Where Eagles Dare

Last Saturday, I went downhill skiing for the first time in forty-three years. I prayed that my Zumba trained legs would be fit enough to survive the slopes at Kananaskis. It helped having my two granddaughters there. Claire, at six, is a natural. Charlotte, at four, is getting very comfortable skiing with her dad. I figured that as long as I kept up with the kids, I wouldn’t do too badly.

My troubles began in the rental office. They’re quick in there, and don’t have a lot of time for anxious older folks. I could see the staff making eye contact with each other. These people are doomed, they seemed to be saying. We had a sinking feeling they were right.

To my dismay, ski boots have changed since the seventies. They’re higher, and probably safer.  But they grip your calves like they’re trying to bring you down a size. So walking feels impossible. You wear helmets now, too. A sensible idea, given my knack of falling down during a leisurely stroll.

Things began badly when I sprained my arm carrying my skis out to our starting point. The ones I had growing up were much lighter. But my spirits lifted considerably when Clarence fell down right out of the gate. I was so glad it wasn’t me. Sorry about that, honey. I wasn’t there for the other time you fell. But full disclosure: I took my skis off at one point, and hiked down about thirty feet. I have no right to brag. And yet, here I am, feeling pretty damn good about myself.

My difficulties began about five minutes into my first run. I took a corner too fast and ended up heading for the fence, the steep drop-off kind. My son in law hollered, “Does she know how to stop?” My daughter wasn’t sure, and neither was I. Some latent memory came rushing back so I was able to turn at the last minute and save myself. I’m fairly sure screaming was a major part of my self-rescue effort.

Before I reached the bottom, I managed to get my pole stuck under the front of my left ski. Only by performing a stunt worthy of Charlie Chaplin did I manage to stay upright. A svelte female skier passing by, yelled, “Awesome recovery!” It was a proud moment.

A less proud one happened a few runs later. I was doing well, crossing back and forth as I made my way down. At one point, the mountain seemed very hill-like, and I thought I’d have some fun on this ‘gradual slope.’ Heading straight down, I picked up a terrific amount of speed. As I passed my six year old granddaughter, I was laughing in that way you do when you’re trying not to scream. “Save yourself!” I said, or something to that effect. Fortunately, she thought it was funny and didn’t think she had to rescue me.

It ended up being a terrific day, other than the half hour we spent stuck on a chair lift. I was sandwiched between two drama queens, my husband and my daughter. Granddaughter, Claire, was there, too. She managed to keep us all calm. But my knees are still aching from the drag of those heavy skis.

I wish they used tow ropes, like they did when I was growing up. But then, I’d need the Crerar boys to help me up the mountain when my mittens iced up. It happened often in those days. That was how it was when I learned to ski at the Flin Flon ski club. Practice, weekly humiliation and more practice. Fortunately, and to my immense gratification, I’ve discovered that I’ve still got a few of the old  moves. Now all I need is the number of a good chiropractor.

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