Journal entry: December 14, 1981 (age 12)
The staff of the Greek Peak ski resort cringes when they see our Ski Club bus approaching. My middle school, St. Patrick’s, boasts some of the worst skiers in the Northeast. I, myself, am a leader in the field, spending much of my time on the slopes…on the slopes (facedown).
In between falls, I cautiously snowplow my way from mogul to mogul. My stance is a rigid crouch, with my arms and legs spread to their maximum lengths. To skiersby, I take on the aspect of an injured stork tied to two floorboards. Ski poles add several feet to my wingspan, and my coat, hat, scarf and gloves are a cacophony of obnoxious colors. The effect is intentional, as it makes me a highly visible beacon, advising other skiers to steer clear.
In a rare moment of progress today, I came out of my snowplow for the first time, achieving a few brief moments of parallelism. If ABC’s Wide World of Sports had been on hand to capture the resulting “Agony of Defeat” crash, I would have had a lifetime of residual checks to look forward to.
Despite my struggles, I really enjoy our trips to the mountain with the Ski Club. I love being surrounded by a panorama of snow, trees and sky. I especially enjoy the rides up the chair lift. Sometimes I ride alone, enjoying the scenery and the solitude. Other times, I ride with a friend, such as Vinny Gallagher. I try to keep Vinny engaged in conversation, as he tends to fill any lull with a mangled rendition of his favorite song, “My Sharona.” We scan the slopes of “Elysian Fields” or “Mars” below, looking for anyone we know, in the hopes that we can create a distraction loud enough to make them crash. “Hey, Peco – LOOK OUT!!!”
The end of the chair lift ride is much less enjoyable. It is a fearsome moment. The chair swoops down and briefly meets up with a little hill, before whipping around a corner and ascending back into the sky. The occupants of the chair must carefully angle their skis and stand up at precisely the right moment to smoothly dismount and glide to safety.
My own “exits” from the chair lift are messy and even violent affairs, prompting gasps from the mountaintop assemblage. Sometimes I stand up too early, and fall to the ground with a sickening crumple. The imbalance in the lift dooms my Ski Club chairmate to a similar fate several feet later. The resulting tableau is like an image from Dante, showing the carnage that can result when Man takes on Machine and Nature at the same time.
Other times, I stay seated too long, necessitating a perilous leap from the chair as it careens around the turn that leads back down the mountain. As scary as this leap is, it is less frightening than the prospect of riding the chair lift all the way back down the slope, with classmates and strangers alike squinting up and snickering at the uncoordinated loser who couldn’t manage to get off the chair lift. I’ll take a broken limb any day.