My friend A’s birthday is the 29th of December and it gets lost in the mess of the holidays every year. No matter how hard I try, I always forget. This year, just before Christmas, she says she wants to go skiing with me and another friend to celebrate. Now, I switched from skiing to snowboarding many years ago but I take no offense. I dig out my gear and cut off the lift tickets that show it’s been almost three years since the last time my board came out of the garage.
We head to the mountains early. It’s beautiful. We get to the top of the first run and I sit down to clip into my board. Getting back up is harder than I remember. I’m thinking, can’t they install some benches up here? Or even just a metal bar, like a bike rack, where we can balance so we don’t have to get all the way down on the snow? Come on people; take pity on the aging snowboarding population. We’re not all punk kids anymore.
Eventually I manage to scoot to the edge of the hill and carve a few turns into the mountain.
I’m feeling okay. It’s coming back. The sun is shining. We break early for lunch. We eat nachos. In the afternoon the skiers want to explore the new double black diamond that just opened up. Icy moguls are no fun on a board so we separate and I do a few runs by myself.
Later, we decide to head down my favorite run. This is when I realize that, after 15 years of snowboarding, my favorite run is called… (wait for it, wait for it) Tinkerbell. I know (hanging my head in shame). But Tinkerbell isn’t all fairy dust and flowers, oh no. She’s not always as nice as she seems. She can be a cold, hard, little bitch when she doesn’t get what she wants.
About halfway down the nicely groomed run my friends pull off to the side so we can rest. (I know, we need rest on Tinkerbell?) I pull up alongside. When, I’m nearly stopped, I bend my knees, shift my weight from heel to toe edge and BAM! Someone pulls the snow right out from underneath my feet. I hit my knees on solid ice and feel the shock rise up my spine into my brain. I roll over onto my back and I’m writhing, moaning and hugging my legs to my chest. I’m a pile of bones, disassembled. After a few minutes of cursing the evil little sprite I sit up. I’m fine. Of course, I have a bruise the size and shape of a baseball on each knee, but I’m fine dammit.
My friends lean into their poles and peer down at me. They offer to help. Poles. How I miss ski poles. There’s something so beautifully stable about them. But it’s over between me and skiing. We broke up years ago and when I said we were through, I meant it.
We make it the rest of the way down the punishing pixie run and I manage to stumble into the Drooling Moose or whatever-the-hell-its-called-just-somebody-get-me-a-goddamn-drink Bar. By then I’ve reached full snow-sport crisis. There’s this voice inside my head saying you can’t do this anymore. You just can’t take a fall like you used to. It’s not right. By the second drink I’m dreaming of having poles again. And, maybe it’s the kahlua, but making the switch back doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Who knows, maybe three years from now, when I hit the slopes, I’ll rekindling my relationship with skis. Maybe I’ll get to the top of a mountain and not have to sit down or clip in and maybe I’ll actually remember how to keep my tips from crossing. Maybe I’ll give my old two-faced pal, Tinkerbell, another chance and maybe I’ll discover that she’s kinder to aged skiers.