While I was disappointed that Bob broke up with me, his doing so in the fall meant I wouldn’t have to deal with one problem: skiing.
My answer to the question, Do you ski? is a little complicated. Until three winters ago, the answer would have been no. I had tried it a couple of times when I was in my teens and hadn’t had much success, and I didn’t like it enough to deal with the expense, the distance, the cold, and the crowds.
However, a few years ago, I was seeking an inexpensive place to vacation in April and discovered Vail, Colorado. I decided I would try skiing again—with instruction—on uncrowded slopes and in warm weather. If I liked it I would go again. I did, and I went back with the kids the next year.
It sounds as if I do ski, but in fact I ski Vail. In the spring. With an instructor.
Last winter, I was seeing Mike, a skier who had rented a house in Vermont. The fact that he had a place meant I wouldn’t have the early wake-up and long drive, but I still felt a sense of dread as we made plans for me to go with him.
That’s because the other thing I don’t like about skiing is the humiliation. That concern is not specific to skiing—it applies to essentially any sport—but skiing humiliations are more dramatic than, say, in tennis where you simply walk off the court and hang your head. Or basketball, where there is so much going on that no one remembers the ball hitting you in the face the one time it comes to you. (I’ve shown this footage before, but it’s worth repeating. I am the butterball in the red tank-top and shorts. Skip to 3:44 for the part in question, though you may be too riveted by what a klutz I am to miss a minute.)
Skiing humiliation for me has involved walking down the mountain, skis over my shoulder. Or sitting in the snow crying while waiting for ski patrol to rescue me. I simply am not ready to tackle a mountain without an instructor.
But Mike assured me I wouldn’t need an instructor; besides, he wanted to ski with me. When we got to the mountain, I was relieved to see what looked like the familiar packed powder that Vail featured, until Mike explained that it was actually groomed ice, or loose granular. I was managing okay, though, until Mike and his black-diamond-skiing friends said we should go to the top where there was a green trail I could ski all the way down. To get there, we would have to lift up, ski down to another lift, lift up again, ski down, and finally lift to the top.
After we took the second lift, Mike’s friend led us to the steep hill we would need to ski down to get to the next lift. I pointed to the blue marker next to it.
“I can’t ski this.”
Mike pulled out a map and found some greens that would get us where we were headed and said he would take me there. This made me uncomfortable—I didn’t want to ruin his day—but he assured me there was no place he’d rather be than with me.
Despite his encouragement, I was not having a good time. In Vail, I rarely fell, which was good because I can’t get up when I do. In icy Vermont, I was on my butt constantly. As we made our way up and down the mountain, I was becoming exhausted both from skiing and from rising from my falls. But we managed to get to the top before I fell to pieces. After a snack and a drink, I felt more optimistic, and we went down the green trail, which was as beautiful and peaceful as advertised.
I still felt like an albatross, especially since we got just one run in while the others did something like ten. Mike was very good about making me not feel bad, but the experience reinforced my belief that skiing is a solo activity—not something to do with a date.
Bob skis, and while I was seeing him, I had some trepidation about it. Would he be in New Hampshire every weekend without me? Or would I feel obliged to go with him and repeat my experience with Mike? Even if I wasn’t thrilled the relationship ended, I am relieved I don’t have to deal with those questions.
Oddly enough, though, Vail still beckons. So look for me on the slopes in April. I’ll be there with a male companion: Sven the ski instructor.