So. I’m at Sunshine Village on Sunday, skiing with the Hubster as we have every Sunday for the past ten weeks. Our daughters have been in the Mountain Freeriders program there, having a blast and becoming far better skiers than we could ever have taught them to be. There has been fresh snow, and Bye Bye Bowl is full of it – the wind blows uphill there, and sifts in more snow than what actually falls from the sky, so it really is the place to be if you’re looking fresh tracks. Which we are.
It is also steep, expert terrain. But that’s cool, I can handle it. In fact, I had handled it – and quite well – several times already. Hubster and I ride up the lift with a pair of young (in their early 20s) guys; one snowboarder and one skier. Hubby and I are raving about how good the snow is over in the bowl, and they obviously listen, because they follow us off the lift and over to the bowl.
Making fast, floating turns, I whip my way down the mountain. Swish, swish, swish, swish. Judging the moment to be right, I cut my last turn short and point my skis straight downhill; Sunshine is full of gullies and flats, and getting out of Bye-Bye bowl requires a burst of speed that only a straight shot can provide. And so I accelerate: piling on the speed and flying like a bat out of hell towards the uphill of the cat track when
He hits me. Right behind me, the guy on the board had been riding my heels the whole way down, spooking me badly enough that I checked up earlier on in the run and nearer to the top. I thought I had shaken him, but either he was in out of his depth and wanted to take my track, or else he was riding the white stuff oblivious of me. Either way, the downhill skier/rider has the right of way (for the obvious reason: no eyes in the backs of heads) and I was definitely downhill.
For what seems like several seconds all I see is white as I slide down, down, down under the blanket of fresh snow. Then I think, "I have to stop". I turn over, dig in my toes and hands and slowly come to a stop. A hundred yards below me, he apologies. Profusely. Asks if I’m okay. I think I am. Possibly not, but nevertheless I reassure him I am fine. Still, he waits, to be sure. I stand up. My goggles fall off; they’re no longer buckled to my helmet. My helmet is askew. Thank GOD I wear a helmet. My mitts are full of snow. My torso is full of snow. My pants are full of snow. I dust myself off and scan uphill for my skis.
Oh. There they are. Way up there. One pole is still strapped to my left hand, the other is unstrapped but seems to be still clutched in my right hand. Slowly, deliberately, like the climbers you see in movies about ascending Everest, I climb up to my skis. Step. Kick. Bury your toe in the snow so you don’t slip and lose all the ground you’ve gained. Panting, I realize I’ve had the wind knocked out of me. My head is ringing, and I feel very, very groggy. I reach one ski, pick it up, climb a few more steps, and place it down beside its mate. Precariously, I balance on one foot and one pole, using the other pole to clear the packed-on snow from the sole of my boot before stomping my foot into the binding – hopefully without sending it careering off downhill to the bottom of the gully.
Success. One ski on. SNAP! Two skis on. The guy who hit me is still there, waiting to be sure I’m okay. Give him credit: he apologized, he waited to be sure I was okay and could get myself back out of there. Hey, skiing is a sport with a pretty high level of inherent risk, especially when you go about it aggressively, as I was. I accept that it’s only a matter of time before all skiers will be in a collision, and I’m just grateful I got out of mine as lightly as I did. It happens. I wave him on, he leaves, I wait for him to clear the cat track. I take a deep breath and tell myself what I told my daughters when they were learning to ride their two-wheelers:
You will fall. It’s guaranteed. But you will have to pick yourself back up and get right back on again. It’s the only way to get over the fear of falling.
And it is. So I do. And I will live to ski (fast) another weekend.
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