Coming down the mountain, really fast
Watching the downhill ski racers on the Winter Olympics reminded me of my own downhill skiing experience. My experience was not quite like the Olympians, but I did make it down the mountain.
Being raised in Northwest Iowa, we did very little downhill skiing due to an acute shortage of hills. The whole concept of skiing was foreign to me.
One year while hunting in Colorado, I bagged my elk early in the week. My wife and two teenaged sons were staying at my sister's place and had been skiing the Aspen area while I was hunting. When I got my elk packed out, I decided to stay at the house rather than return to hunting camp. Hiking around the mountains in snow ranging from knee to hip deep is a lot of work. It is well worth the effort if there is a possibility of getting a winter's worth of meat, but elk hunting as a spectator sport leaves a lot a to be desired.
My sons decided I should go skiing with them the next day. It sounded like a good idea to me. How hard could it be? We drove to the ski area bright and early the next morning. The boys wanted to be sure we were able to get in a full day of skiing.
One of the first things I noticed was the attire. I seemed to be the only one in the entire crowd with a camouflaged coat and fluorescent orange gloves and stocking cap. I preferred to think of it as making my own fashion statement. Also, everyone seemed to glide around gracefully as though they were born with skis on their feet. The guy that rented the equipment to me suggested I might want to take a lesson. The boys headed for the lift and an instructor led me and two four-year-old girls to the "bunny hill."
A couple hours later, I was not much better at skiing, but was very proficient at helping little girls get off the ground long enough to snowplow down the bunny hill. I decided, skiing could not be that difficult and I wanted at least one ride on the ski lift after spending big bucks for the chance.
I met up with the boys. I neglected to tell them my ski lesson had not made me highly skilled at the sport when we were riding up the side of the mountain. The scenery was beautiful as we silently slid through the sky watching people below sending up sprays of fresh powder. We had the opportunity to get off at several places but thought it would be better use of our time to ride all the way to the top. This was definitely a much easier way up a mountain than slogging through snow as we had done while hunting. It is a long way going up to the top even if a person is riding a chair lift. I found out, it is even farther to come down while skiing.
With some assistance from my sons, I fell off the lift at the top of the mountain and we were ready to go. Trails are divided into green for easy slopes, blue for moderately steep dissents, and black diamonds for those who are suicidal.
From the top of the mountain, we had a choice of blue or black. If a person wanted green, they should have gotten off one stop earlier. I pointed my skis down hill and was off.
It did not take long to discover, for some reason I could not make left turns, and I was not very good at stopping. I was great at right turns and straight ahead. Straight ahead causes a person to build up excessive amounts of speed and right turns frequently lead one into trees, rocks, and other obstacles, such as skiers. Some people get really annoyed when a maniac in camo and orange runs over them.
I had not broken anything, either bones or equipment, by the time we got to the bottom. I popped over the last rise doing about 60 miles per hour and discovered someone had put a ski lodge right in the middle of the path. I made a quick right turn uphill slowing considerably before I ran into one of those big metal poles that holds up the ski lift.
I decided if I practiced skiing as much as I practiced hunting, I could get pretty good at it. Also, there would be a lot more elk hunters if we had a lift to get us to the top of the mountain. Neither is going to happen, but we can all enjoy the outdoors in our own way.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.