Back when I was in nursing school, we didn’t have a whole lots of social get-togethers as a class, until our senior year. And that was when someone came up with the bright idea that our class should go skiing.
There are some semi-decent skiing venues in Northern Minnesota, but not so much around St Cloud. There’s a place near Kimball called Powder Ridge. It’s a kind of big hill set out on the prairie with a few boring downhill runs, a mogul run and a log lodge. Experienced skiiers would probably find it laughable, but it had the two things my class was looking for. It was close, and relatively inexpensive. It would suffice for our purposes.
I’m pretty sure we went skiing during the Christmas break. I can’t remember how many of my classmates decided to go skiing, but I remember my good friend, Don Nelson, was one of them.
I’m unsure of the day, but Saturday or Sunday evening seems to ring a bell. Yeah, we went skiing in the dark. But unlike golf courses, ski runs have lighting, so skiing is an activity one can actually do in the absence of sunlight.
I don’t think it was particularly cold, like, below zero cold. So let’s say it was 20°, and go skiing.
Some of you reading this might have gone skiing before. Some of you might be very good skiers. I had been skiing once before, probably several years earlier. My idea of skiing was simple. Point your skis toward the bottom of the hill, and go as fast as you could in a more or less straight line until you fell over or got to the bottom of the hill, then repeat.
There were probably people in my class that were good skiers, and knew how to turn and stuff. I was impressed by that, but not impressed enough to take the time to learn how to do it. We were going to be skiing for a few hours, tops. Not a few days.
Don and I essentially raced each other down the hill for about an hour, like we were competing for the gold medal in the Olympics, and we were having a blast. The runs were fairly straight, and I could navigate the slopes well enough to totally kick Don’s ass. I was way ahead in the medal count.
We decided to take a break and warm up in the lodge, and drink a couple few pitchers of beer. We were joined by some of our ski bunny classmates, and I was feeling like Jean-Claude Killy.
“When we go back out, we have to try the moguls!” Don kept saying while we were warming up by drinking cold beer. And I kept replying, “No!”
I didn’t know much about skiing, but moguls looked like they required a skill set I did not possess–that whole being able to turn thing. And as near as I could tell, Don had no idea how to do that either.
One of our ski bunny classmates, who actually knew how to ski said it was easy, and explained how to turn while we drank beer. Don and I were quick learners, and Don was positive he had it all figured out when we hit the slopes again. We may have even made a couple practice runs on the outer slopes, trying to control our speed and intentionally turn left and right as we skied down the slopes.
“Okay!” Don said. “You ready to try the moguls now?”
Just so I don’t look like a complete idiot, I had some serious reservations about trying the moguls, which popped up out of slope on the middle of the hill like a bunch of frozen zits.
“Let’s get it over with because you’re not going to stop until we do.”
We rode the lift to the top of the hill. I studied the moguls, and especially the skiers that were freestyling their way down the hill. It didn’t look that difficult, the moves they were making. I don’t think I was as confident in my abilities as Don was in his, but I thought it looked doable.
Don and I approached the moguls. I probably would’ve been more nervous if I had the time to think about what I was doing, but I hadn’t mastered that whole stopping thing. Before I knew what I was doing, I was headed for the middle of mogul country.
I am going to take this opportunity to brag about what a great skiier I was through the first three moguls. I made actual, intentional cuts. I turned on a dime and made change, and then the course decided it was time to teach me some humility. I missed my cut on the fourth mogul, and when I hit the fifth mogul, I took off like a rocket.
The first thing I was aware of when I could think again was an immense, pounding sensation in my head. My vision was blurred, I wasn’t sure what had happened to my glasses. I raised a hand to my face, and found my glasses. In my mouth.
I was covered with snow. I had snow inside the sleeves of my coat. I think I had snow inside my sigmoid colon. I tried to get up, then laid back down on the snow. I couldn’t raise my head without a stabbing pain in my head that made me see stars.
And then this happened:
A good Samaritan on skis had seen me wipe out, and came over to see if I was still alive, throwing a foot of snow on top of me as he slid to a stop.
“Hey, man! Are you okay?”
“No.” my voice replied from under the snow.
“Do you need help getting up?”
“I’m not sure I can move yet.” My arms appeared out of the snow, and started clearing snow off my body. I tried lifting my head, but it still hurt like hell, so I laid on the snow, hoping I hadn’t broken something. Like my entire body.
“I was watching you. That was the best wipe out I’ve ever seen. You must’ve flown at least seventy-five feet through the air before you crashed! It was beautiful, man!”
“Thanks.” I said. Now I knew why I couldn’t move.
“Do you need any help?”
“You know, I think I’m just gonna lay here for a minute if you don’t mind.”
“Okay. But I gotta tell ya, that was a thing of beauty, man.”
And the Samaritan on skis left. I decided to get as much snow off my body as I could without lifting my head, and I had succeeded in getting most of it off of me when this happened:
This time it was my buddy, Don.
“Hey! Did you see me wipe out!” he shouted.
“Fuck you!” my voice replied from under another foot of snow. I wanted to hit Don with one of my skis, but for all I knew they were already at the bottom of the hill, waiting for me.
“That was so cool! You should have seen me!”
“I was busy!” I replied, and started clearing snow off my body again.
“Let’s do that again! C’mon!” Don exclaimed.
“Dude, I don’t think I can even stand. There’s no way I’m doing that again.”
“Here, let me help you.” Don said. He pulled me to my feet, then snapped my boots back into my skis. It took him about ten seconds to do it. It would’ve taken me an hour. My glasses were dotted with drops of water. I felt like I was looking through a field of stars. I looked around to get my bearings, and my heart sank. I was only halfway down the slope.
“Kowabunga!” Don screamed, and tore off down the slope. I saw his second wipe out. It was wicked.
“Ow! Ow-ow-ow-ow!” I whispered, as I slowly started down the slope. I thought my head might explode. I gathered speed as I went, then hit a bump, and wiped out a second time. I slid the rest of the way down the slope, face-first. My skis sped by me, and were waiting for me at the bottom of the hill when I finally slid to a stop.
I was done skiing. For the rest of my life. I turned it my skis, bought a pitcher of beer, and took a couple Tylenol. My ski bunny classmates were convinced I had a concussion. I didn’t need any convincing. I don’t think I’ve ever had an headache like that in my life. It hurt to blink.
Don and I spent an hour arguing about whose first wipe out was more spectacular. But I didn’t see his, and he didn’t see mine. Our second wipe outs were equally wicked. But I had an abrasion on my right forearm from my wrist to my elbow, so I probably won at being the worst skier in our class.
* * * *
There are no ski resorts in the Lakeside area, and I’m okay with that. I’m sixty-one years old now, not sixteen. I don’t need to go out of my way to hurt myself anymore. Getting out of bed seems to do the trick most days anymore, thanks to all the mishaps and injuries I sustained back when I was young and bulletproof.
But if I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t change much. Except the moguls.
I wouldn’t do those again.