- by Carolyn Lackey
Never Again. Ever.
There were warning signs. Omens. All ignored.
For starters, when I began packing for the trip, it took me forever to find my ski clothes. We moved to a new house a couple of years ago. During the uber-organization of my new attic, I carefully tucked each family member's ski gear into individual plastic tubs and carefully labeled each. Jonathan. Bryce. Reed. Alan. What about the Carolyn bin? Exactly. After some panicky moments, I found my gear in one of the cloth bins on a shelf in my closet. The bin was labeled "Ski."
Then on the way to the airport, there was a U-turn followed by a hair-raising, taking-corners-on-two-wheels race back to the house to retrieve the forgotten boot bags. Alan sat behind the wheel stony-faced, both hands white-knuckling the steering wheel while I white-knuckled the handle above the passenger door with both hands, stifled cautionary driving tips and swallowed full-on blood-curdling screams.
Driving from the condo in Deer Valley back to the Southwest luggage claim office at the Salt Lake airport hoping that the suitcase with all of my ski clothes and new birthday Uggs was sitting safely waiting for me was the kicker. Apparently, we did not do a good job of counting our bags as we gathered them from the baggage carousel. I hooted with laughter all the way to the airport and back. Alan actually chuckled a couple of times. For the first time in 38 years of marriage, he ordered an Old Fashioned at dinner.
Which brings me to March 1, 1018. The Last Day.
Alan's perfect ski day at Deer Valley begins with a pile of steaming blueberry pancakes at a cozy table in Snow Park Lodge. He's always that guy that's first in line at the lifts at 9AM. My perfect day begins with lunch at Snow Park Lodge and a $111 half day lift ticket. I lingered over the gourmet-best-ever-in-the-world salad bar filling my bowl ridiculously high with exotic olives, fresh artichokes, pecans, large shavings of parmesan cheese and a bit of lettuce.
After lunch, Alan helped me into my ski boots. These boots were purchased years ago here in Deer Valley. My precious man piled up some serious Southwest Airline points when he took me to Christy Sports and had them fit me with boots and my very own skis in order to make my skiing experience all that it should be. Notice that I didn't say "could be?"
I shall dissect my Absolute Last Ski Day Ever, Ever, Ever by category. We'll start at the bottom and work our way up.
My feet. It all began back during my days as a Baylor coed when I convinced a couple of dear friends to take beginner ballet with me. I was convinced that our maturity and past drill team experience would squarely put us in the fast lane for dancing en pointe tout suite. During the very first lesson whilst simply excessively pointing my toes, I realized that I have terrible feet. TERRIBLE.
Skiing is similar to ballet. It KILLS my TERRIBLE feet.
My body. I'll keep this short and sweet. If a fabulous workout facility filled with my favorite and funniest friends was located in the alley behind my house and conveniently connected to my house by a climate-controlled giant gerbil tube, I would find excuses to explain why I was too busy to walk the length of the gerbil tube to do even the simplest of workouts. "I'm a tad tired already." "My toenails are too long." "It's almost time for Dr. Phil." Go ahead and call out all your "have you tried" suggestions. Yes. And, nope. I am out of shape. Period. The end.
Fear of Sudden death. I'm a chicken. My favorite ski runs are marked "easiest way down." The boys have tried their best to convince me that blue runs aren't "that hard." Good sport and loving mother that I am, I've tried to love blues. Turns out, the boys fly down them and then have to wait for "hours" for me to snowplow down. "Fun" for all. I have never been able to understand the lure of hotter-than-heck hot sauces or steeper-than-steep ski runs. I just don't get it. The thought of burning gullets or thighs makes no sense to me. Thrill seekers are all "Look at me! I'm a big tough manly man (or woman)! I can swig on a jug of sriracha while skiing backwards on black bumps!" Mm. Mm. Mm.
I once had a really bad fall on a green in Telluride. My head came down hard on the ski that ended up landing behind me. I was skiing alone. Strangers skied past calling out, "You OK?" Through the tears that were beginning to pool in my goggles I chirped, "I'm fine!" After an excruciating trek to the parking lot with my skis balanced on one of my shoulders, I sat on the bumper of the Suburban and wailed as I clumsily tore off my boots. Back in my snuggly Uggs, I crawled up into the driver's seat. I pulled out of the parking space - bump. Then, I put the car in drive and drove forward - bump. What was that bumping? I looked in the rear view mirror. The relatively new, very expensive skis my man bought me were splayed out in the parking lot. I had run over them not once, but twice. I commenced to ugly crying. Should have ended my ski career there. But, nooooooo.
Then, there was the time I was having a really good ski day in Santa Fe. Ski days are like hair days. They are good or bad. Both are rare for me. At the end of the day on the way down to the lodge, I decided to ski like a bad boy through some trees on a short run called "Adventureland." Alan, Reed and I skimmed along the narrow trail surrounded by aspens and firs. It was magical until I lost my balance and fell like a downhill skier going 90 miles an hour. Arms, legs, skis and poles flew. My gallant husband quickly came to my rescue. I was totally embedded in the snow. Alan held up one of my skis so that I could pull up out of the snow using my K-12 for support. At some point during the giddyup, my hand slipped from the ski sending it flying into Alan's face. Pow! Right in the kisser. His hands immediately flew up to his face which was wrenched with pain. He couldn't speak. A moment passed. He moved his hands and took a breath. Then, I did the worst possible thing ever in the history of wives that do stupid stuff. I started laughing hysterically. My ski had knocked off the cap on one of Alan's front teeth. He looked like a hillbilly mountain man. I could not stop howling with laughter. Reed didn't laugh. Alan didn't laugh. I think you get the picture. The end.
Back to 03/01/18, and another category.
Weather and ski "conditions." On the way up on the lift, Alan began to coach me. "Now remember, lean forward in your boots and relax." Check. "Let the mountain do the work." Uh-huh. At this point, I should interject another category: muscle memory. One of the 42 ski instructors I've had over the years told me that the more I skied, the more muscle memory I'd gain making skiing easy as pie. I cannot remember the names of people 3 minutes after meeting them. I cannot remember to retrieve my ski clothes suitcase from an airport carousel. I constantly call my sons by the wrong names. Muscle memory? Seriously? Before we exited the lift, Alan reminded me to scoot forward on the seat and simply stand up on my skis and try not to get my skis crossed. Roger! He remembers the ill-fated drop from a lift chair in Lake Louise. We were about 5 feet off the ground when I realized that I only had one butt cheek squarely situated on the seat and decided that it would be best to bail into the snow bank below. My sainted husband bailed with me.
Successfully off the lift chair, I began to snow plow behind Alan. Up there on top of the mountain, the wind was howling and the snow was blowing fiercely. "It will get better once we ski down a-ways!" Uh. Huh. We slowly made our way to the green run. In front of us was a couple with a young child. A white-out situation began. Every couple of minutes, the precious family in front of me disappeared into the blizzard. At one point, the dad held out his ski pole for his child to hold on to so that the child would neither get lost or get blown off the side of the mountain. "ALAN! STAY CLOSE TO ME! I'M SCARED!" "I'M HERE!" Uh. Huh.
The good thing about the white out was that I totally forgot about my aching feet. But, not for long. Apparently, the two Aleves that I had for dessert at lunch were not alleviating squat. Tiny children skiing with no poles whizzed past me whopping with joy. I zigzagged crossing the runs at right angles in fresh powder stopping every couple of turns to rest my feet. Alan's pep talks dwindled. I bit my tongue to keep myself from describing in excruciating detail the burning pain in my feet. All I could do was whimper, "What's the fastest way down to the bottom?"
When Alan rode a lift down the mountain with me, I knew that he must love me with the kind of love that fairy tales are made of. That Ride of Shame must have gone against every he-man fiber of his skiing being.
At the bottom of the lift, we exited against the grain of the big bad skiers hopping on to go up to the top of the mountain. Panting, I poled my way to the ski rack, turned to Alan and
declared that my ski career was over. Then, I asked a kind man if he would take a picture of us to commemorate the Absolute Very Last Time I Would Ever Strap on Skis. He chuckled. I did not.
I am joining the Chili-Cooking-Book-Reading-Hot-Chocolate-Sipping Team USA Olympic Squad. Goin' for the gold, baby.