17 February 2010

Other things I learned from skiing

When I was in elementary school, I took downhill ski lessons. Sitting on the chairlift, I would read all the signs on the posts as we went up the side of the mountain: Do Not Swing, Do Not Bounce, Do Not Rock The Chairlift. The signs all seemed eminently reasonable to me. One arm extended up from the seat of the lift and rested on top of the cable. As much as I looked, it did not appear to be attached to the cable in any way.

Of course, I always ended up sitting next to someone who would bounce, swing, and rock the lift. I was convinced that the lift would jump off the cable one fateful run.

Though that never happened, the back of my jacket got hooked on the lift as I tried to get off. Chairlifts swing up and around at the top of the hill. In a panic, I jumped as the seat neared its apex for the flip around. One of my skis came off and started sliding down the hill. My instructor took off after it. I landed on one ski and slid about 15 feet before falling down.

After that, I think I only rode a chairlift one more time. I preferred T-bars; even though they are more unwieldy than chairlifts in some respects, they keep you on the ground.


In cross country ski racing, at least at the high school level back in the day, when you call, "Track," the person ahead of you is supposed to move aside so you can pass them. Most of the races I competed in are a blur, but a few moments are indelible.

We were at a meet hosted by another team. Their home track covered a golf course for the 5K race. Since skiers started the race in waves, I was usually able to cheer on the top boys as they finished before I even started. Out on the course, it had been so long since I'd seen another skier, I assumed I was in last place. It was disheartening.


I glanced over my shoulder and saw Tom--the same Tom I learned to skate on skis with--gaining ground behind me. I'm not last! Instead of getting over as per proper etiquette, I picked up my pace so that he couldn't catch me. I was determined, and I finished before him.

Much later, I found out from a friend and teammate (our coaches never bothered discussing results with me) that neither Tom nor I had been last. It still only felt like beating one person though, and at the time, one was enough.


After the school ski season was done, my town held a ski race on our course at the park. It was a sunny day in March with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees. Like many of my teammates competing, I wore a t-shirt since it was so nice outside.

This race had a large free-for-all start on the field adjacent to the base of the mountain where the trails began. In our high school meets, I never ranked anywhere near high enough to score for our team (points are assigned by finishing positions so races are not just individual events but team competitions as well), so I never bothered waxing my skis.

On the day of the town race, I regretted it because the melting slush in the field felt like skiing through glue. After a few strides, I shook off the snow sticking to my skis and found my pace.

Then I hit the most innocuous looking tiny patch of uncovered grass.

Inertia: a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.

My ski stopped at a dead halt while I continued forward. Fortunately, I was able to recover without falling down, and after that, I was vigilant about avoiding melted spots on the course.

I finished fourth in my age group for girls and seventh or eighth for my age group overall. Even though only 17 or so people competed in that age range, I was still really happy with that result.

A year ago on TTaT: Out of time


  1. I've always thought chairlifts were a little scary too. So much less secure than the average Disneyland ride! Apparently, the makers of Frozen agree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELJW0aU1XzU.

  2. That trailer is horrible! Why did you do that to me!?!


    Actually, with all my chairlift concerns/mishap, I also knew someone who fell off one once. Well, not totally off, but had to hang from the bottom of it the rest of the way up the hill.

    Chairlifts just seem unsound to me.