Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Going down Memory Lane

White flakes drifting from hazy skies like feathers from angels. The mercury lines sinking fast on barometers because of wind chills. It’s wintertime, and it is the ski season.

I was 14 when I latched on those slick sticks for the first time. A member of the school ski club, I had been drawn to swishing down the powdery substance because it gave me a legitimate excuse to get out of the house in the evenings. I didn’t mind hurtling uncontrollably along the mountain slopes. The enjoyable part of going there was the ski lodge. I could sit by the fireplace and sip hot cocoa while lewdly eyeing the male snow bunnies as they bent over to put more wood on the flames.

As the years passed, I became skilled at the sport, which really meant that gravity had given up trying to knock me flat on my back because I was moving too fast. The easy bunny slopes with their green circles were left behind as blue squares and black diamonds called for this skier to try out the goods along steeper trails. Now and then, I attempted the bumpy paths marked with double diamonds. Yet it was only to get away from more crowded peaks and their less experienced speeders.

By this time, I had forsaken the duct-taped splinters found in the rental shop and had bought some serious hardware: a pair of Rossignols that were hard to turn. Eventually, I graduated myself up to a pair of K2s when in highschool. These lasted through many gouges and an unfortunate run-in with the chairlift’s cement landing when the suspended seat I sat on unexpectedly swung backward and bent the hell out of the ski ends.

I hit those slopes every time that the white powder appeared in the air during the next 10 years. Waking up at dawn, my brother would come by the house with his snowboard strapped to the car roof. We’d get to the lodge before any of the lifts opened, as we would head toward the ski instructors’ desk. There, I would beg the manager for a simple slip of paper that would cut the cost of my ticket by half.

Gleefully heading away with the not-quite-legal ski sticker, we’d sit for a breakfast of syrupy flapjacks in the cafeteria. Afterwards, we would do our stretches (always remember to stretch before starting any serious exercise). Then I would leave my brother behind when the chairlifts opened, since he had to work off my ticket scam by teaching snot-nosed kids how to fall without breaking their necks on newly purchased snowboards. With eyes latched on the mountaintop, I would disappear in the blizzard to find the one trail that had deer tracks across it. This showed me that the path had been undisturbed by human wildlife and was the perfect place for my first run of the day.

Later in life, my lust for the slopes waned slightly. Going up and down the mountain became a lonely adventure. No one else in my family enjoyed the sport and my brother got married to a summer person, so his days of teaching snowboarding became nonexistent. Yet I still hit those slopes even by myself. It became a pride thing, because I could proclaim that, for all this time, I never broke a bone. Maybe a scrape or two, but I never hobbled away on a split limb even when I once slipped off a trail and into the rocks.

That was memorable. Imagine this: After taking one last run for the day, I was rushing down at breakneck speed along an intermediate slope. In front of me was an elbow turn that I had made around often at my Warp 9 propulsion. However, it was at the end of the day, with many ruts from other skiers along this path that had become a patch of ice.

All of you experienced skiers are aware of what happened. My skis entered the one particular rut that lead right to the ice as my hips swivelled to take the turn. Boom! I slammed on my rump in an uncontrollable slide and disappeared off the trail into forbidden territory.

Now, I guess you’re expecting to hear a bloody account of my body cracking against rocks during my death defying flight only to miraculously stand up without having ruptured my spleen at the end of the tumble. Actually, I never got that far. With my skis turned sideways when I went over the embankment, they created the perfect barrier as the long plastic sticks wedged against two tree trunks preventing me from going further along the treacherous ground.

Sheepishly, I managed to get both skis removed. I climbed the hill, clicked the skis back on, and went at a much slower pace down the mountain. When I neared the ski lodge, a runny-nosed kid came out of nowhere and cut in front of me as we slammed into each other. He got up relatively unscathed. I got up hopping with a pulled muscle in my calf.

It was then that I took a long sabbatical from skiing. Still, that doesn’t stop me from staring out my livingroom window during those cold wintery days, a mug of cocoa in my hands, reminiscing about those cute bodies by the lodge fire.

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