For the past few months, I've been planning to take up skiing again. At 55, there are a lot of things you begin thinking “it's now or never” about. So, I figured out a day I would go, reserved the skis, bought the lift ticket, and ended up at Alta, Utah.
But let's back up a bit. It had been a long time since I'd skied.
I wasn't sure what to wear, what to take, how anything worked any
more. The only thing I knew was where the resorts were and that I
would need to take a lift to the top of the runs, and point the skis
in a generally downward direction. A friend had recommended taking a
lesson. Instead, I watched “how to turn” and “how to parallel
ski” videos on youtube. I packed everything I would need the night
So yesterday, I got up in plenty of time to make it to the ski
rental shop and then to the resort by the time it opened. I got on
the freeway and was making good time and then all of a sudden, about
a mile from my exit, there was a huge lineup of cars moving ever so
slowly. We inched our way forward, finally making the exit about
twenty minutes later. Then it was on to the ski rental place. I knew
the general address of where it was, but didn't know exactly where. I
went into Smith's grocery store and asked for directions. The guy I
asked knew where it used to be and where it may still have been. “I
don't have any reason to look for it,” he said, “but it used to
be right up there by Zion's Bank”. I thanked him and found out it
was right where he'd said it was.
I drove up to Alta with no further complications. It was easy
finding the place to start, because that's where everyone was
parking. I got the boots on and began the trek to the area where you
first put on your skis. Again, no incidents putting on the skis. The
guy at the ski shop had taken the time to show me how the bindings
worked, and I got the skis on. At this point there's a small slope
that leads down to the first lift. Nervously, I snowplowed my way
down this slope, nearly falling. It was going to take a while to get
my ski legs back, I could tell.
I managed to get on the lift, sitting next to a guy, maybe close
to my same age. “I'm a snow boarder,” he said. “I just started
skiing this year,...well, it's been fifteen years since I skiid until
“It's been 29 years for me,” I said.
“Wow,” he said. “I bet the skis you used 29 years ago didn't
look like the ones you have now.”
“No,” I said, thinking about the old pointy ended skis that I
had been accustomed to, “they didn't”.
I picked the easiest of the easy runs for my first run. I took it
slowly, trying to feel my way back into it. The weather was perfect.
The sky bright blue, the sun shining. Apparently though, this was not
conducive to good skiing, because with the warmer temperatures, the
lack of recent snow, and the melting and then refreezing of what snow
there was, the groomed trails had turned into very icy and
treacherous places to be for someone who hadn't done it for a long
time. I felt the snow beneath me, knowing that if I fell, it was
going to hurt. That first run, I made it to the bottom without
On run number two, I had a small fall that I was able to recover
from fairly quickly. Then on run number three, I went up the same
lift, skied down to another lift and went up further. This was a
different kind of lift with a metal post in between two seats, called
Cecret Lift. There were warnings about getting ready to stand up as I
neared the end of the lift. I was by myself and as I got off the
lift, I fell. There were a pair of skis nearby where I fell, and as I
scrambled to get up the lift operator came out and said, “watch out
for those skis—they're expensive skis,” and apparently they were
his. I made sure no harm was done to them and headed down.
On one of my subsequent rides up to the top I was with an Alta
employee. “Couldn't ask for better weather,” I said to him.
“Yeah,” he said. “If you can't have snow, you might as well
have sun.” He didn't seem too happy about it though and was silent
the rest of the way to the top.
I rode up another time with a woman from Chicago. She mentioned
the inversion in the Salt Lake Valley. “I've never seen it this
bad,” she said. I wanted to say, “you should try living here all
winter” or something like that. I've seen it this bad plenty of
times. Not that I like it one bit. I didn't say any of that to her,
and we continued our pleasant conversation all the way to the top.
One time, I got off the lift and a woman asked me if I'd take her
picture. “Sure,” I said. “If you'll take mine.” I took hers
then handed her my camera. “I don't see anything on the screen,”
she said. I looked at it. The battery was in need of recharging. What
can I say? It was my wife's camera, so I didn't think to check the
battery before I grabbed it that morning. So much for any photos of
my first time back.
I kept to the easy runs thinking that in the afternoon, I'd give
one of the intermediate runs a shot. That was not to be. Just a few
minutes before noon, on my ninth run, I started down the steepest
portion of the easy run I was on, lost control on the icy surface and
fell hard, wrenching my back. I knew something was wrong as I
struggled to get my ski and hat that were further up the slope. Some
kind people helped me gather my stuff and get my ski back on and I
continued down, but my back hurt like crazy—not in the spine, thank
goodness—but in the muscles of the middle-right side.
I tried a couple more runs after that, but I was skiing
defensively, trying not to hurt my back further, not having much fun.
I fell on my last run again, not hard, but losing a ski. I was able
to get it on all by my little old lonesome this time. I headed to the
lodge, took off my skis, went inside to see how much food was,
decided it was too exhorbitant, then decided to sit down and wait a
while to see if my back would feel good enough to strap the skis back
on. I could tell after five minutes or so that it wasn't going to
improve, so I packed up and headed home.
Later that evening, I went to Instacare, just to make sure I
hadn't cracked a rib. The doc had some xrays taken, and they came up
negative. She classified it as a muscle strain, gave me a list of
things to do and not do, prescribed some drugs, gave me a referral to
a back doctor, and sent me on my way. She told me not to work and
wrote me a “doctor's excuse” for Friday and Saturday. So I have
nothing to do except write in this blog and watch tv or read. I hate
that. I'm sure I'll break the rules. I always do.