My first trip downhill skiing last winter was a disaster. I had a bad attitude from the start. I was nervous about being the only novice and terrified of flying down a mountain with no way of stopping, which translated into an utter inability to learn how to ski. Jon, on the other hand, is an amazing skier; he even went to "ski school" when he was a kid (apparently that's what you do when you grow up in the mountains). Jon is also an optimist. He completely overestimated my potential to ski, and because he is so good, sort of forgot what it was like to be terrible.
We practiced a little before hitting the slopes, putting the boots and skis on in our dining room and making the "swoosh" sounds. Jon explained the "pizza" concept, which certainly makes sense to any skier, and sounds ridiculous to everyone else. He even taught me how to fall. However, he neglected to teach me how to get up, which proved to be a fatal mistake.
I was almost in tears before we even got to the slopes. I was so cold I couldn't feel my fingers and my attitude had only gotten worse. Jon obligingly babysat me for a bit at the bottom of the hill where it became quickly apparent that I was hopeless. I had no problem falling down, but when I realized that getting up was nearly impossible, my demeanor shifted from scared to angry. Jon claims he has never heard me utter so many obscenities in one day. Because, obviously, it was all his fault.
However, that wasn't the worst part. We were in line for the chairlift to the bunny slopes when it began to malfunction. Rather than wait the approximate ten minutes for the lift to be fixed, Jon convinced me to try a "slightly larger" hill to ski down for the first time. Fatal mistake #2. Jon has since admitted that the hill was much more challenging than it was labeled, which should have made me feel better. Instead it made me angrier.
Needless to say, that run down the mountain--which took over two hours--was my first and last. I spent the afternoon in the lodge while Jon skied to his heart's content.
With this memory still fresh, I gamely agreed to give cross country skiing a try. One of my biggest problems with downhill skiing was the downhill part. I didn't like not knowing if I could stop, further proving my desire to be in control of each and every situation. (Okay, so I'm a bit of a "control freak." Big surprise.) I figured that I could probably handle being on a flat surface. Plus, cross country skiing is more of an endurance activity. If I can run a half-marathon, I should be able kick-and-glide, right?
My logic proved to work out this time...albeit after the aforementioned injuries. Cross country skiing does rely on flat surfaces. However, it only took about five seconds for me to find the smallest of bumps to slip and smash my tailbone on. Determined to keep going though, I began to work furiously to stay with the group. Arms pumping, eyes glued to the ground, breath coming in gasps...I was moving at a snail's pace. Until I had to stop because I thought I was going to pass out. I can't recall the last time I felt that light-headed. The only explanation that I could come up with is that I was over-heated. When you're working that hard, it's not necessary to wear long underwear, snow pants, fleece jacket, and coat. Lesson learned.
After I shed some extra clothing and had a snack, though, I was good to go. Yes, I was still like an awkward newborn calf unable to completely gain my footing, and yes, I fell down a lot for no reason, but I enjoyed myself. Cross country skiing, like running, is a very contemplative sport. I enjoy the camaraderie of being with other people of course, but there's something almost therapeutic about being alone with your thoughts.
Whether I wanted to be alone or not, I was that way most of the time because I was so far behind the group (which was perfectly fine because I would have felt bad if they had all stayed back with me the entire time). To be honest, I was writing this blog post in my head as I skied. When I mentioned my mental writing process to Jon, he assumed that I was going to write about the beauty of the snow and the serenity of the trees. Actually, I had barely noticed my idyllic surroundings. I was so focused on following the tracks in front of me that I was afraid to look around for risk of falling down (again).
Without getting too deep or using my skiing experiences as a metaphor for life, etc., let it suffice to say that I am totally willing to try cross country skiing again. In fact, I'm excited about the prospect. I'll just be sure to have a little extra padding for those falls.