Friday, December 07, 2007

Adventures with Gravity

I was reading another blog today that got me reminiscing about one of those activities that
clearly was never meant for me: skiing. (Someday, after much therapy, I'll talk about horseback riding as well.) I grew up driving distance from the finest skiing the Poconos had to offer. Scoff if you will, Killingtonites (Killingtonians?), but Northeast Pennsylvania had all the glorified bunny hills and lodge decor out of a 70's porn movie you could handle.
There were always Those Kids in school who would slowly accumulate a passel of grubby paper tags on the zipper of their down jackets as the winter wore on. They were the currency of an unknown country; tickets to somewhere I had never travelled. Until the winter of 1986
when our youth group leader decided that what this bunch of absolute non-skiiers really needed was a weekend ski trip. For $35 I could go and see what all the fuss was about.
Now that I've been there, I find the writeup for the place we went to sort of humorous.

Tanglewood Ski Area
Preview: Overlooking Lake Wallenpaupack in
the Pocono Mountains, Tanglewood Ski Area has hosted family and novice skiers each for the last 30 years. Locals may remember the resort as Paper Birch Mountain.
The family-operated business turned over in 1972 to a
development corporation by the name Tanglewood. The resort was sold again a handful of years ago, retaining its name.
Tanglewood’s trail system features 100 percent snowmaking and full grooming, and all nine runs are well lit for night skiing, six days per week until 10 P.M. The terrain is much easier and less congested than bigger Pocono areas, and the rates more affordable.

Let me break that down for ya. Its a cheap and easy place to ski. Cheap, easy, and artificial. And its changed hands a bunch of times. Probably because cheap, easy, and artificial doesn't attract a lot of skiiers.

We arrive on a Friday night, get settled, and head out for the slopes Saturday morning. Our first stop is to the rental shop, since none of us have our own skis. A teenage boy clamps us one by one into boots. I feel as though I'm wearing one of my dad's toolboxes on each foot.
Having short legs contributes mightily to my need to walk like Frankenstein. If Frankenstein found himself mired in freshly poured concrete. We receive a brief lesson from one of the ski instructors, and we're on our own. I struggle with the easiest hill (sort of a 'rise', really) and decide, forget this. I'm just going to go get cross country skis and I'll do that instead. Its easier, right?

Now have a problem, because the cross country trails are at the bottom of the main hill. But I'm young, stubborn, and full of the sort of energy I'd kill for now, so I tuck the skis under my arm and WALK down the hill.

When I get to the bottom, I find out that the 100 percent snowmaking really doesn't reach the cross country trails. They are frozen, rutted, and generally not-skiiable. I decide, forget this. I'm just going to go up the ski lift, turn in the skis, and park myself at the lodge and read.
I get in the rather long line for the ski lift and try to organize two cross country skis and two poles in my hands, because by now I'm tired of dragging the skis around and I took them off. This would prove to be a rather bad choice. I should mention, too, that being a non-skiier I had an outfit hobbled together of reasonably water resistant pants in layers, and my mom's quilted stadium length down coat. The line inches toward the lift. A bored attendant stands at the bottom organizing people onto the chairs and I watch as they are whisked away by ones and twos. My turn comes. I step onto the 'launch pad'. When I turn around, things go very wrong very quickly. (I'm not sure what happened first but I'm pretty sure some piece of my apparatus got tangled up in the side of the lift.) As I turn my head to try and rectify that situation, my hood shifts and I can't see. Then a number of things happen, among them: tripping on the pole/ski/ski/pole that is now raking the ground around my feet, falling down, getting hit in the back of the head by the ascending seat I'd failed to sit on, and getting dragged a short distance and unceremonially dumped in a puddle of freezing water, fake snow, and straw.
Falling in public always sucks. Falling in public, followed by the attendant's"Oh, crap,"and shutting down the lift, hearing the murmuring and impatient sighs of the line behind you, and looking up to see the curious faces of those in the seats ahead of you who wonder why they are swinging in midair and not moving is a level of suckitude I didn't know existed. I am picked up out of the puddle by a kid who looks like he's been sent to retrieve a shovelful of circus poop, and escorted to the little ski patrol first aid teepee thing.
I think there is an unwritten rule where, once inside the teepee, you aren't allowed to talk about what got you there. There is no recrimination, no mockery; just a nice lady who bandages up my scraped palms (artificial snow is like bodysurfing a giant snow cone) and hangs my sopping coat on a radiator to dry. I quietly entertain images of climbing on the back of a snowmobile with some ski patrol guy to be conveyed safely to the top. And then she says it. The Thing I Do Not Want to Hear.

" You can stay here and get warm as long as you like, and then when you're ready you can give it another try."

"I'm sorry? Give what another try? "

"The lift."

"Do I have to go that way?"

"Well, you can't WALK up. " (I don't mention that I'd WALKED down.)

Before I am able to plan and execute my escape and subsequent uphill Walk of Shame, a Ski Patrol guy appears. A drop dead gorgeous, sun-reflecting-on-snow-tanned Ski Patrol guy with kind Jesus-y eyes. He starts to explain that he'll ride with me, as I silently, fervently wish for about the thousandth time in my teenage life that my humiliation is powerful enough to rend space and time and give me a dark permanent fissure to hide in. I put my slightly less saturated mom-coat back on and we make our way to the line while He talks me through the steps like we're going to night jump over the Ardennes. We make the seat and swing into the air. Success! I get to enjoy it for about 9 seconds. Then he starts talking about what we have to do at the top. In my naive fantasy of safe passage I didn't realize that the lift doesn't STOP AND LET YOU OFF. You have to jump off at the right time. This thrills me, considering my success in jumping ON at the right time. Ski Patrol Jesus helpfully reminds me that there is one little high spot I need to hit, or else I'll hurt myself jumping from too high or end up riding the lift back down. I quietly hyperventilate while he makes small talk. The drop zone approaches. The bar goes up, and I dive on it like a bride-to-be at Filene's basement, rolling across the 100% manufactured snowgravel, scattering poles and skis as I slide to a stop. It is messy, but I nail it. I clomp into the rental shop, dump everything on the counter, and stuff my damp feet back into my wonderful, wonderful boots.
Subsequent trips are spent by the fire, watching everyone's stuff, warm, dry, and contentedly un-injured, drinking watery cocoa and admiring the round fireplace and shag carpeting.

Like what you see? There's more of the madness at! And before you comment and tell me, I don't know what the deal is with the inverted triangle of small lines and I can't get rid of it so just enjoy its trippy presence and don't worry about it.


Suzy said...

Well at least you didn't get INJURED!! Thanks for linking me and thank GOD I never got to a piste where I had to jump off. I can't even imagine.

I also didn't realize that YOURS is the blog where I got the Reading Level button from. So thanks for that and I just went back and linked you.

the frogster said...

I like skiing. I'm OK at it. I only got OK at it recently, after trying to beel cool and snowboard. Two trips to the hospital, once for broken ribs, and one for a concussion with 30 minutes of amnesia later, I got on two deadly weapons instead of just one. I think it's easier.

By the way, I'd like to know where all the cute snow bunny ski patrolettes were when I was lying on the slopes in agony.

Tricia said...

OMG - we do have the same childhood - I have a similar skiing story of horror that ended with a twisted knee and bruised lip after one tiny little attempt to go down a bunny hill at a ski "resort" in the catskills. I went with a church youth group too and when I got home my mom took me for X-rays of my knee! Yeah we do need to compare more stories! LOL