So, you’ve finally decided to take up the adrenaline-pumping sport of downhill skiing. Congratulations! I’m confident that, in no time, with a little advanced planning, you’ll be swishing between moguls, mastering hot dog aerials and being carried away on a stretcher by the ski patrol.
Folks are surprised when I mention I’m a former Olympic downhill champion – perhaps because they’ve seen me ski. Okay, maybe I’m not a former medalist, but that’s only because I was snubbed by the US. Olympic Ski Team. As I wrote in that previous column, when I tried out, the head coach said I was better suited for lawn bowling. Hogwash. Whatever I may have lacked in speed, endurance, strength, flexibility, agility, sense of timing, self-discipline, work ethic, raw talent and peripheral vision, I more than made up for in tidiness. But I digress.
I may not be a world class downhiller anymore, but I am equipped to share some important tips to ensure that your maiden voyage into – and inevitable swift exit from – the world of alpine skiing is a little easier.
Let’s start with the minimum required equipment. You’ll need skis (ideally two of them), poles, boots, bindings, helmet, goggles, down-filled parka, waterproof pants, two layers of under-garments, neck warmer, hand warmers, gloves, glove liners, insulated socks, backpack, lip balm, over-priced wireless ear buds, and a $250,000 whole life insurance policy – just in case things take a nasty turn. Lift tickets can be pricey, so I suggest saving money by purchasing a season’s pass – a wise investment, so long as you plan to ski at least 75 times this season, and you don’t mind telling your youngest child you can no longer pay for their college education.
Now that you’ve got your ski ensemble (making sure to avoid last year’s color scheme – pink is so 2019), you’ll want to show it off. No worries – you’ll have a good 45 minutes to sashay from your car parked in Overflow Lot N to the ticket booth. Add another hour in line to purchase your lift ticket.
By now you’re sweating like a pig – but a fashionable pig – and you have to “go.” Allow another 90 minutes to find the restroom, disrobe, freshen up, re-robe, and figure out which pair of skis piled up outside the restroom are yours. Add another 30 minutes to head back to Lot N because you left your gloves in the car. Did I forget to mention – if you hope for more than 2 exhilarating runs, arrive the night before.
In the blink of an eye (in geologic terms), you’ll be queuing up at the chairlift – along with 900 of your newest friends whom you met in the restroom. Don’t be alarmed. In less time than it takes to watch Gone With the Wind – the extended version – you’ll be soaring in style on your maiden voyage up the mountain, enjoying the view of majestic snow-covered peaks – until you enter a fog bank and can’t see the chair in front of you.
A couple words about dismounting at the top: Good luck.
A lot of people are intimidated the first time they disembark. Fear not. Just inch forward, ensure your skis are pointed straight, with tips up, lean outward and glide off the chair. Uh oh. I see you ignored my counsel about “tips up.” Kudos! You just performed a perfect five-point yard sale / face plant. Take your time retrieving your skis and poles. The 752 people on the chairlift behind you are all more than happy to swing in the wind while you look for your missing ear buds.
Once you’re finally at the top of the mountain – which according to my watch should be around 2:45 pm – might I suggest stopping for a quick bite at the alpine restaurant? You’ll need energy to hoist yourself up after tripping over your skis while snowplowing down the slopes. And you look hangry. Find a convenient place to stow your skis, then wait 30 minutes to order your food, and notice that there are no available seats. Enjoy your $35 hot dog and soda which you scarf down standing outside the locker-room. As you exit the summit chalet, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: your very first run down the mountain.
Here’s a handy tip: Most mountains have color coded runs:
Green: Easiest way down the mountain. For novices. Typical names include Easy Street, Bunny Hop, Daisy Meadow, and Momma’s Boy.
Blue: Intermediate terrain for people of moderate ability. Look for names like Cruiser, Paradise, or Broadway.
Black Diamond: Advanced, high degree of difficulty. For Experts Only – and novice skiers who missed the turn-off for the Green run or idiots hoping to become a Darwin Award winner. You can tell an expert run by its ominous moniker like Widow Maker, Devil’s Crotch, Last Rites, Mine Shaft, Our Father, Organ Grinder, or my own personal favorite, Adios, Mother F***** (an actual trail at Snowmass).
Given the fact that you’re wearing your goggles upside down, how about we stick to the Green runs for a while.
Assuming you make it down the mountain in one piece – which based on your chairlift dismount is at best a 50-50 proposition – you might want to think about taking lessons. Or better yet, sell all your equipment on eBay and use the proceeds to buy a Play Station 4. They have this awesome downhill racing game called Steep, with incredible 3-D graphics. You’ll never freeze your fingers or toes, and the worst injury you might sustain is a sprained thumb. Plus, there’s no wait at the restrooms.
Ski safely, my friend.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020