I remember going on a family ski vacation at the Telemark Lodge in upper Wisconsin when I was about twelve-years old. Throughout my youth, my parents had encouraged me to take up various sports, with little luck. Golf was my favorite at the time. I was not a natural athlete.
At the ski lodge, I took a group lesson with Stein Eriksen, the famous Olympic Gold Medalist from Norway. We all stumbled through the exercises until Herr Ski Meister deemed us fit to hit the slopes. I think something got lost in the translation.
Among other things, he taught us how to snowplow, how to traverse, how to schuss and how to fall. Guess which was the most important?
I was on the bunny hill for several hours, snowplowing, falling, getting back up and repeating the violence. I started to get the hang of it and even got good at traversing, which means meandering back-and-forth down the slope without hitting anybody, or so I thought.
Just before noon, I took the Rope Tow Death Ride back to the top. My stomach was growling. I needed an inspiration. Hmmm? Why not go straight down? It would save time, plus give me the thrill of speed. What could possibly go wrong?
I stood at the summit (still on the bunny hill…I wasn’t stupid), peered stoically to the bottom of the “The Ramp to Hell” and gulped. As I checked my bindings, I said a quick prayer (“Oh, God, what am I thinking?”) and pushed off with my rented poles.
As the leaf-lorn trees zipped past at a blinding pace, I had second thoughts. And third, and forth. I calculated in my 12-year-old brain that I was traveling at least 90% of the speed of light. But I couldn’t pull out now. That would be an even bigger mistake than the one I was currently making. My increasingly blurred vision saw dark shapes ahead, fellow skiers who had to move.
I called on all my sports training and all my nerve, and shouted at the top of my lungs: “Fore!”
They scattered like bowling pins on a newly-polished alley. I went barreling past the pre-lunch crowd and snowplowed to a deranged stop just before I pancaked the main lodge. I pulled up my goggles, and found I was parked next to a nice young couple who were exchanging their skis for walking boots.
“Hi!” I said as I dusted off my blood-free, snow-caked pants. “Good run!”