This skier is not for turning

  • February 1, 2024

In part one of three parts, Sr. Helena related her first time skiing as a teen. In part 2, she wrestles with the T-bar ski lift and her ensuing nightmare on pell-mell street.

The hard part was sitting down properly on the T-bar ski lift, or rather not sitting down. If you sat down, the whole vertical pipe would swoop forward violently and dump you on your back in the middle of the track for the skier behind you to pierce you with their long skis. The object of the T-bar was to brace your knees in a slight crouching position, hang on to the pipe with your hands, and let the seat drag you to the upper altitudes by the back of your thighs. Whoever designed this lift deserved a sadistic engineer of the year award.

So, of course, I sat down on the T-bar. It just defied logic and reason and thermodynamics that you wouldn’t sit on this thing. Swoop! The pipe lurched forward and upward and shook its contents onto the ground. I was the contents. Everyone waiting in line sent up a collective groan. “Swift!” was an insult we used back in the day when someone committed a particularly moronic stunt. The Suzee Chaffee lookalike skier behind me kept screaming: “Get off the track! Get off the track!” as her skis pierced my armpits.

There had to be a way to stop the lift because someone somewhere was monitoring it, perhaps from a camouflaged duck blind. A speaker strung up in the pines bellowed: “Get off the track!” and the T-bar stopped. Easier said than done, pal. The Shanghai Contortionist Triplets, the Bolshoi Ballet and Gumby had nothing on me. I think my brother helped slide me to the side, much like one removes a disabled car to the shoulder of the highway. Applause ensued.

After successfully riding the T-bar to the top of the bigger slope, I felt accomplishment. I was on the top of the world. Literally. Alas, pride comes before the fall. Literally. I pushed off. I was weaving smoothly side to side, “turning” my skis 180 degrees from one direction to another, switch blading back and forth downward. But I was also picking up speed, and was soon completely out of control, unable to turn. Bombing.

“Look out!” I shrieked to everyone in my way. Everyone wisely moved. Except two little nine-year-old girls standing there in the middle of the slope chewing the fat. Through my tearing eyes I could see a look of utter joint disgust shooting my way from the immobile snow princesses.

“I can’t stop!”

Well, I warned those ski brats.

I sliced over the backs of their skis. I was going so fast and was so seized with terror that I had to stop myself the third way one can stop: by wiping out. Basically, you just sit down. Going 100 miles per hour.  Rumpety-bumpety-bumpety-bump. My head was bobbing like a buoy as it skied down the slopes. My knit hat was left at the feet of Jasmine and Ariel. I was pretty far from them by the time I came to a halt.

“Are you going to buy us new skis?” Jasmine shouted down to me. From the way the girls were dressed in Olympian Alpine gear it was clear Mommy and Daddy did not need me to contribute a cent to anything involving their royal highnesses. I crawled upslope on all fours to retrieve my hat.

I proceeded down the slope again determined to master “the turn.” Nothing doing. I began bombing down the mountain like a bat out of hell.

Approaching fast, right at the bottom of the course, was a huge, landscaped pile of New Hampshire granite boulders,. It didn’t hear me. It was probably designed by the guy who did the T-bar. He was probably laughing himself sick in the ski lodge watching the hijinks wrought by his creations. I did what any non-self-respecting ski newbie would do. I wiped out. Again.

A middle-aged gent must have had the same idea. He sprawled before the granite like some kind of slope kill, covered in icy lint balls.

“Is this your first day skiing??!!” he inquired far too jovially. “Isn’t this great?”

(Up next… lessons learned from ski hill humility.)

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns  #medianuns)

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