Lewis: In Colorado, there’s no crying in skiing (column)
February 4, 2017
I have a confession I'd like to make: Skiing makes me cry.
I had never been much of a skier before moving to Summit County. For starters, I'm from Virginia, but that isn't really an excuse. There are plenty of hills on the East Coast. One in particular, Wintergreen Resort, conjures up traumatic childhood memories of being bowled over by a chairlift and crashing into the netting between runs.
What a tangled, tearful mess I was back then.
Likely because she felt sorry for me, a friend's mom put me in a beginner's lesson. There I was, 11 years old and towering over toddlers whose skill levels far outclassed me.
“Not much has changed
— the little rippers here in Colorado still shred harder than I do.
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Not much has changed — the little rippers here in Colorado still shred harder than I do.
Throughout college at James Madison University, I continued to subject myself to further humiliation on the hill. At Massanutten Resort, on a windy January day with sub-freezing temperatures, I no doubt gave the lifties a laugh as I appeared, without goggles, in my cotton Adidas sweatpants, down coat, flapping scarf and head-swallowing helmet. If my gaper-ish appearance didn't give me away as a hopeless novice, getting stranded on a black diamond and needing a rescue eliminated all doubts. Many tears were shed that day.
Needless to say, it wasn't my love of skiing that brought me to the mountains of Colorado. But it was a skier who lured me here. My boyfriend had already lived in Summit County for a season before my arrival.
Last season I worked for Vail Resorts, meaning I had a season pass to all of its ski areas. I got out a total of roughly 15 days and was secretly ashamed by my lack of interest in the industry that powers our county.
Mid-April of last season, I was cruising down an easy blue on Breckenridge's Peak 7 when I veered towards a cluster of slopeside trees. I moved my hips towards the ground and took a premature, intentional fall. I was so shaken up by the impact of the fall and how close I had been to the trees that my goggles began to fog. I sat down on the slope and, you guessed it, bawled. Although the resort wasn't scheduled to close for another week, I vowed it was my last day.
Like a mother who somehow forgets the pain of childbirth, I decided to give it another try this season. And … not much had changed.
This past December, my friend Kane and I were visiting Steamboat Resort for the first time. We had never skied together before and I hoped I wouldn't bring shame on us both.
After three hours of so-so skiing, I suddenly found myself at the precipice of a blue-black run, by far the steepest terrain I had ever attempted.
"There's only one way down," said Kane, shrugging.
I stood absolutely still in utter shock while skiers and snowboarders flew by me. I tried to push through the frustration and cracked a real sandpaper smile.
Like a swimming instructor teaching a toddler how to swim, Kane would ski down the hill about 30 feet and motion downhill. "Ski to me."
After a half an hour of whining, cursing and pizza turns, I was finished. I couldn't have made this sport look more painful and the run had to have been one of the longest I had suffered through. But I didn't cry, I didn't sniffle. Something had changed. I wanted to do it again.
If someone had told me last season, or two months ago even, that I would stare longingly out the window while snow comes down, I would have given them the same look as if they'd told me a reality TV star would be our next president.
Shockingly, both of these things have come to pass.
Caroline Lewis is the editorial assistant at the Summit Daily News.