Downhill skiing. I learnt to ski late in life, but was glad that I did. Until I had tried zip lining above the jungle canopy in Belize, nothing else I’ve ever tried thrilled and scared me so much at the same time. My initial instructor, in Switzerland, would say in his guttural voice, “Snow plough…Bye, bye…” as we newbies tried to halt ourselves on our training slope. Then we mastered it. Then, we tried to go downhill and turn…and fall…and try to push ourselves up again using our poles and without taking off our skis…and fall again…and slide down the hill…and see the ledge… Then, we learned how to walk up or down a hill sideways, how to traverse a hill, and the control over the edges of the skis. Kawabunga! Let’s go! Hit that hill! Technique improved and parallel stops became the norm. I could ski well enough to try mogul fields; try, not master those brutal bumps 🙂
Getting to the top of the big hill. Looking back to where you had entered the ski lift, and looking up at the climb still ahead. Reaching the top and looking down to the first descent. What problems ahead? Push. Swoosh! Lean. Bite skis, bite! Knees bend, bend… Legs hold that turn… Cold air rushing past the face. Sweat dripping down the back. Then, the flattening slope. Run done. Aching legs and arms. Long soaks in hot tubs. Saunas. Massages. Gløgg. Walking in crispy snow in ski boots. Sore ankles. What fun!
When I came to the east coast of the USA and started skiing here, the iciness was not fun, nor were the short runs, nor were the people who did not know how to ski or stop and yelled “Look out!” Excuse me? You’re supposed to look out for me coming from above me on the slope. But, I loved skiing at night, after work and heading to nearby ‘resorts’ such as Ski Liberty. I sometimes went night skiing with a very good Japanese skier, who would ski backwards in front of me on the black diamond slopes telling me, “Remember, it’s just controlled sliding…” Then, I tried it backwards. Cool.
I remember when I fell badly one icy night and I could feel a jarring pain on the inside of my knee. I had a cartilage tear that was beginning, but I could tell you exactly where the damage was when my knee twisted as my left leg, foot and ski turned over in the snow. “Ouch!” Arthroscopic surgery came later because that damaged knee buckled one day, while walking a dog. The knee was fixed in a morning, and I was able to walk and run and play soccer and ski again. Thank you, doctor.
Yes, Jamaicans ski on snow–and just beat Haiti in a slalom duel 🙂 So, you don’t have to stretch the jokes about bobsledding and ‘Cool Runnings’.
Challenges are good
London fog. There is a real phenomenon–London fog–that rarely occurs nowadays, and its more noxious appearance as London smog never happens these days, following legislation that eliminated the sources of pollution that caused the smog. I was living in London during the ‘killer’ smog of December 1962, and have a vague recollection of this event. I had been in England just over a year and had never experienced weather conditions such as this, being barely able to see an arm’s length in front of my face. I had no idea of the many deaths and the chaotic situation on the roads. My school was just a five-minute walk from my house.
Walking in the fog was just scary for an elementary schoolboy.
Sometimes, life is like skiing downhill: a controlled slide, after a steady ascent; thrilling and scary at the same time; you against yourself and nature; a bad fall waiting for you somewhere along the line. Sometimes, it can be like walking in the fog: taking a well-known path without seeing your usual landmarks, and walking more slowly because you’re not sure of your steps anymore. Trusting yourself to continue to your intended destination. Time taken for the journey doesn’t help you gauge your progress. If you reach safely, your hopes are fulfilled. If you’re lost along the way, you may have to wait for the fog to lift so that you can regain your bearings. You wonder who wandered as you’d done.