It was something I had always heard about, but the concept was rather foreign to me, having grown up hundreds of miles from anything ski related.
After a job landed me in New England, it became obvious that this was something I wanted to try, so I learned how to ski when I was 23 years old on the side of an icy mountain in Maine.
The sun was bright in the sky, warming the slopes to a crisp 25 degrees and I was semi-toasty in my newly-purchased black thick down pants and puffy pale pink jacket.
I felt like a snow bunny but the reality was that I looked more like the Michelin Man. No lessons for me as I had a quick rundown of the “do’s” and “don'ts” of mountain etiquette while putting on rental boots and skis. Then we were off and it was up to me to figure it out; a trial by fire or ice in this case.
We waited in a lift-line and I felt butterflies in my stomach as my boyfriend—now my husband—his mother and a family friend explained to me with large gestures and booming voices how to move forward in skis while staying upright. The line edged forward and I kept a hand on the shoulder of anyone brave enough to enter my personal space.
“Use your poles and slide your legs!” was shouted at me from various helpful bystanders.
It was an exercise in coordination like patting your head while rubbing your belly and I couldn't quite master it. The skis were one and a half times my height, as was the fashion back in the early 1980s, and they had a mind of their own - bumping and undercutting the skis of anyone within a six foot radius of my legs.
Our destination was the top of a hill with gentle terrain, a “bunny slope,” designed for beginners like me. The only way up was the dreaded T-Bar; using coordination to side-step and lean back, skis still on the ground, and hold on for dear life while it pushed the skier uphill. The trick was to hold ski poles in one hand, then use the inside hand to grab the center pole, trying to time it just right.
The lady ahead of me slid into the approaching space grabbing the center pole while leaning back on the T-base. She was propelled forward in a graceful stance while I fumbled; sliding and crouching and lining my body into position; poles in my right hand and left hand ready to grasp as it whipped past. I missed the first one as I slipped sideways out of reach and heard a collective groan behind me as the growing line of skiers shuffled and stamped ski-clad feet trying to maintain body heat. This may take awhile was the thought in everyone's mind. I slid back into position with a little help from the lift operator as he slowed the lift down to a snail-like pace. This time my timing was better and I was able to maintain my footing and get my mittened hand around the pole.
I heard and felt a thud as my arm spun me outward and away from the lift when my flailing pole smacked an unsuspecting person in the stomach. “SORRY,” I shouted as I was falling and spinning into the crunchy Maine snow.
I was frozen and needed a break, so the crowd of mostly children with their parents began to cheer as I rolled away from the lift and struggled to get back on my feet.
My boyfriend loudly announced, “She is from the South,” and I saw heads nodding and sympathetic looks directed my way.
The lift operator, jaded from years of dealing with whining children and demanding parents boarding his lift, looked at the ground and I heard him mutter under his breath, “Yup. That shah ‘splains a lot,” as he increased the lift back to its usual fast pace for the fidgety children ready to ski the mountain known as Sunday River.
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.