Skiing and I have endured a rocky relationship spanning two decades. It all started in high school when some of my best friends were avid skiers. They’d travel north on the weekends to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, arriving at school on Monday with lift tickets swinging off their brightly colored Columbia jackets like badges of honor. Skiing held an allure of exclusivity: It required special gear, hours of travel, and, not least of all, money.
There was another draw. No one in my family could ski. This would be my thing, a mild rebellion to our typical family activities. I was a teenager; I wanted to assimilate with the “in” crowd while breaking away from my parents.
I was determined to be a skier.
During my four years of high school, I signed up for as many ski trips as I could. The bus rides up to Killington, Stratton, Sunday River, Gunstock, and other mountains across the Northeast held anticipation and promise. The bus rides home usually consisted of ice packs and disappointment.
My mistakes were rooted in 16 year-old bravado–no lessons, no bunny hills. I became well known among the group, but for all the wrong reasons. I was a total hazard. With no ability to stop, I’d crash into classmates, ski schoolers, families, and most notably, trees. On one occasion, I arrived home with a fat lip and a gash under my eye from a wipeout during which my ski popped off and smacked me in the face. I was dreadful.
After high school, skiing and I took some time off. College, career, and marriage left little time, or cash, for snowy pursuits. But then my in-laws announced that they were buying a condo in New Hampshire near Waterville Valley ski resort. The familiar excitement returned. Maybe I could leave injury and idiocy behind. As many parents do, I shifted my attention to my children.
Sure, I was a hack, but my kids? My kids are going to be awesome!
Here’s the thing, it is hard to be awesome when you are four years old, you’re cold, and you can’t stand up because your parents have strapped what seems like torture devices to your feet. My husband and I were baffled. Why aren’t they having fun. This is so much fun! Isn’t it? Isn’t it?
It wasn’t, for a while. Then, with age and experience, the kids got the hang of it. And so did I. Now, our trips “up North” are the kind of family bonding experiences that once seemed out of reach. We ride the lifts together, sometimes three generations of us, criss-crossing each other down the trails and commiserating about the conditions of each run. The whole scene, including apres ski with beers (for us) and hot chocolate (for the boys), is idyllic.
That is . . . until last weekend.
As the title of this post portends, my discord with skiing abruptly returned on our most recent visit to Waterville. I decided, at 36 years old, that a trip through the terrain park on my last run of the day was a swell idea. A terrain park, for those readers who do not ski, is like a skatepark in the snow, full of jumps, rails, and other objects for doing tricks. It’s a lot of fun, unless…
I took a jump faster than I had intended, vaulted into the air, and landed in tumble of ski poles and snow.
A burst of adrenaline allowed me to make it down the mountain on a leg that felt all mushy and wobbly inside. A couple of hours later in the emergency room, I got my diagnosis: bad knee sprain and some pulled ligaments.
Crutches and pain killers in hand I left the hospital with a sobering realization. I am back in high school again, except this time it’s my kids I’m trying to keep up with. Sigh.
So skiing and I had another falling out, literally. But next year, when the temperature drops, I’ll run back into the arms of a sport I’ll never master, willing to endure the bumps and bruises. I may steer clear of the terrain park, though.