I can do this, I tell myself.
I’m standing on top of Free Fall, the steepest run on the mountain.
And I’m a bit nervous. Which dosen’t happen too often.
Not that I mean to sound arrogant, but I’m a pretty decent skier. I’ve been doing this sport for over 40 years. I can ski down almost anything.
Sure, there’s stuff I find difficult…but there’s not too much out there that actually makes me nervous.
But Free Fall does.
But I don’t feel bad. Even some ski instructors will admit the same.
It’s not a very long trail. Perhaps only a few hundred vertical feet. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in steepness. In places, it’s a 45 degree slope.
That itself would make it a respectable expert run. But as an added bonus, there are trees randomly dispersed on the hill. And the snow is ungroomed and unpredictable. Not to mention a few branches are sticking out here and there, to make things more interesting.
Looking down, I remind myself that if I fall, it might be all the way to the bottom. Unless I play human pinball, and wrap myself around a tree.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve done this run many countless times before. Each time feels like the first. I stand there with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
I can do this, I repeat.
Shoulders facing downhill, I hop slightly, and pivot my skis in mid-air, and take the plunge.
Dammit! The skis sink too deeply, unexpectedly. There’s been too much sun on the slope, and the snow surface is rotten. I catch an edge, try to compensate with my second turn, and suddenly lose my balance.
The next thing I know, one of my skis pops off, and I’m sliding down the hill, arse-backwards.
As I fall, I mutter something along the lines of “fiddle-dee-dee“, suddenly aware that I’ve torn knee ligaments before on the ski slopes.
Luckily, my boots dig in the snow and I manager to stop my plummet. It’s just a minor spill. My wayward ski is 50 feet below me, and I have to swallow my dignitiy and slide down on my butt to go get it.
I see Friar’s Mom, not too far down. (For once, she’s not zooming way ahead of me).
Time to re-group. I traverse, find a good patch of snow, and start turning again.
My instinct of self-preservation tells me to lean back into the hill, and twist my body away from the steep slope.
But remembering ski lessons from years past, I know that’s just WRONG. Contrary to what my gut tells me, I take a leap of faith, face my shoulders forward, and lean forward DOWN the slope, with my skis perpendicular to my body.
Holy crap!….Here goes.
It works. I carve one short turn, followed by another.
There’s an exhilarating rhythm to this…a series of controlled falls, one after another: extending, feeling weightless, pivoting the skis, and compressing. Extension, weightlessness, compression. Again and again…if you do it right, there’s NO better feeling in the whole world.
YAHOOOOO…!! I cry out. All fear is gone…now it’s just plain fun. I’m not even aware of how steep everything is….my adrenaline is flowing…each turn causes a mini avalanche of snow and ice,which I overtake, my rate of descent is so fast. This is the feeling I’ve been looking for…these brief few seconds of exhilaration.
All too soon, I’m at the bottom. I look up to see what I’ve just skied down.
I’ve conquered Free Fall yet one more time. (Well, sort of). Let’s call it a draw.
At the very least, I managed to get to the bottom without wrecking myself.
I catch up with Friar’s Mom.
She rolls her eyes. This isn’t her favorite run. Next time, she suggests, why don’t we do an easier double-black diamond mogul run instead?
I agree. But I still want to do Free Fall again.
Just maybe not today.