The First Slope

8 Jan

The First Slope

by L. Stewart Marsden

New ski bibs, jackets, rental skis, boots, poles and helmets. Maybe 24 inches of base with temperatures projected to be in the high forties with rain likely.

Two new skiers: one age twelve and the other, eight.

One a little less athletic than the other. She is a socialite in the making. An I-don’t-want-to whatever needs to be done in a whiney voice. Argumentative. Sharp as a tack.

The other wiry, yet tough.  Physically aggressive in spite of her size. A doer who wants to please. Also sharp as a tack.

“First time skiing for the girls?” asks the ski rental clerk.

I nod. Then I add, “I think the younger one is going to take to this like a duck to water.”

Suited up. Standing on the edge of the bunny slope. The learning slope.

“You guys want lessons?”

“No!” responds the socialite adamantly. “You can teach us!”

I know enough to get them either seriously frustrated or injured. I keep repeating the offer as we go through the basics: stepping into your skis; leaning forward and keeping your weight forward; hands forward and ski tips back.

After several false starts and plops onto padded toucases, the final offer for lessons is finally accepted.

And then the surprise. The socialite excels. She gets it. She listens to a total stranger. She glides and slides down the bunny slope with growing confidence and, yes, a modicum of grace.

Meanwhile, younger sibling tries to listen, but it doesn’t sink into her small frame. She falls. She can’t get up. She slips. She begins to stay down. Her face is fallen. “I need a break,” she pleads to me.

A brief respite for a soda and consolation.

You can do this.

Sniff.

No, really! In just a little bit of time, you’re going to get it.

Double sniff.

Back to the slopes.

I go with her. Slowly. Big, wide snow plow. Good! Eyes bigger. Fall, then back up. Hands forward and lean forward. Increased speed. Staying up! Good! Eyes brighter!

Second run: down the slope under more control.  One fall.

Third run: NO FALLS!

Big grin! “I love this sport!”

“No, Dad — I’m going by myself.”

All in all a good day. Not quite the way I imagined it. Socialite skier had progressed to the next level slope and was streaming downhill on her own. Frustrated skier was all smiles, ear-to-ear teeth. Old man skier mindful of why skiing is best left for the young, the limber, and the mendable.

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