I was a teenager before I wore ski boots for the first time. Awkward and easily embarrassed, I gave it a half-hearted attempt and quickly packed it in when it was clear I wasn’t just going to “get it” on the first trip out. Over the years there were a handful of times where I gave it another stab but I still failed to grasp the one thing that is so important in skiing. Control. This led to many, many falls and a growing fear of skiing. So what I thought, “I can do après ski and let the professionals tackle the hills.”
Then I married a man who skis. And we had children. Then aforementioned man taught said children to ski and suddenly I was an outsider in my own family.
The bottom line though was that my kids wanted me on the hill with them. I readily admit that I’ll never get world’s best parent recognition, but I am highly cognizant of the fact that this want from my children to spend time with me will be short-lived. I decided that this was the year I was going to learn to ski once and for all.
Knowing that my husband could never, ever tell me what to do, getting lessons was the clear choice.
My first group lesson at Camp Fortune went well on the beginner’s hill, but when I attempted the green hill for the first time, I once again lacked that elusive control and came zipping down the hill like a bat out of hell and stopped myself with the chair lift building. Not exactly a confidence builder. At the end of our lesson our instructor turned to me and said “Your children are good to go and practice their skills. You? You could benefit from a few more lessons.” And then he passed me his card.
Humiliation complete, I was tempted to quit.
Then, very good friends of ours invited us to join them at their place in Mont Tremblant. My family was stoked, I was scared to death.
For those who don’t know, Mont Tremblant makes Camp Fortune look like an ant hill. There is simply no comparison in size and length of run. Still I screwed up my courage and booked another group lesson. I told myself that if I didn’t get it this time that at least no one could ever say I didn’t try.
The first time down the green hill or what skiers affectionately like to call a bunny hill, like it’s the just the cutest little thing out there, nearly broke me. Fear gripped me in a way I’ve never felt before from the moment I got off the chair lift. For the record, I am not afraid to try new things. However, on this particular day, years of failed attempts at skiing caught up to me.
I fell repeatedly, even managing to throw myself off the trail and into the woods where I then had to throw my skis up to two women who stopped to rescue me. Crawling back up to the slope and feeling that I’d just escaped serious injury, I felt the water start to well in my eyes. It felt like I had been doing this ski, fall, repeat routine forever and all I wanted to do was get down this mountain and never, ever, go up again.
Finally, at the three-quarter mark down the hill it happened. Holding on to my composure by a thread, I caught up to our instructor Marc, who was waiting for me, yet again, to join the group. This time he asked me if I was ok and as any highly-emotional woman will tell you, this was the wrong thing to ask. The flood gates opened and I broke into a big, snot-bubbly ugly cry with my poor group instructor who was no longer a group instructor but rather a private instructor slash therapist.
“No, I’m not okay. I am scared to death. I have never been so afraid in my life. I have absolutely no control. I just want off this hill!” (Note: language has been sanitized for the internet, if you’d like to read it unfiltered, drop an f-bomb between every other word)
And this is where a good ski instructor is worth their weight in gold, because this guy who started his day thinking he’d teach some people to ski, ended up talking a basket case off the edge. And he did. He talked to me and modeled what I should do next and coaxed me to the bottom of the mountain without further incident.
When we finally got to the bottom, he turned to our group and said, “Ok, let’s get on the chair lift again”. And I, the one who so badly wanted to be at the bottom of that hill for the last hour, willingly and voluntarily sat my ass down on that chair lift for round number two.
The second time down, something finally clicked for me and I made it down the hill, albeit very, very slowly, but absolutely in control and I didn’t fall or breakdown in tears even once. Which, considering my state less than an hour before was a major win. When my lesson was over I met my family and friends at the summit where they convinced me to do the green run from the summit with them. (Note: This came after two glasses of red wine. While I don’t condone drinking and skiing, I will admit that this may have offered me some liquid courage).
In the end I persevered and after two days on the mountain, I got on a chair lift all by myself for the last run and skied down the hill without a babysitter for the first time ever. And so I sit here today sharing my humiliation on the slopes with you, while every single muscle in my body aches and it feels so good. No longer a poseur, I’m happy to say that I’m now a skier and après ski will be forever sweeter.