Confessions of a Ski Slope Frankenstein

My friends laughed until I turned my skis toward them.
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It never occurred to me to be scared until I was all the way up there. All the way up there is relative, of course. I was at the crest of a small hill. A chilly breeze numbed my cheeks. A few friends stood around me, giving last-minute instructions. I took my starting stance and balked.

"How did I let you talk me into this?" I asked them collectively.

I remembered now: It all started innocently. A childhood flirtation had become a lifelong quest.

My crush on snow began when I was in the third grade. By a meteorological miracle, a small amount fell one morning on our coastal Florida city, forming dinner-plate-sized patches that lasted nearly an hour. My brothers and I were so exhilarated by it that we bolted outdoors in our pajamas—to the horror of our mother.

When I enrolled in college in Kentucky, I awaited my next encounter with snow. I was growing increasingly impatient as fall turned to winter—without measurable accumulation. Then one night shortly after Christmas break, the big one came—a grand total of four inches! The next morning on our way to breakfast, a friend and I flopped into a pristine plot to make our first snow angels. After classes, we borrowed some toboggans and raced to the only decent hill on campus. We spent two hours whizzing down the hill and trudging back up. When hunger called a halt to the fun, we changed our soaked jeans and headed for the cafeteria. Over dinner, my friend Mark invited a whole table full of us to his family's house in North Carolina for a ski trip. I accepted immediately. This winter wonderland stuff was better than I'd ever imagined.

Within a week, I was standing in a ski lodge and staring out the windows at the blissful skiers gliding gracefully down the wide, white mountainside. As I filled out the rental slip, my hand began to tremble. Not from excitement, but because of the fine print on the form: "I accept and clearly understand … that injuries are a common and ordinary occurrence of this sport, and I freely assume those risks."

My light nausea subsided as I quietly stood in line for my boots, skies and poles. The man assigning them looked at me and asked if I'd ever skied before. I thought to myself, Is it that obvious? Secretly I was hoping he'd have a rule against novices taking to the slopes without lengthy lessons on the nearest snow-blanketed molehill. No such luck. He muttered something totally unintelligible and pointed me toward the door.

I was preoccupied with my own apprehension, so Mark came over and fastened my boots for me. It struck me that I was immobile from the knees down. I stood up and had no choice but to walk like Frankenstein.

That's how I ended up at the top of the bunny hill.

A few friends took off down the hill, successfully navigated the route, and came to a safe stop. Finally it was my turn. I gulped, bid my remaining friends adieu and whizzed straight down the hill, not realizing that I should be zig-zagging. I looked ahead at the long line of skiers waiting for the ski lift. They seemed unconcerned that I was completely out of control and had the potential to take out at least a dozen of them. I resigned myself to martyrdom.

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