Just got back from Mammoth, where I tried snowboarding for the first time. It was actually my first time on the slopes. The friends I went with couldn’t believe I had never tried skiing before. I guess the timing was never right. Since I’ve moved out to L.A., I’ve turned into a board sport girl (surfing’s still the best, but remind me to tell you about my wakeboarding adventure soon).
Okay, you know about my fear of heights. Remember the time my heart started racing when we went to the top of the Empire State Building and I had to sit down? Well, I expected the chair lift to be a bit of a challenge. But I didn’t really expect to miss the chair entirely. No, I’m not kidding. (Please give me some props for actually admitting to this.) I told my instructor, a sweet young twentysomething from the midwest who aspired to go pro, that I was a little nervous as we were waiting in line for the lift. He told me to relax, that he would stand by me and we’d go up on the same chair. He assured me that getting on the chair would be the easy part.
So there we stood side by side, waiting for the chair to come around. Then, plop. The chair came up behind me and I sat down but I landed right on the snowy ground. I went down and the chair went over my head. The guy running the lift stopped it and the people in line behind us rushed up to make sure I was okay. I was able to get up without assistance — I wasn’t hurt, just a little humiliated. But I started to laugh pretty immediately and this put my instructor at ease. Seeing that I was laughing gave him permission to let loose. I gotta say, it really was pretty hilarious.
“I’ve never seen that before!” he said. He repeated this several times. “Wow.” Pause. “Wow!”
When I tipped him at the end of the lesson, I told him to buy a round of beers for his friends for when he told them about my stunt on the chair lift. “I know you’re going to tell about your friends about it,” I said. “Oh yeah!” he said.
I landed my butt on the chair for my second attempt and I wrapped my arm around the bar. But the ride up wasn’t actually as frightening as I expected. Dan started rattling about how he sometimes experienced vertigo on the lift, especially when it slowed. When he started to tell a story about the time he was stuck for about a half-hour on a lift, I politely cut him short. “Oh, sorry,” he said. The rest of the ride was smooth and I was able to appreciate the view.
At the top of the run, I stumbled my way off, falling on my knees and crawling over to the side. It wasn’t graceful but it wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as my effort to get on the lift. The lesson picked up from there. It was snowing—enough for it to feel very winter wonderlandish but not so much that visibility was affected. I mastered the falling leaf motion pretty fast and found I only had to stop because my thighs were burning. Stopping was easiest for me when I just fell down on my butt (hey, it worked). I was relieved to find the waterproof pants I bought before the trip were really waterproof (I had my doubts). I’ll have to work on stopping while still standing the next time.
It dumped ten feet of snow during the weekend and few of the lifts were running on the day after my lesson so we made it a Scrabble day. Then we went out on the day we were planning to leave. Some of the beginner slopes were closed because of avalanche warnings and my friend Andrea agreed to ride with me. We took a lift up and found a green trail but it wasn’t the friendly and gentle Hansel and Gretel beginner trail I took for my lesson. This was the first snow-free and clear day and when I got to the top I finally had my vertigo moment. I was swish-swishing falling leaf-style several yards behind Andrea when I saw the summit. Holy. It was really spectacular and I was really dizzy. Sweaty palms, racing heartbeat. I stopped. Andrea went left but every time I started again my board pulled me towards the steeper downhill directly ahead of me. I didn’t know how to turn so I simply sat down on my butt and scooted over to Andrea, just like a crab. Ridiculous? Yes, but I didn’t know what else to do. (Again, really happy the pants were waterproof.)
It was a long butt-crawl over to Andrea, who waited patiently for me and sent frequent and encouraging cheers my way (“Take your time! You’re doing great!”). One of the mountain monitor guys driving a snowmobile rode by to ask if I needed help and I convinced him I was okay, just trying to make my way to the side. When I finally made it to the bottom of the mountain, Andrea treated me to a hot toddy at the lodge. It will have to be easier next time.
Wish you were here,