We returned from our ski trip (Everest, VERY challenging) all in one piece. The kids really took to skiing. Alarmingly so. And, might I add, disappointingly so. I wanted them to enjoy it, but in the same way that they enjoyed the carousel at the mall: as a one-time event that need not be repeated. Sadly, my son loved skiing and now wants to go every day. This is bad news for several reasons.
First of all, skiing is really expensive. Everybody knows this already, but it is worth reiterating if only because I just shelled out more money than I thought humanly possible for the privilege of hurtling myself down a mountain at speeds I wouldn’t drive my car at. There was a time when I thought of this activity as “fun.” That time is now past. I’ve now gotten to an age where the thought of breaking a hip is omnipresent. At all times, in all endeavors, I am aware of the possibility that I might sustain an injury from which I may never fully recover. As a younger man, I never entertained those thoughts. Now those thoughts constitute what passes for my entertainment.
The kids, meanwhile, were getting lessons from competent and tan young people with mysterious accents who made skiing cute by giving the various ski motions names from the children’s menu at Applebee’s. Turning your skis inward was a “pizza wedge.” Pointing them straight was “French fries.” A little jump? “Popcorn.” Why they were encouraging my children to jump up and down while on skis I do not know.
I am of the opinion that ski instructors should give more honest names to the skiing maneuvers. Turning your ski inwards should be called, “I do not know how to stop so I am trying this.” Pointing them straight should be called, “I am out of control.” And jumping up and down should be called, “I am about to have a spinal fracture.” I wanted to offer these suggestions to the instructors but I was too intimidated by their radiant health and blindingly white smiles.
My wife, wisely, chose not to ski at all. Why she wanted to drive four hours through the rain in a car whose interior was last cleaned when Soundgarden was popular I do not know. Maybe she had visions of Nordic gentlemen cooing at her in front of a roaring fireplace while her husband tumbled down a sheer vertical incline. Maybe she just wanted to not cook dinner for two days, and the eight hours in the car were worth it for that reason alone. Regardless of her reasons, she ended up perching herself on the second floor of the lodge so she could watch the kids practicing their pizza wedges and popcorn.
The lodge food, like everything else on the stupid mountain, was exorbitantly priced. A slice of pizza and a cup of water? Three hundred dollars. I may be exaggerating a little, but not much. The food was expensive, the skiing was expensive, renting the equipment was expensive, the hotel was expensive. The only thing that I found reasonably priced was the in-room entertainment, which was free. Somebody left an old Sony PlayStation in our room. There were two games. One of them was hockey ’99. The other one didn’t work. We didn’t use the PlayStation very much.
So now my kids want to go skiing all the time. Which would be fine if there was somebody who lived with me that wanted to take them. That person doesn’t live in my house. It is understood between my wife and myself that this person is supposed to be me. Which makes me suspect that the entire “family vacation” was just a convoluted ploy she designed to make the kids fall in love with a winter sport that requires us to get up really early and drive for hours, leaving her alone in the house for days at a time doing God knows what. Because, ultimately, when you have kids, the game becomes attempting to be alone in the house. For me, being alone in the house is like winning a scratch-off lottery ticket for a thousand dollars. The money isn’t life-changing, but God it feels good to win.
The other problem with skiing is that it is a cold weather sport. Children do not experience cold the same adults experience it. For children, cold is an obstacle no more or less challenging than getting across the monkey bars. Difficult at times, but navigable. As an adult, have you ever tried the monkey bars? They are fucking impossible. That is exactly how I feel about the cold. The cold is an impossibility. No amount of swaddling myself in chinchilla keeps me warm. Some part of my body is always cold in winter. My feet, my head, my hands, my nose, the inside of my nose, my appendix. Some part of my body is willing the weather to cease entirely.
Riding the ski lift over the weekend was a miserable exercise in extreme conditions survival. There came a time very early in my ski lift experience where I could not feel my face, and yet it still managed to hurt. How is that possible? The cold seemed to numb my face and then punch it. Which doesn’t seem fair. Coming down wasn’t nearly as cold, but as I indicated earlier, it was very scary. The scariest part wasn’t so much the fear of falling or hitting an ice patch or tumbling off the mountain, as my wife once did. Instead the scariest part for me was hearing the skiers behind me, like speeding cars on the Autobahn. At any moment, I felt like I was going to be rear-ended by some hotshot kid on a snowboard wearing one of those dumb court jester hats. How ironic and fitting an end that would be for a comedian, I thought.
So my eyes were always attempting to see through the back of my head, the better to ascertain the danger lurking from behind. Skiing is a quiet sport. When skiing, the most prominent sounds are the skis cutting through the snow and your thighs telling you they hate you. So it’s difficult to hear skiers behind until they are right up on you. Constantly they schussing around me, young kids, old people, blind people. Everybody was passing me, which I didn’t understand because I thought I was going as fast as humanly possible. The only possible explanation for so many people passing me while skiing is that time itself had slowed down as we approached the speed of light, and their manifestations were simply traveling along a different space-time continuum. Because the other explanation is too embarrassing to contemplate, which is that I am not only a terrible skier, but a terrible, slow skier. Somehow, my slowness felt like a larger indictment than my terribleness.
At least a fast terrible skier has a certain joie de vivre. A slow terrible skier just seems like a ninny. I wasn’t even trying to be slow. There were times during the flat stretches of the green circle trails to which I confined myself exclusively, that I was actually attempting to gain speed, to feel the exhilaration that only tremendous speed can generate. I tucked my knees, folded my poles into my armpits and was passed by a skier with one leg.
My enthusiasm lasted into my first run. That was it. After the first run, I was thinking, “When can I stop?” Rather than succumb to ennui, though, I trudged back up the mountain and headed back down. I did this over and over, in a vain attempt to make myself feel as if I’d gotten my money’s worth. I figured if I subjected my thighs to enough pain, eventually I would at least gain some muscle mass. Three days later, I can tell you definitively I did not.
After about two hours, I decided to “check on the kids.” I had no real concern for them or their safety. I really just didn’t want to ski any more. That’s when I learned about the cutesy food names they were learning. They seemed to be having a great time out there on the bunny hill, which caused my heart to sink. I was hoping at least one of them would get a bloody nose or chin. Nothing serious enough to require stitches, but scary enough that it would put them off skiing, and with luck, all outside activities. As I said, though, no such luck.
The end of the day brought weariness and an over-priced meal at the Inn. I had nine hundred dollar lamb chops. Afterwards I was still hungry, but could not afford dessert. The kids wanted ice cream. I told them in the softest voice I could muster to shut up.
I knew I would sleep well that night. Not because I was tired from the exertion, though I was, but because I took an Ambien as a special après ski treat. Passing out is always a highlight of my day. That night I dreamed of the president. He congratulated me on being such an outstanding parent to my children. I told him that I appreciated the sentiment, but I was not going to vote for him again.
The drive home was not as bad as the drive up because it was daylight and the torrential rain had abated. Plus we stopped at Chili’s, which is so much fun. The kids ate pizza wedges and French fries, of course. I ate something off their “guilt-free menu,” which had the opposite effect I intended. Rather than making me feel virtuous, it reminded me of slowly pecking my way down a mountain I never should have been on while younger, fitter, happier people passed me by.