January is a cold, fickle bitch. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense. Or maybe I do. See, the thing is, I don’t care for snow. When I was a younger boy, full of childlike wonder and stupidity, I loved when we got a snowstorm. I would spend the whole day building forts and whatnot. Maybe engage in a snowball fight or three. Or we would go sledding. There is nothing more invigorating to a child than hurtling uncontrollably down a sheet of ice on a thin piece of plastic towards inanimate objects such as trees, parked cars and lazy people. Well, maybe cocaine or pixie stix.
During a snowstorm, I would breathlessly watch the school cancellation notices on the news hoping to get the next day off. One thing you should know, the town I grew up in, Hingham Mass, was notoriously stingy with snow days. I can’t count the times that neighboring towns had a snow day and we didn’t. So I wouldn’t normally find out until the morning whether or not the school principal gave a shit about my safety. He usually didn’t. It is terrible on a child’s morale when you have to go to school and learn shit while there is a winter wonderland right outside the window. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to Hitler.
We used to have this old pair of wooden skis at my house. When I say “old” wooden skis, I mean they were old back then, thirty years ago. I don’t know where they came from, or whose they were, or why they were covered in dried blood, but they were there. They always reminded me of Little House on the Prairie for some reason. I can’t remember if Pa and Half-Pint ever hit the slopes in an episode or not. They seemed more like snow shoe people. I think skiing was probably more up Nellie Oleson‘s alley. That spoiled bitch. Every once in a while we would take those skis and go use them on the hill in the woods behind our house. There were no poles with them so we would use chopped up broomsticks for balance. I got so good on them that I only fell down most of the time. Yeah, I’m a natural athlete.
When I was in seventh grade, my school had an annual ski trip. I decided to go because I knew how well I handled myself in the back yard, so a mountain wouldn’t pose too much of a challenge to me. We took a charter bus from the school to the ski resort, which is much more exciting to a 12-year-old than to a 42-year-old. When we arrived, I went in to rent some skis and all the proper accoutrements. These things were nothing like the two pieces of pine that I had previously used. They were long and made of some type of non-wood material, and you didn’t secure them to your feet with duct tape. The older boy in charge of doling out the equipment used some type of mathematical equation to figure out which skis to give me. I think it was age divided by height plus the square root of him not giving a fuck about my wellbeing.
I went out to the slope and they were offering a free beginners lesson to anyone who wanted to take it. Obviously I didn’t take them as I was way to cool for that. I didn’t want to get made fun of for taking the time to learn something. So I just headed over to the ski lift and said, “Let’s fuckin’ do this”. Now, in retrospect, a free lesson would have been awesome. Nowadays, a free lesson would fall right in my wheelhouse. If I had to do it all over again, I would be the first one to ask, “How do I stop? Or turn? Or not fall repeatedly?” But not the twelve-year old me. That kid was ready for action.
I psyched myself up on the ski lift, thinking about how impressed everybody on the mountain would be by my crazy freestyle routines. I considered my style to be a cross between James Bond and Suzy Chapstick if she was a dude. As I got to the top of the lift, I prepared to dismount. Then I realized I didn’t know how to do that. It seems like it would have been second nature to me by now. I got on the lift with no problems, so getting back off should be easy. But it was a very difficult procedure. So I fell down. Heres a tip for any prospective skiers out there: apparently it is frowned upon in ski society when you grab the people getting off of the lift with you, even if you only did it to save yourself from dying. After the obligatory curse words and dirty looks, I was left to fend for myself. In the wild. Alone. Except for all those other people there.
After picking myself up off the ground, I skied twenty feet and fell again. Then I skied eighteen feet and fell. The ten feet. I got to a point where there was a sharp turn at a cliff, and I wisely decided that I would take my skis off and walk past that section. I’ve always been a take charge kinda guy. After I had cleared the precipitous drop, I went to put my skis back on. As I was clamping into a ski, I looked up and saw my other ski racing down the hill without me. I picked up the one ski I still possessed and beat feet after the other one, slipping and sliding all the way. I was motivated by the gentle encouragement of dozens of people skiing past me and saying helpful things like, “Get out-of-the-way, asshole”, and, “Hit him in the balls!!”. It’s nice to have motivation. I watched the runaway ski go off the trail into the woods, and spent the next hour or so walking around in waist deep snow looking for that stupid thing.
By the time I located it, I decided that skiing was a stupid sport and I would just walk down the rest of the hill to the lodge. I placed my skis in one of the racks inside the front door and immediately ordered three fingers of hot chocolate in a dirty paper cup. I actually requested a clean cup, but they said clean cups are for big boys who don’t walk down the fucking mountain. I then spent the rest of the day drinking dirty hot chocolate, playing Tron (I was badass at the Light Cycles), and letting my jeans dry. I did mention that I was wearing jeans, right?
Yeah, I was that kid.