Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Reluctant Skiier

Skiing, like golf, was not one of those activities that strengthened the marital bond. Nothing like being tricked onto a descent that is beyond one’s ability, concentrating desperately on making it to the next turn, while spouse cheerfully schusses down slope offering annoying advice, or worse still abandoning you to catapult down and land face forward, backside and legs up…like a sprawling cockroach. Might have screamed from top of slope with vocabulary that would shame a fishwife.

Advice from random man in the gondola: “It’s better to look good than be good.”

Children: the three that are old enough to ski or snowboard are all better than me now. They’re not even teenagers and already patronizing. Every dollar spent on ski or snowboard school is well worth it. Can I keep them in those programs until they are 18?

This feeling was compounded by experience riding in lifts with Other People’s Children, especially their surly teenagers. One sixteen year old girl whined: “Mo’om, I can’t believe you got me this grody sunscreen,” before flicking it off in disgust towards her father. My sister and I had couldn’t resist having fun with this one.

“It’s so hard to be your age, isn’t it?”
“Believe me, you don’t want to get to our age with fair skin like that and no sunscreen. Sun damage! All those unsightly wrinkles.”
“Not to mention the cost of laser treatment to get rid of those liver spots.”

Might be a bad mother: on another gondola ride, proudly explained to a woman that my advanced snowboarder daughter is still in classes so she can do things like the terrain park, where she needs more professional instruction. She replies: “Oh, in the local ER where I work, we call that the trauma park.”

Vocabulary: Seriously cannot imagine myself picking up the jargon. Am I the only one who thinks “Got a face shot in Pow!” sounds like manga porn? On the other hand, did find myself learning useful words like “white out”, for skiing in extreme low visibility and “graupel”, for the precipitation that’s somewhere between freezing rain and snow, and generally flays your face.

Skiing powder: Um…vastly overrated for people of my ability. More like sliding over ice patches and into snow drifts. Hubby’s advice: “Just go faster and you’ll glide over it” not particularly easy to apply when you’re already scared out of your mind.

Must be lacking in adrenaline response because don’t feel need for speed. Can’t get image of people who ski better than me and come home from vacation in various casts out of my mind. It’s hard keeping up with four children as it is; can’t imagine what that would be like if I were in need of massive physical rehabilitation.

Ski boots are: an instrument of torture.

Ski equipment is: a pain to keep up with when you have four children--all those face masks, goggles, mittens, helmets, boots, poles, skis. Not to mention complications when child utters most dreaded word in skiing vocabulary: “I need to pee.”

Ski food: $60 to feed family of five on junk food at the top of the mountain, anybody?

Best part of skiing: kids are fully occupied, ditching afternoon skiing (am tired by then anyway) to sip hot chocolate by the fire and read a book or bake Nestle Toll House cookies and watch the classic movie channel!


Sacha Labourey said...


Thanks so much, I had almost forgotten why I had stopped skiing 15 years ago. Now I perfectly remember.

At that time, I thought my shoes were a torture just because they were "expensively cheap", but it seems it is still the case nowadays. On the other hand, many people never seem to complain about them. Maybe the trick is in our DNA: our leg anatomy, for whatever reason, cannot fit in ski shoes, that's it. There must be a reason. I cannot understand why all of those skiers never complain about their shoes...

Marcf said...

I once talked to a woman whose husband was dying for her to golf and kept buying her things like a putter for her birthday. In that vein, Marc bought me my own ski boots, hoping this would help me "cross the chasm." I learned that the better quality ski boots are supposed to fit tightly (for that extra control!) and are thus MORE painful than the cheap rentals! The first two days with new boots it took me 3 minutes, with help!, to put them on. I felt like the ugly stepsister in Cinderella, trying to make the shoe fit.

On the other hand, they did get better with wear. I have decided that mountains are better for me than the beach because I prefer cold to heat and there is less skin surface to apply sunscreen (for those of us with melanin-deprived skin). Also, I like to be active and do enjoy hiking, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing. As for alpine, still waiting to "cross the chasm..."

Nathalie said...

Hey Sacha, that comment was from me--forgot to sign Marc's name out on his machine :) Nathalie

Sacha Labourey said...

LOL, no worries, it was easy to see YOU were replying ;) Marc is definitively a ski-addict by now, he seems to really really enjoy it and be good at it.

I agree on the sunscreen as well, winter is great for that, same for the outfit. Actually, I bought a great "ski" outfit but do not use it for skiing, but some MUCH MORE FUN activity: SLEDGING! No need to be a pro, no suffering! Just pure fun.

Actually, I might just have an issue with sport activities in general. But I am still in denial on this very topic so I'll just ignore my own comment for now.

Matt Asay said...

Nathalie, the problem is that you guys went to the wrong resort. I guarantee that had you come to Utah, we would have taken care of you.

Having said that, the initial ski experience is terrible. It just is. There is no way to enjoy a potentially life-threatening experience until you can fool yourself into believing you have control over the situation. I remember when I started in 7th grade: hated it.

But I grew up in Utah, where if you don't ski you...I don't know what you do. So I lived through the first year and it has largely been bliss ever since. But that first year *is* torture.

I'd recommend that you guys spend a season somewhere snow-y and that you go often (2-3 times/week). I guarantee that this is all it would take to make a competent skier out of you, someone that enjoys it, even if there are other things you like more.

Better yet, do it at Deer Valley, where the customer service and food are both exceptional. You fall? 10 people rush to pick you up.

We await you....

Matt Asay said...

@Sacha: The technology has become much better (I spent the first few years in pain and with frozen toes). My new boots (Tecnica Dragons - I reviewed them here: are AWESOME. Comfortable. Warm. Etc.

But I paid to have them shaped to my feet....

Anonymous said...
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Nathalie said...

Thanks Matt,
We have had very good experience skiing in Utah when we went to the Canyons--and do love the easy drive from a major hub airport. This winter we were able to pick up a direct ATL flight to Hayden for Steamboat Springs.

Have no complaints about Steamboat. Their children's program was a definite improvement over one year in Keystone where the instructors mostly seemed to be staffed by well-off Southern hemisphere kids taking the "winter" off--but not necessarily with any vocation for teaching skiing or working with children. There I finally turned off my cell phone when I kept getting calls from the ski school that my four year old twin boys "were taking a nap" or "wanted their Mommy."

After last experience skiing in the French Alps, was warmed by the basic courtesy of Midwesterners. Was a nice change to not have to brutally defend my spot in a lift line (or child care drop off line) and have people strike up friendly conversations in the gondola.