Tag Archives: skiing

Another Auld Lang Syne


Today’s Music: Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company
leg1

As she put it…
It was a typical Thursday, at the end of December. Guap was back from another round of saving the world. This time that involved terrorists, twerking, that orange powder they use to coat Cheetos, and chocolate pudding.

He was taking a much needed day off (I can’t tell you how badly Cheetos dust and pudding react to each other) and decided to go skiing to celebrate the end of the year, and the approach of spring in a few months.

He made it to the top of the lift and was considering which trail to take while adjusting the bindings on his 192cm solid titanium rocket skis (a gift from the King of Montenegro) when he heard the first scream.

There was a woman – a pregnant woman, holding a baby, at the top of one of the trails – wearing rentals!

Guap ski’d over as fast as he could to see if he could help. As he got closer, he could see her expression was one of unmitigated terror! She turned at his calls, then turned again – facing straight down the mountain. She pushed off, the newborn squealing in her arms as the edges of her cheap rentals grabbed the snow and gravity propelled her down.
He raced to catch up, focusing only on helping the beleaguered damsel. He rocketed past the copse of trees where she had been, not seeing what had caused her overwhelming fear until it was too late.

A Yeti rocketed from the evergreens, it’s horde of miniature reindeer accompanying it with a fierce whuffling noise to drive fear into the hearts of men.

But Guap was made of stronger stuff. Using the snow bumps to his advantage, he skied circles around the mythical horde, raising a cloud of ice and snow to blind even the hardiest of winter nightmares. Knowing it had been beaten and that the prize of the pregnant woman and her spawn had escaped, the Yeti unleashed a mighty bellow of rage!

The bellow unsettled the precarious sheets of snow and ice resting loosely on the mountain face and they began to slide toward the base. Guap knew what he had to do.
Casting caution to the wind, he raced down the mountain, calling on all his skill and all his luck. He caught up to the pregnant woman just ahead of the cascading avalanche. He hurled himself to the surface just above her, and used his body as a snowblock to protect her from the tons of ice and snow.

She was saved.

But Guap…poor Guap. A ski glove that had been lost the previous season, spending the year being slowly encased in solid ice, was the last thing down the hill in the avalanche. It was aimed directly at the poor woman’s head. Ignoring the pain, Guap tore his leg from the snow and held it between her and the projectile.

He saved her. At the low, low cost of shattering his lower leg in three places.

And he’d do it again.
leg2
As he put it…
I was turning to stop at the top of the first run of the season, to see what the terrain looked like. One ski bit beautifully, arcing through the hardpack snow. The other didn’t.
And down I went.

The truth, I expect, lies somewhere in between…
rods
And how is your year going?

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An Adventure Philosophy Post: Being and Doing


Today’s Music: Cab Calloway – (Hep hep) The Jumpin Jive

I’m a skier. Put me in a pair of boots that fit, drop me on skis (rentals are fine), and I’m all set.

El Guapo surveying his domain...

El Guapo surveying his domain…


I’m a rock climber. despite being in terrible shape, I can belay with the best of them, and keep your tail from hitting the ground if you come off the cliff. At the same time, I can find some way up the face and warn you if I’m not going to make it.
I’m a scuba diver. despite a depressingly low overall amount of time spent underwater, I’m conscientious with checking and donning my gear. I know how to not panic (trust me, it’s a hard won skill), and I pay close attention to where I am underwater.

Sadly, I’m not a surfer. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love surfing. I’m planning on putting on my wetsuit, strapping my board to the roof and diving in on 1 Jan, unless the weather is just horrible.
But when I get on a board, I’m just awful. I have no idea what to look for when catching a wave, and no feel for when to stand up on the board. The majority of my rides end with the nose of the board plowing into the water, and me shooting over it like Wile E Coyote in too many cartoons.
That’s fine. It’s still fun.

The pros got nothin on me.

The pros got nothin on me.


But that line – the difference between just doing something, and being something – is an important one for me. It’s about going beyond being a random participant, and breathing in everything you can about whatever it is.

When I learned to scuba dive, I read everything I could get my hands on. I would go into shops and handle equipment, studying different mounting options, handling features, options and tools. I would play with my depth tables (because some things are too important to leave to a computer), and occasionally wander around the house in flippers (Oh, like I’m the only one who does that).
Under water, I’ve gotten into some odd situations, and remembered that as long as I could breathe, I was still ok. Then, calmly, I figured out how to get out of them.
Scuba diving is also one of the few sports I’ve done where the training actually is helpful.
And thank god for that.

But a new year is right around the corner. And I plan to be in the water on the first, on my board. Maybe I’ll even graduate from a guy who has a surfboard to a full fledged surfer!

An Adventure – The Broken Rib


Today’s Music: Warren Zevon – Poor Poor Pitiful Me

This probably takes place about 18 years ago, when I was still cooking for a living. On a Tuesday off, me and a few coworkers drove up to Hunter Mountain in my old standard transmission Explorer.
Hunter Mountain isn’t a great mountain. They have the largest snowmaking system in the world (at least, according to their commercials), because they don’t get enough natural snow reliably to open every year.
Another thing about Hunter: the main slope faces east. That means that the sun beats down on the slopes all day until noon, when the sun creeps over the peak and the temperature drops.
And all the melted snow refreezes.
Into sheets of ice.

Looks pretty. Until it's back in shadow...

Looks pretty. Until it’s back in shadow…

Hunter isn’t going to win any awards for quality of snow, length of runs, or even value of food at the lodge.
But if you want to learn to ski ice and crud like nobodies business, Hunter is the place for you.
The refrozen trails get so slick (unless they’re rutted), and so fast that the only way to ski them is to commit totally to your edges and turn fast on all the shaved ice on the trail edges.
I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes so many times in my learning days at Hunter that it’s more familiar to me than the opening of a Star Trek episode. Any of them. (Hey, I have pride. Just no shame.)

So It’s me and two or three coworkers. I’m the only one who’s skied there before, so after they get settled on their gear, I do a few runs with them (look out for ice), give them some tips (No really. look out for ice!), we set a time to meet later for lunch (At the bottom, past all the ice), and off I go.
I ski well. I’m moving at or above my comfort level, I’m nailing my turns (as far as I know – lessons were still in my future), and enjoying the feeling of my smooth, supple grace. Think Dorothy Hamill in fluffy padded pants.

The pixie-cut brings out my eyes.

The pixie-cut brings out my eyes.

I’m tearing down the hill. And here’s what happened from two perspectives.
What I think happened:
I’ve got my head tucked down as I tear into the bottom of the trail, which starts to flatten a bit near the bottom. My weight is forward over my skis, knees are bent and I’m flying. I look at the terrain up ahead. My weight shifts. I feel exhilaration as I feel my ski edges bite into the ice. My knees straighten and shift as I set up for my next turn.
My weight comes down.
The edges bite.
I duck my head lower as I pass through the cloud from a snow gun.
I shoot into a slighter sharper down grade.
My leg slips out from under me. The other ski chatters against the ice, tip skewing wildly from side to side…
And
*insert a moment of freedom from gravity, body arcing gracefully through the ether*
KABOOM!!!!!

Yard sale. Skis here…polls there…Guap all over the hill…

The loons, Wilbur. Can you hear the loons?

The loons, Wilbur. Can you hear the loons?

A few moments later, the ringing clears from my head. A small child skis to a perfect stop and asks if I need help.
Little bastard.
I finally regain my equipment and stand up, to feel a sharp pain in my lower chest. One of the mountain staff does a quick check.
Yep. Broken rib.

Now to remind you, I’m not a bad skier. Not great, but not bad. So I shuffle my butt down to the lodge, trying to figure out what just happened. I find my friends down there.
Me – Dude! I just got railed by the hill! Broke my damn rib.
Them – Ouch. What happened?
Me – It was the trail from hell! Chewed me up and spit me out.
Pause…
Me – You’ve gotta come down it with me!

So we trundle back to the top (pro tip – trundling is hard with a broken rib), and ski back down. For obvious reasons, I’m going much more slowly this time, and I can see the environment much more clearly. Which means I can see…
What Really Happened:

I’ve got my head tucked down as I tear into the bottom of the trail, which starts to flatten a bit near the bottom. My weight is forward over my skis, knees are bent and I’m flying. I look at the terrain up ahead. My weight shifts. I feel exhilaration as I feel my ski edges bite into the ice. My knees straighten and shift as i set up for my next turn.
My weight comes down.
The edges bite.
I duck my head lower as I pass through the cloud from a snow gun.
(slow it down, here it comes…)
I didn’t tuck my head low enough.
Tiny flecks of jet propelled ice stab at the exposed skin on my face. The stinging is shocking, as is the cold.
I tuck my head down further twisting it away from the pain.
And as so often happens, the body follows the head
I turn my head so far over that it pulls me off one ski and unbalances me so badly that there’s no way to stay up on the other.
Aaannnnd…
Yard sale.

Maybe I’m not such a good skier after all…

Grace like this can't be taught.

Style like this can’t be taught.

Postscript: Driving a standard transmission involves stepping heavily on the clutch frequently to shift gears. When driving to Hunter mountain from NYC in a standard transmission vehicle, bring friends who can drive a stick.
Otherwise it will be a very long and painful drive home.

Post Postcript: There is nothing that can be done for a broken rib other than binding the chest. It will heal in a few weeks, and the pain will lessen. The pain of your doctor laughing at you when you tell him the story will fade more slowly.

Post Post Postscript: After you survive the night at work, cooking, lifting, pushing, etc, you will be in even more pain. A beer will help (if you aren’t on medication). And if you tell any story other than the truth for what happened, you may even drink for free.
Otherwise, well, see about the pain of being laughed at above.

An Adventure – Learning to Ski


Today’s Music: Tori Amos

So, here we are, in the ongoing series of “Learning to” Adventures posts.

Some of my best skiing days have happened when I was hung over. I don’t recommend that condition for actually learning to ski though.

This picture isn't me, but could have been. Many times.

Skiing (from Urban Dictionary): somethin a person does in the wintertime to convince oneself that he or she is actually enjoying the 10 degree weather.

The first thing is to get the right clothes.
The first time I went, I wore jeans. And fell a lot. All the dye in the denim seeped right through the top 20 layers of my skin, and I had blue legs through February.

Second thing is have a sense of humor.
You’re going to fall. No way around it. If you can laugh about it, you’ll be able to get back up and learn to stay up that much faster, thereby freeing yourself to laugh at the poor bastard behind you who just did a fantastic slow-mo windmilling flop. While not moving.

Third thing is to get a teacher.
By teacher I mean not just someone who knows how to ski, but someone who can teach it.

Let me explain.
So one winter, Ronnie and Meat decided I should learn how to ski. Sure, why not.
We trundled up to the mountain, and I got my rental gear and lift ticket, and we headed up the mountain. To the top.

Much scarier with planks strapped to your feet. And no idea what you're doing.

This was the lesson, as explained to me by Meat: Ronnie’ll go first and show you what to do. I’ll go behind you to pick up your stuff (see top pic) and tell you what you did wrong.

One thing I learned about cold mountain air – it clears hangovers fast. Well, that and terror.

For those of you have never been to Hunter Mountain, the main skiing face faces east. That means it is softened by the morning sun. Which means?
Exactly. When the sun crests and begins to set in the west, the east face freezes back up. Into sheet ice.

People out west mock the east coast snow. And justifiably, because their’s is much softer and fluffier.
But lemme tell you, if you can ski the east (especially someplace like Hunter), you can ski anywhere.

Back to the lesson.

The fourth thing is to Zip. Up. Your. Jacket. All the way.
We’ve already established that you will fall. At some point, you will probably Yard Sale (again, see top pic).
That’s where both your skis come off and shoot in opposite directions, your poles bounce off to God-knows-where, your hat is half buried in the snow behind you, a glove may have come off, and your lungs are twice their normal size from all the snow forced down your throat as you belly surfed down the hill.
Zipping your jacket will keep at least one square yard of snow off your chest.

Having fun yet?

Looks ridiculous, but it does work.

Good. Because it isn’t all horror. By the end of the day, I was able to use my modified snowplow to zig-zag down the mountain in one piece. I was skiing!

Meat and Ronnie gave me my first lessons in skiing parallel too (as opposed to snowplow), and this gave me (barely) enough control and (way too much) speed to be able to zip down the mountain making some truly…unique maneuvers.
I had so much fun, I eventually forgave them for their wtf teaching method.

Once I could ski at a level near theirs, we needed to add some tricks,
like the Daffy, and the Backscratcher

I've done this! And landed well!

I've done this! The landing was hilarious. And painful.

Now, my wife (the most wonderful girl in the universe) and I try and go skiing at least once a year. I taught her the basics, and she very wisely (and relationship savingly) decided to take a real lesson. She gets better every year. And so do I.

Looking back over this, I think the most important part of learning to ski is to do it because it’s fun, and you want to enjoy it.
Otherwise, you’ll end up with blue legs, or a belly full of ice, or a broken rib (that one really sucked, but I skied the rest of the day anyway), and no big stupid grin to show for it.

Bought these after I knew how to use them. They were great, but their time has passed...

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go see what lift tickets will be this season, and try on my ski hat…

Yes, I do wear it in public. Sometimes, I even wear it to work.