[Leanne Gregg is a writer and the fiction editor of Literary Orphans. In her spare time, you can find her training her two cats to do her chores.]
Though living a mere stone’s throw from ski resorts in Illinois and Wisconsin, I had managed to avoid the sport for my entire childhood and my adult life–until this winter. Why? The answer to this is complex, but mostly has to do with snow pants–a necessary item of apparel for keeping your legs from turning red and raw while you tumble down a mountain (or hill, if you’re in the Midwest like I am). As a child I found them to be humiliating. As an adult far too expensive.
In addition to the whole “pants situation,” I avoided the sport because I tend to get hurt. Once, I fractured my thumb falling off a couch. So skiing seemed like a bad idea. Enter my husband Brian—a transplant from Chicago to San Jose (and, subsequently, back again) where he spent some time swooshing down the snow-covered terrain in Tahoe. He has his own pair of snow pants with butt padding and a North Face half-zip fleece pullover. He even owns goggles. He’s a real fancy man.
He went on and on about the joys of skiing and how fun it is to escape the city on a mini-vacation, but I would have none of it. None. Of. It. Until one fateful day, a few friends invited us along for a weekend of skiing. I decided I would give it a shot before crippling arthritis finally set in and I would never be able to tick that item off my bucket list. I stocked up on the necessities for the trip: a moisture-wicking base layer, snow pants, goggles, waterproof gloves, ski socks, and courage. I was ready.
We drove out to Chestnut “Mountain” (again, Midwest) in Galena, Illinois. Apparently, this is one of the most challenging ski resorts in the area. Remember this tidbit because it’s important, folks. Anyway, after taking my very first hour-long ski lesson on a gently sloping bunny hill I was filled with nothing less than throbbing hubris. I swooshed over to where Brian was waiting, and he convinced me to immediately catapult myself down the “green” hill. (Green hills, for those unfamiliar with the skiing lexicon, are the easiest–but they vary widely from resort to resort because they are determined by the drunken owner and probably his dog.)
There was a single green hill at this place. A single green hill with a straight, steep drop.
With terrifying speed and complete lack of control and coordination, I began my descent into a wall of children. I repeatedly threw myself down to the ground in order to save them from my body, which had become a projectile barbed with ski poles. Less than one tenth of the way down the hill I skied, helmetless (my husband believed it to be a “waste of $10”), into a pile of brambles, bushes, and trees, landing completely covered in the brush save for my two skis jutting out, akimbo.
Brian, luckily, was right behind me and scooped me up since I was paralyzed like a turtle on its back waiting for the crows to come peck out my tender belly. I prayed for death. Meanwhile, children zipped by making perfect s-shapes with their tiny feet, laughing.
Shaken, I took my skis off and walked down part of the hill—rescue men on snowmobiles asked if I was “OK.” Between choking sobs and my screams of spousal abuse threats, I assured them I was “fine.”
After a respite in the lodge area where I combated waves of nausea, I determined I had to go back on the slopes. I had invested far too heavily in skiing paraphernalia to quit. So I spent the rest of the day on the bunny hill learning control and, you know, how to stop.
The next week? We went skiing again, this time in Wisconsin—at Alpine Valley, a far less challenging resort.
Turns out, skiing there was fun! I conquered two green hills and even two blue hills by mistake. Who knows, maybe next year I will go back to Chestnut Mountain and lay in the bushes again—except this time I’ll be wearing a helmet.