Friday, January 09, 2015

My ski report

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 before.

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 this year.”
“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 falling.

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.

1 comment: said...

According to my journal, my last ski trip was in January 1998.

As I was reading you entry, I could feel the boots, the skis on the snow, the cold mountain air on my face, the smell of lunch cooking at the burger place at the base of the lift, the sensation of rocking the lift chair on the way up, pausing at the top and deciding which trail to try next. Thanks for summoning these memories.

Abby does NOT like the cold, so any future ski trips will be with friends, but she won't mind.

Here's a neat story from a trip we made in 1990...