On the hill: A laugh at dad’s expense
December 25, 2009
ASPEN – I spent Wednesday afternoon slalom skiing, weaving in and out of scores of youngsters on the gentle slopes of West Buttermilk.
Sure, it seemed like the unlikeliest of places to take some turns on the first powder day in nearly two weeks. In my defense, I was spending some quality time with my lady friend, who is learning to ski. And truthfully, I did not mind the change of pace after days spent negotiating Aspen Mountain’s steeps and tight glades.
A trip to the Milk always takes me back. Back to the days when I made my first few turns as a youngster – and I use the term “turns” loosely. Back to the days I had no idea what I was doing, yet charged downhill with youthful abandon.
Back to the days when watching my dad attempt to alpine ski was a constant source of amusement for me and my two sisters. I can still remember peering out of the lodge window at The Balsams in New Hampshire and watching him veer sharply to the right with both arms flailing, ski off trail and narrowly miss a patch of pines.
I’m guessing that, for this orthopedic surgeon, skiing was a bit like repairing a pelvis with a scythe.
He thought he’d figure things out on his own, despite the fact that his extreme fear of heights made seemingly innocuous bunny slopes look like K2 or Everest’s North Col.
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He was sorely mistaken. Just ask the scores of skiers and boarders who swerved to avoid him during a February trip to Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire in the early 1990s.
We could always spot him from the lift. His tense legs formed a pronounced pizza, and he skidded uncontrollably for about 10 yards at a time before falling. After a minute spent straining to get back to his feet, my dad was off once more. Sort of.
He leaned so far forward that I swear his head was mere feet from the snow. His poles, which dragged behind, were merely along for the ride. Now that’s a workout.
When we finally caught him in the lift line – he finished one run in the time we typically did three – sweat was dripping from his brow. He looked like he had just completed a marathon in the dead of summer – in ski boots.
I jokingly goad him to come out to Buttermilk and give skiing another try when we talk on the phone. The line invariably goes quiet.
On the one occasion he did come out to visit, I pointed out the local slopes as we drove down 82. He shifted in his seat and grabbed the armrest.