Thursday, August 23, 2007

Skiing Pride and Prejudice

Learning to ski generally comes with growing up in Colorado. At 5 to 6 years old I could be found outfitted in a bright blue full body snow-mobile suit with a complete head mask and bright pink skis that were only marginally longer than my boots. My skiing method was to tuck (body crouched down, knees bent) to go as fast as possible down the ski run. To turn I would fall down, get up, redirect my skis and then repeat the whole process until I made it to the bottom of the bunny hill (the smallest, beginner ski slope).

By Jr. High I had graduated to the continuously standing turn and was able to move from the bunny hill to riding the "big" lifts up the mountain and skiing the blue (moderate) and green (easy) slopes down the mountain.

My brother would occasionally drive us both up to go skiing in his later high school years. He had received the lion's share of the skiing genes in our family and was therefore a much more adept skier than myself. That being the case, he wasn't satisfied just doing the easier runs on the mountain. I was, as a consequence, taken down many black (hard) runs and various other not so easy trails, much to my dismay and sometimes very vocal displeasure.

On one such skiing trip my brother's friend had come along and the two of them decided to take an unofficial offshoot "run" that ended at a bowl shaped clearing occupied by many large boulders. Thickly blanketed by packed snow this bowl became a amateur ski jumper's paradise. At any moment skiers could be seen flying off the snow encased boulders like flock of super balls randomly bouncing off a floor. My brother and his friend commenced to join this flying circus. I became acutely aware of my lack jumping skills and courage. I slunk around the jumps, attempted to be noticed as little as possible, and felt very humiliated and small.

A very important "feature" of this boulder bowl was the exit. It was a barely one skier wide densely tree lined chute. It went steeply down for about 30 yards and then almost straight up for the last ten feet. And it was the only way back on to the official ski run. My brother took me aside as we were reaching the bottom of the boulder bowl and warned me to completely stop before going into that exit chute, because there was no way to slow down once you were in the chute. He then demonstrated what he was talking about as he exited the bowl.

My injured pride welled up and rejected his warning. Having spent my entire time on that run sulking and not attempting even the smallest jump, I decided that I was not going to do something as silly as stopping before the bowl's exit chute. And I showed him; not only did I not stop, I entered that chute with a good head of steam to spare.

Wow, there really was no way to slow down.

I hit mach speed on the down slope, rocketed up the ledge and then flew into the stratosphere skis pointed to the sky, body parallel to the ground. I had majestically entered the air space of the official ski run below.

My terror kicked in some internal gyroscope which drove my arms and ski poles to windmill wildly and caused my body to slightly tuck forward in the air. Miraculously, my body came up vertically and my skis leveled out horizontally just as if I was skiing over a huge invisible ball in the air.

I was going to land beautifully, and not die!

Just as I was completing my landing check list, with my brother standing just off to the side, one of my windmilling ski poles planted in the snow directly in front of me. Gravity and momentum drove my chin into the handle of the planted pole and knocked me out prone at my brother's feet.

A second later I came to. Because I had blatantly ignored his advice, all I received for my pains was a brief check from him to see that I hadn't separated my head from my shoulders. And then some ribbing for not following instructions.

We then skied down the run to the lift. My head throbbed and ached, my jaw felt like it had been shoved into my face for some reason, and my attitude was worse.

As we reached the lift and got in line there was a ski school in session. A brief glance showed that it was a class of Jr. High "Special Ed" students. They were all in the singles line for the lift.

This particular ski "chair lift" was a double chair. Each chair on the lift was designed to hold two people. The entrance to the lift was roped off to form several lines. Skiers would line up in pairs in each of the lines and take alternating turns getting onto the next chair that came swinging around the large overhead turnstile. If someone was by them self in the double line, a person from the single line could then join them to get the most people going up the lift as possible.

I was the third wheel in this skiing adventure and as such I was usually the single of our group. When I saw the single line filled with the "Special Ed" class I approached the lift in the most unapproachable way possible. When my chair came around I deliberately stood on the near side of the chair to make it very hard for anyone to join me from the skiing class single line.

To my horror they stopped the entire lift, moved me over and sat a boy from the class next to me. I was mortified, my head hurt, my attitude was growing worse by the second and then my new chair mate began to talk. And talk and talk. He told me all about his day skiing and what he was learning and how much fun it was and on and on and on.

I was displaying unusual grace and courtesy by not saying a single word and leaning as far out the other side of the chair as I could. I turned away from him as much as I could manage and gave every non verbal cue I could that I just wasn't interested in his day and couldn't he just shut his mouth and let me sulk in peace.

It didn't work or he didn't notice or he just thought that I looked like I was having a bad day and needed him to cheer me up. Whatever the case, he just kept on excitedly describing to me the glorious day he was having and how much fun he was having skiing. It didn't help that every time I glanced forward I would see my brother and his friend obviously enjoying my plight.

And then it happened. As he was talking, we passed the midway point of the ski lift. There was a small hut and a snowy platform there designed to let people get off midway and only ski the bottom half of the mountain. After the platform passed the ground fell steeply away. We were about ten feet past the midway platform and about an equal distance up in the air when the boy exclaimed "Oh, that's where I'm supposed to get off!" And then he jumped off the lift!

It was surreal. Because the slope was going down where he landed his body wasn't jerked at all. The force of his landing just caused him to lay backward on his skis. He then zoomed down and then up a small slope into a floppy ski fence surrounding a hut and platform that allowed people to get back on the lift and only ski the top half of the mountain.

My prejudice at that point was so great that I didn't even care. I was just relieved that he was gone. When we got off at the top my brother turned to me and said, "So where's your little friend?"

To which I fiercely replied, "He's NOT my friend and he jumped off the lift!"

Ah, the kind and compassionate words of a proud and prejudiced boy.

Proverbs 16:18 (NIV):
18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

2 Peter 1 (NIV):
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

1 comment:

Lydia said...

Wow! Great story! It reminds me of skiing in Colorado. The slopes were so much fun!