Friday, March 13, 2015

Jesus Take My Skis

            I like to think of myself as a pretty “gung-ho” gal. I’m usually up for some good high adventure type fun. However when it came time to go skiing my knees started to get a little wobbly. We had been blessed with a beautiful cabin in Angel Fire, NM where we could spend the week together as a family. There isn’t much else to do in Angel Fire if you aren’t going to ski and we were excited to take the kids for the first time. 
        We woke up Wednesday morning and I confessed my fears to Chad. My main fear being that I would get to the top of the mountain and not be able to get down. Still, I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. I decided to quit being a scaredy cat and go. 
            After breakfast we loaded up the kids and went to the ski shop to rent our gear. There is a high intimidation factor to skiing and it starts with making sure you have all the right gear. Thankfully, the man at the ski shop was helpful and very knowledgeable. He could tell this was a new experience for our family, so as he fitted us he offered expert instruction, no extra charge.
The tips he gave seemed pretty easy to grasp in the warmth and shelter of his cozy little shop. But an hour later, from the top of the mountain, I was screaming, “THE MAN AT THE SKI SHOP TELLS LIES!”
The First Lie: Skiing is a natural body movement.
            He reiterated this statement by telling us about how he began teaching his children to ski at twenty months. “Good, a baby can do it!” I thought. If a baby can do it, this grown woman can too! Grown woman are the two key descriptors here. It is my personal view that I am too grown to be strapping waxed boards to my feet and propelling myself down a mountain.
As a matter of fact, if there were an award for gaining momentum, I’d take GOLD. Gaining speed was not an issue, but once I got going the only thing capable of stopping me were large piles of snow, padded barricades and condensed masses of human beings.
            Do you know what else is a natural body movement? Falling down. It is perfectly natural to just fall right smack down on your rear end. I repeated this natural movement more times than I could count. Time and again I’d get back up and try to ski again all the while thinking, “It’s going to be a long day.”

The Next Lie: Pizza and French Fries
            It was just as simple as that, he told us. Make a wedge with your skis to stop, line them up parallel to go fast. Pizza and French fries, got it. Pizza is break, French fries is gas. Sending me down the mountain with such little information is like saying, “Okay, gas on the right brakes on the left, now let’s go drive some NASCAR!"
            So here I am with my full grown woman self, headed down the mountain with enough momentum to take out a family of five. I hear Chad behind me yelling, “pizza, pizza, PIZZA!” Another instructor skied by with a student and yelled, “JUST LEAN INTO YOUR WEDGE!”
            About the time I’d get going and feel in control of the speed, I’d see Sean or Ruby skid out. I’d take my skis off and walk out to get them back on their feet so they could keep going. Every time I’d put my skis back on it was like learning all over again. Chad was out front patiently picking us all up and getting us back on our feet. Finally, I just took off my skis and decided to walk.
            Chad tried to encourage me to keep going, but I. was. done.
It was more important to me now to help Ruby. As I was walking along a little five-year-old girl in a puffy pink snowsuit sped by me. She saw me carrying my skis and yelled, “You should be skiing, but suit yourself!”
In that moment, I felt like putting Ruby back up on her skis, setting her on a trajectory of the pink puffy ski expert because, “Ruby, it’s time to go full French fries!”

The Whopper: Once you can all stop and turn, you’re ready for the Homeward Bound trail
            The homeward bound trail is a two and a half mile trail. It’s the easiest trail to take down the mountain. It’s easy if you know how to ski on even an beginner level. The man at the ski shop told us that we should be able to “take it slow”, “stop to have a snack and get a drink” and “gain some confidence along the way.” He said we should expect to be down the mountain in about two and half hours.
            After two hours, we found ourselves spread out across the mountain in varying states of disrepair. It was starting to get late when the same instructor who told me to lean in to my wedge stopped to check on us. He could see that we had probably made it as far as we could go and said, “You know it’s about that time that they start to sweep the mountain for stragglers. If you want to just wait where you are, they’ll be by in a little while to pick you up.”
            Chad and David were doing good. They decided to ski ahead while Sean, Ruby and I “straggled” until the truck came. About ten minutes later, the familiar face of a grizzly bearded man came riding up on a snow mobile. “Do you all need a ride back down?” This was the same man I had run into getting off the lift. By this time, I had become numb to my humiliation and said, “Yes! We do!”
            “I can take the two kids. That way you can just ski down and pick them up.”
“Just ski down” he said. I appreciated the vote of confidence. Part of me thought that I might could give it a try now that the trail wasn’t as crowded. I said, “Okay, I guess I can just ski down. About how much further do I have to go?”
            He hesitated to give me his most honest estimation, “Well, you’re still pretty close to the top”
I started to cry and said, “Then I’m not going to make it.”
He really didn’t even wait for me to answer. He was already on his radio calling for back up. “Yeah, uh, we’ve got a basic 10-14 up here in need of transport.”
            I’ve decided that whoever came up with radio code talk is a person who understands mercy and grace. I never want to find out what a “10-14 in need of transport” means, but I was just glad he didn’t say it to my face. At this point I didn’t care if every guy on ski patrol was sitting around snickering when the dispatch came in, as long as one of them responded to this 10-14’s need for rescue.
            Before speeding off with Ruby and Sean, he said, “They’ll be by for you in about 20 minutes. I’ll keep these guys safe until their dad or you come to get them.”
            There I was, the last straggler on the homeward bound trail. As soon as I lost sight of Ruby and Sean, another ski patrol came riding up in the distance. He pulled up beside me and asked me if I needed a ride back down.

As I was loading up on the back of his snow mobile he said, “Are you doing alright?”

 “Yes, I probably shouldn’t be up here.” Was my response.

He paused and said “Look up at where you are! You’re on top of the mountain. Just enjoy the beautiful view!”
            The sky couldn’t have been bluer. The air was cool and crisp and it was a privilege to enjoy the mountains from the top. On the way down, I saw David and Chad smiling as they soldiered on, Ruby and Sean got to add a snow mobile ride to their already exciting day. It was a beautiful day on top of a beautiful mountain, just like the guy at the ski shop said it would be.


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