didn’t fall down even once. Ray and Eric were getting the hang of it too, and we eventually moved out of the training area and onto the bunny slope. Again, we impressed ourselves with our newly acquired skills and made multiple runs down the hill without incident. When it started to lightly rain, we finally ventured inside for that hot cocoa. But Ray and I didn’t stay inside long.
Since it was about a four hour bus trip each way, we knew our time was limited, and Ray wanted to make the most of it. She urged me to go back on the slopes with her for one last run. This time, though, she wanted to attempt the intermediate slope. She really thought we could handle it. A few hours on the bunny slope without any falls had proved to her that we were expert skiers. I should have asked her what was in her cocoa; it surely must have been spiked. Her sense of logic was flawed. Then again, I was following her lead. Where had my logic gone?
Neither one of us had bothered to consider the fact that the rain, though light and brief, had made the snow icy. If there had been music playing for this scene, it would have been suggesting imminent doom. We left the building and headed on level ground towards the intermediate slope. I took the lead. All was well . . . for about a minute. Then I heard shrill screaming coming from behind me and glanced over my shoulder to look for Ray. The screaming was coming from Ray. Have I mentioned that Ray reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg? The scene I was witnessing brought back memories of Whoopi in the movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash. “Help! I’m a little black woman in a big silver box.”
Anyway, there was Ray screaming her lungs out, arms flailing, I don’t know what happened to her poles, but she apparently didn’t need them to propel herself forward. There was absolutely no elegance in her actions. I could see people in her path scattering like flies. I couldn’t help myself. I veered off to the side and fell down in the snow to watch. She was picking up speed and other people were now screaming right along with her. And then it happened! A young boy, about 5, fell down in her path. Ray didn’t slow or swerve. Nope, she went right over top of that poor kid and proceeded to take him downhill with her. He was trapped, his head firmly clamped between her legs. There is no telling how far they would have traveled like that if it hadn’t been for the fact that they smacked into a thick wooden post attached to netting meant to prevent skiers from going past that point. They crumbled. Ray finally went silent. The kid was crying uncontrollably. What I presume was his mother came running. And I lay in the snow laughing. I felt so bad for that boy and I hoped that he wasn’t seriously hurt, but the sight of the two of them racing downhill as one had me hysterical.
I honestly don’t know how Ray managed to make it back to where I was or how we were able to collect Eric and make it to the bus, but I will never forget the view from my spot at the top of the hill. It was one of those things that seemed to take place in slow motion allowing me to replay it over and over again. It was sad, shocking, and hysterically funny all at once, but it was nothing if not memorable.
As I said, I have never been skiing again. There simply is no need to do so. After all, what could possibly top that first excursion?