Look Out Below!
A day of schussing and moguls
By Renee Phile
We’d talked about going the past few winters. It’s one of those activities that seems fun but overwhelming. In theory, appealing, but the logistics are scary. Well, we decided this was the year. We were visiting my grandparents in the mountains — Boone, North Carolina. He woke me up early.
“How much longer? When can we go?”
“David, we can’t go till one.”
“Can we go early?”
“It doesn’t even open until one.”
The time ticked slowly (for David) and around 1 p.m., David and I — in our three layers of clothing, armed with gloves and hats and those knitted ski masks bank robbers wear in the movies — piled into my car. Up the mountain we drove. My grandparents drove their car, too, to get us checked in. This was their idea, after all.
We peered over the houses on the mountain. It was snowy, steep, and gorgeous. Like in a jigsaw puzzle or calendar. Scary, too. The wind was ferocious. Halfway up the mountain, the traffic stopped, a foreshadowing of what was to come. We inched our way to the lodge. To say it was packed would be. . . let’s just say it looked like an Uber convention. It was 1/2 off lift tickets day, and the world loves a bargain. The whole world. All the times I spent at Walmart nearly having a panic attack from too many people dimmed by comparison. There were three lines that wrapped around halls and swirled around walls. Finding the end of one was the goal. Anxiety built.
Some people were filling out forms, and my grandpa left the line to find some for us. These are the forms where you absolve the entire world of responsibility in the event you crush every bone in your body. When Grandpa stepped into the madness, I wondered if I would ever see him again. He returned with paperwork for David and me, with an extra set for the red-haired kid in front of us, who already had his skis. It was at this point my grandma said, “We are going to go home. Call me before you leave here.” Part of me envied them as they left. It was the part that screamed, “For godsakes, don’t leave me here!” on the inside. We chatted with our line mates. It turned out the red-headed kid was from a town close to Southern Pines.
“Have you skied before?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yes, a lot, but this is the first time I have been here. You?”
“I skied when I was his age,” I said, pointing to David. “This is his first time. We are going to need a lesson.”
“Nahhh, we don’t need a lesson,” David chimed in, his phone out as he YouTubed How to Ski. “It’s easy, Mom.” I could remember nothing of the basics of skiing besides gravity. The red-haired kid said, “I can show you a few things; you probably don’t need a lesson.” I was unconvinced but agreed.
Time passed. Another 30 minutes, then another. David became grouchy, and I reminded him over and over that he was the one who really wanted to come. We helped each other out of our coats as sweat dripped down our faces. Finally, it was time to step up to the counter. A rush filled me. Almost two hours of waiting had ended.
We paid for our lift tickets, skis, helmets and a locker, and the adventure began.
The actual ski part could be summed up like. . . well, how about I share with you some texts that I found, yes found, on my phone later that night. Caren is my best friend from high school, and I had sent her a picture of David and me standing in the forever line. I must have left my phone somewhere and forgotten about it for a while.
Caren: How was your Christmas?
David: Good, this is David (smiley face)
Caren: Hey David! Looks like y’all went skiing. Did you have fun?
David: Yes we did, my mom fell every few feet though.
Caren: Haha! That’s always fun (smiley face)
David: Not for the people in her path.
Caren: (2 smiley faces)
David: She just about killed this one guy and took out about 6 others.
Caren: (smiley face) Maybe she’d be better on a snowboard. I did awful on skis.
David: Maybe you should go with us next time.
So, I read through these messages that had been exchanged on my phone. While there is some truth in these texts, they are exaggerated, of course, and David failed to mention that he, too, nearly “killed one guy and took out about 6 others.” At one point he was just lying in the middle of the slope while others, trying not to use his body as a ski jump, zoomed by. (Don’t tell him I told you . . . )
Neither of us learned how to stop without falling or even move around without going straight down the hill. Both of us came home with bruises, hurt pride, but lots of laughter.
Next time — and there will be a next time — we won’t pay attention to any red-haired kids. PS
Renee Phile loves being a mom, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.