How to learn to downhill ski…

Writing about the ski train the other day made me think back to the day I learned how to downhill ski. OK, let’s be honest…by most skiers standards, I didn’t really learn anything. Instead let’s call it the first day I made it down a hill with skis on. This was in the 1980’s and my then-boyfriend earned some mighty big karma points that day for his patience with me!
It was a double date. Both of us girls were new to skiing. In fact our friend’s date, Debbi, had never been on skis at all as I recall. I had a teeny advantage of having done some cross-country skiing as a kid.
The first part of the adventure was getting fitted for rental skis. Even slim as I was then, my chubby ankles – cankles – required that I get extensions on the boots. Embarrassing and frustrating to say the least, as boyfriend and rental dude fussed over my fat legs trying to squeeze them into the hard plastic torture device they called a ski boot. Finally I was outfitted and on my way.
Anchorage has a lovely little ski area called Hilltop with a single chair lift and two or three basic trails from the top of the lift back to the chalet at the bottom. The trails are short and easy, perfect for a beginner, but to us beginners it looked like we were going to the top of Mt. Everest. The boys had their first chore getting our butts onto the chair lift.
“But it’s moving!”
“Don’t SWING it!” (Girly screams)
As the lift chugged its way to the top, I was torn between the beauty of the view and the terror of having to exit the chair without getting bonked on the head as it made the turn and headed back down. Never mind the terror of having to get myself back down the hill… (Both boyfriends insisted that we could NOT just ride the chair back to the chalet!)
Luckily we picked a fairly quiet evening to do this. Fewer witnesses…
At the top of the hill, having successfully gotten both of us girls out of the chair lift and out of the way of other skiers, the real lesson started. Poor Debbi was the first to go. It went something like this:
“How do you make the skis go?”
“Just point them downhill…” (Exasperated sigh)
“Like this? AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh…….” (Long, LONG drawn out scream, followed by a distant thump and a little puff of snow as she crashed halfway down the hill.)
Then it was my turn. I didn’t know her well, but she seemed like a nice girl… How the hell am I going to get down this hill? I’m ashamed to say there may even have been some tears…
I was still standing there arguing and procrastinating when Debbi came up behind me.

She was grinning from ear to ear. “That was awesome!”
“But I was sure you were dead!”
It was what I needed to finally get me moving – proof that she not only survived but was eagerly doing it again, complete with screams and crashes and laughter and crazed exhilaration.
Needless to say, I also survived and enjoyed myself to boot. If you’ve never done it, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like flying, complete with the spectacular aerial views and the soft shoosh of the skis on the snow.
I went many times after that, though never often enough to justify buying my own equipment. In other words, I enjoyed it enough to deal with the rental place each time! When my knee blew up, my downhill days were done, but our evening trips to Hilltop and our one big (expensive) trip to Alyeska are wonderful memories of younger days.

Categories: Living in Alaska, nostalgia | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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