The Slippery Slope

Sometimes I go skiing. That’s not to say that I’m a skier; to me that word conjures images of swishing down hills with carefree abandon and cries of joy. My brand of skiing more involves strangled screams of terror and an entire body clenched in a single-minded determination to make it all the way to the bottom without either crying or dying.

Perhaps surprisingly, then, I am often the driving force behind family ski trips. You see hubby has skied since he was a child, and our children have been hurtling fearlessly down hills since they were knee-high to grasshoppers. They are all under the boggling belief that it’s somehow a fun way to spend your time; and I will reluctantly admit that we’ve created some wonderful moments and beautiful memories out on the slopes.

Unfortunately now that the children are teenagers there are few activities both exciting and expensive enough to persuade them to abandon the company of their friends and endure any length of time with their poor old parents. Skiing is one of them.

The attraction is no doubt enhanced by the entertainment value my terror and agony provide to all those around me. They drag me all over the hill with assurances that this next run will be no problem for me at all, and then stand at the bottom laughing while I struggle inelegantly down. So, at the promise of three days at Whistler, they crowded enthusiastically into the back of our truck and spent hours on end in horrifyingly close proximity with no blood-shed whatsoever.

I’m certain that inside me somewhere there is a fearless and graceful skier waiting for her time to come, but I have always kept her locked closely inside for fear of getting hurt. How did I go from the intrepid world-traveller and would-be sky surfer (I have at various times attempted to learn hang-gliding and parasailing, but have always been thwarted by weather conditions. But that’s another story.)?

I blame the children of course. After years of following them around attempting to protect them against every conceivable mishap, I have become a master of expecting and imagining the worst. And in fairness to myself, all three children have demonstrated a tendency to be suicidally adventurous and we’ve spent more than our fair share of time in the emergency room. So, like everything, my timidity is obviously all their fault.

However – I went to Whistler hoping that now they’re older and more self-sufficient my doom-ometer may have calmed down a little … and it has! I find, having crept cautiously throught the first phase of reluctance, I have now safely navigated the second phase of desperately challenging myself in the hope of discovering a comfort zone. Suddenly, and I’m not sure where this appeared from, I feel quite confident in my ability to get down the hill, and totally okay with the fact that it’s slow and so very far from pretty. There are bits that are too steep, or too mogully, but they no longer fill me with terror because I can pootle down in my own fashion, making switchback turns across the entire hill and ignoring those who choose to fly past me on all sides; it’s actually almost a pleasant experience.

If I say so myself, I even wowed the crowds with a bit of extreme skiing of my own. At the top of the mountain, coming out of a patch fog, I was having some trouble working out where the groomed part of the run ended and turned into wild, untamed back country. I didn’t realize I had strayed until I heard the children at the bottom of the run shrieking things like “Mum, what are you doing?” and “get back on the run!”. It seems I was about to launch down a rocky cliff into the double blacks. With uncharacteristic calmness I swung back onto the run, and arrived at the bottom smiling nonchalantly over my brush with the world off-piste. I’m just so cool!

In another episode hubby and I went down a partially blocked-off run that got rougher and rougher until it ended in a little windy, packed down track leading to a small break in a fence. Once I got on the track I realized to my horror that there was no changing my mind; I just had to keep my skis aiming along the track with no hope of slowing down and no way to avoid the huge jump at the end (it may have been larger in my mind than in reality). With my screams reverberating across the mountain I launched into the air and actually landed my first jump, to the delight of everyone on the chair lift above.

Fabulous! I felt like an olympic champion and I would have been a happy bunny if I could have called it a day right there and been air-lifted off the mountain. Sadly that didn’t appear to be an option.

Maybe I should revisit the whole hang-gliding/parasailing idea!