Friday, December 3, 2010

Wedge on the Ledge

Several years ago, when I was well into my thirties, I got a bee in my bonnet to learn to ski. I enrolled in a special program that offered several lessons. After completed those lessons, I would be given my season pass. Sounded like a good deal;  it all cost less than a normal yearly pass.

After the involved drive up the mountain (turning and turning and turning some more), I arrived. Stepping out onto the snowy parking lot, I took a deep breath, terrified, and attempted to carry my skis (slippery little rascals if you haven't got the technique down) while walking in clunky ski boots towards the lodge, looking like a Russian soldier.

Our beginner's group was smallish. The two divas with perfect, coordinated gear, including teeth whiter than the new snow, felt compelled to let us know right away they were both from the exclusive part of town. Why we needed this information, I'm still not sure. One of them laughed, "If I can't be good, I can at least look good."


The doctor's wife was very kind and sweet, the couple from England had traveled everywhere and were ultra-polite, using terms like, 'If you please'. And then there was Lenny. Lenny was beside himself at the thought of being propelled down the hill and was whining audibly.

Ted, the instructor, swaggered towards us. Short man, craggy beard and rough voice. I got the impressionTed worked at the resort more for the night life perks than for the pay. He spent five minutes instructing us on how to turn and stop, then impatiently put us onto the lift.  Ted did not mention it was important to keep our ski tips up, and I happened to miss the sign that advised it. I can tell you now that if you don't keep your ski tips up, you could snap off your feet at the shins. Experience--and pain--are great teachers.

Ted, who'd decided to ride up with me on the lift (which only added to my nervousness), thought he'd comfort me by trying to hold my hand. I swiped my gloved mitten back away as soon as I could, just in time to glide off the edge of the chairlift, hastily regain both composure and balance, and glide right into Lenny, who was lying in a bewildered heap in my path, moaning.

Irritated over having been shunned on the ski lift by a middle-aged mom, Ted morphed into Little Hitler. He yelled at Lenny and made him cry. As I tried to carefully make my way down the bunny hill, (the snow had an icy crust that day, not prime for a new skier), Ted hollered after me, "WEDGE, WEDGE!" Had I not been terrified, he'd have gotten a terse reply.

Lenny, far behind me, both fell and cried all the way down the mountain. He and I formed a sort kinship, both being targets of the formidable Ted.

The Divas skied past us on occasion and laughed, as the 'true' beginners were sliding down the slope on our backsides or clung to the edge of an edge, trying frantically not to slide off the cliff into the parking lot below. We all knew that the Divas were pros in disguise, pretending to be beginners so they could get that discounted season pass. Had I been a better skier and a better aim, they might have met with a snowball or two on their way down.

That night I hobbled around at home, having wedged myself to oblivion, since Ted had told me to. My son asked, "Well, how do you like skiing?"

I wasn't sure how to answer that.

The next week we were told the resort management had deemed it necessary to divide our little class. One group for the so-called beginnners (wink, wink), and one for the real beginners. The real beginners were reassigned to a new instructor, Kevin, who was Mister Rogers on skis. Soft-spoken, gentle, encouraging. Kevin never once hollered at me to 'wedge'. Mister Kevin Rogers is the reason I do not hate skiing.

Because of Kevin, I still ski. Because of Kevin, my children ski. My children ski at the highest levels, doing backflips and double backflips in the process. We've had years of playtime as a family, because of the fact that once, in my thirties, I was taught to ski by someone who didn't try to hold my hand, and didn't yell at me.

Kevin, wherever you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And what would I say to Ted?
That's right:


1 comment:

Pam McKnight said...

Funny post, I can relate! I too signed up for the passport lessons at age 48 and I would have been placed with you and Lenny.

Post a Comment