Friday, February 11, 2011

Ski School Dropout....

My best friend, Julie, (the one that guest posted for me here and here...seriously, read these if you already haven't; they will change your life), called me the other day and asked me if I wanted to come up to Davis, WV and hang out with her this weekend.  She told me to bring my snowpants just in case we decide to pull ourselves away from a good book and a fire and go cross country skiing.  Although I grew up about an hour away from three awesome ski resorts, I loathe skiing.  I have tried many times to learn and every single time I have failed...and failed fabulously (not miserably...even when I fail I do so in a fabulous way).  Julie on the other hand has been doing ski patrol since she was 16 and even when she was living in DC would drive almost 7 hours every weekend the slopes were open so that she could ski. 

She's been trying to get me back up on a pair of skis for about 7 years now, but so far my empty promises to do so have gone unchallenged.  Julie hasn't asked me to officially "go skiing", but cross country skiing is scary enough for me.   The way she got me to agree to go up to Davis was to make it seem like we would be staying inside, laughing over a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire....but my suspicions are that she is going to somehow get me on a pair of skis.  Oh the humanity!

If you can't laugh at yourself, then....I don't know, I suppose you should laugh at other people!?  I can't remember how that saying goes.  Anyway, to give you all a nice chuckle I thought I would tell you the story of the last time I went skiing.  I think it will explain why that was the last time.

Blackwater Falls, WV - Tucker County

Picture it, Timberline Ski Resort, 1999....

Timberline Ski Resort
My parents took Kirk and I skiing against my begging and pleading to do otherwise.  We stayed at Blackwater Falls Resort and set out in the morning to hit the slopes. Kirk was a pretty good skier, so I thought that skiing with him might be helpful.  It was cold as all get-out and there was a frostbite warning issued that day.  Kirk went with me to the bunny slope to get warmed up.  I did pretty well, so we decided to give an intermediate slope a try.  I did pretty well on the intermediate slope, but I still just felt like I would be more comfortable on the bunny slope.  I could tell that my brother, who was 15 at the time, was getting totally bored hanging out with his ski-challenged sister so I told him that I would go to the bunny slope by myself and meet up with him later.

Before I continue, I feel like I should give a little background as to why I was so afraid of skiing.

The first time I went skiing I was in 8th grade.   I went with some guys I grew up with.  These guys were really good skiers and they were a little older than me, so I tried to impress them by following them onto an intermediate slope right off the bat.  When we got to the top of the slope the guys tucked their ski poles under their arms and shot straight down the mountain.  I didn't know any better, so I did the same.  Apparently, I should have cut back and forth.  There happened to be a lot of fog on the mountain that day, so I ended up not being able to see a turn on the run and wrecked into the woods.  When I opened my eyes I saw branches.  I had knocked my head against some fallen tree branches and cut my forehead.  The branches were stuck around me so I had a hard time getting up.  I don't know if I was knocked out or not, but I do know that I was shaking when I finally realized what had happened.  The guys came back down the mountain when they realized I wasn't behind them.  My friend Andy felt horrible.  I begged him not to call the ski patrol, so he carried my skis and slowly walked down the mountain with me step-by-step.

That sucked.  I didn't go skiing again for a few years.  I went  few times after that with friends, but I didn't really ski any hard slopes and spent most of my time trying to look cute in my snow suit sitting in the lodge.

Now, back to the story.

I was happy to ski the bunny slope over and over again while my brother showed some black diamonds who their daddy was.  After about an hour, my brother came to find me.  This time he showed up with one of my friends that he saw on the slopes.  He told Jake I was there, so they both wanted to come over and say "hi".  It was seriously freezing and....I had to pee, so I was getting ready to go into the lodge.  Kirk and Jake said they would ski one more bunny slope run with me, so the three of us hopped on the lift.

It's also important for you all to know that I used to be completely mortified of heights.  Another reason I like the bunny slope was because the ride to the top of the slope was shorter. We were about halfway to the top when the lift stopped.  It's pretty common when you are on the lift for them to stop occasionally, so we didn't even notice it at first.  Because of cold air (frostbite warning) being on the lift for any amount of time was almost painful because you didn't have the protection of the trees to keep the biting air off of you.  After about 5 minutes, I started to wonder aloud what was going on.  I was sitting between Kirk and Jake and they were just chatting away, thinking nothing was wrong.  Then 5 minutes turned into 10, and 10 into 15.  At the 15 minute mark, Jake and Kirk finally started to wonder what the deal was as well.

In case you forgot....I had to pee before we got on the lift, so at this point, I was getting a little antsy.  At the twenty minute mark we saw something that made my stomach turn.  From both ends of the ski lift, ski patrol was slinging ropes over the lift cables.  They were too far away at that point for me to see exactly what they were doing, but I know whatever it wasn't good news.  At some point a ski patrol dude started walking up the mountain telling everyone to kick off their skis and snowboards, and throw down their poles.  My brother yelled down to the guy and asked him what was going on.  He told us what we already knew...the lift had completely broken down.

I tried my very VERY best not to have a panic attack when they told us that they will be lowering each person down with a rope with a board attached to it to put under your butt.  But, with the extreme cold, my desperate need to pee, and my fear of heights, I couldn't keep it together.  Jake and I knew each other pretty well, but not well enough that I trusted that he wouldn't tell everyone that I flipped out.  However, that didn't stop me.

We were one of the last people to be lowered down off the lift.  As I watched people swing out off their lifts, I got more and more panicked.  At one point, I really thought I was going to have to pee in my snowsuit.  I took a good 15 minutes trying to convince myself that no one would know because my snow pants were so fluffy, but the fear of humiliation won out, and I held it.  My brother thought it would be funny to go all "Dumb and Dumber" on me and say, "Just go man!".  Laughing was the last thing I wanted to do right then.

The real trouble came when it was our turn to be lowered down.  Kirk and Jake said they would help me go first.  The ski patrol dude had to throw the rope up about 5 times before we could get it because we were about 40 feet up in the air.  Once the rope was over the cable, you had to open the door of the car, lean out, and grab the rope.  Because I was in the middle I was the best person for the job, but my fear of falling 40 feet wouldn't let me do it.  When the car door swung open....I started crying.  Like, hard.  Jake finally decided to try and see if he could lean out without causing me to slide out of the lift.  I held onto the top of the lift with no gloves on to make sure I had a proper grip, but the metal was so cold it was burning my hands.

Jake got the rope with the board attached to it and pulled it into our car.  We looked at me and said, "Okay, Katie, you're gonna have to get the board under your butt somehow so that you can swing out and let them lower you."  Through frozen tears I let go of the car, grabbed the board, and as Kirk and Jake held me in place, I slid it under my butt.  Once it was secure, the ski patrol dude told me that I had to swing myself out away from the car.  I had long since decided to forget about being composed, and with a scream, I flung myself out onto the rope 40 feet above the snowy ground.

Kirk and Jake quickly joined me on the ground and we all walked back to the lodge.  My parents were worried sick because no one had made an announcement that there were any issues with the lifts, so they didn't know what had happened.  I didn't have time to hug or explain...I ran into the lodge and peed for 10 minutes.

After that day, I didn't go skiing again.  I know it really has nothing to do with skiing itself, but that experience was enough to traumatize me for a good long while.

BUT, I really don't like giving up.  Never say never!  I am sure that these six 6 feet will find themselves in a pair of ski boots one of these days.  Maybe that day will be tomorrow.  I did beat my fear of heights already by going to trapeze school, so anything is possible.

How about you all?  What are you most afraid of? Ever been stuck on a ski lift?  Ever peed your pants?  Talk to me....



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