Certain facts would lead you to believe that I’m an avid skier. I was born in Austria, was raised in a skiing family, married a fantastic skier, and produced two ski-crazed children. You can hear it coming, can’t you?
I do not like to ski!
Just because I was born in a country that idolizes its medal-winning ski team more than the U.S. idolizes George Clooney does not mean that I am a willing participant. Don’t get me wrong, I was the loudest screaming teenager in the house when Austrian, Franz Klammer, won the most exciting downhill in the history of ski racing in the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. Watching this sport is exhilarating, but so is watching Deadliest Catch. Frankly, I’m not interested in participating in either one. Ever.
Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, over the years I had put in my time as the dutiful daughter, wife and mother. Most Sundays, my husband and I prepared for an evening of night skiing by stuffing the children into their ski clothes until they waddled like Michelin men, boosted them into the back seat of the truck, and drove 20 bumpy minutes to one of the greatest ski areas in the Northeast.
I really should have appreciated our proximity to this wonderful place, but the closer we got the more my anxiety would rise. Soon we’d unload the children and start hauling all the equipment. We were just too tired of hearing the complaints. “It’s too heavy.” “I don’t wanna do it.” “I’m tired.” Their enthusiasm was underwhelming. It also didn’t help that we always managed to park a mile and a half away. (Parking is always at a premium in ski areas—well, close parking, that is.) I guess it was a little too far to ask a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old child to carry skis and poles, all while hiking in eight-pound ski boots like Big Foot across the all-terrain parking lot.
The kids both picked up skiing as easily as breathing. They had no fear. Of course, they weren’t old enough to realize that all sorts of “little” things could happen. Things like dropping a glove while on the chairlift, accidentally losing a ski while riding the chairlift, or falling off the chairlift. What if the chairlift stopped—for no reason—and never started back up? They were too young to see these obvious perils. However, dwarfing these was the stomach-lurching feeling that I’d accidentally end up skiing down a black diamond slope with them. Certainly, this would not happen without a lot of trickery, and I assure you that would have produced a very unhappy ending.
Yes, you guessed it. Those were not my kids’ fears. They were mine—every single one of them and then some. I could list all sorts of reasons not to ski. Have I mentioned that my fingers get cold in 15 minutes flat, even with those little “baggie” hand warmers in my gloves? Or that I could buy a gorgeous sweater for the price of a lift ticket? And, if I played my cards right, I could have an evening in the house—alone?
The final nail in the coffin came one fateful Sunday when the kids excitedly shouted across the slope, “Watch this, Mom!” That was the last I saw of them…for quite some time. I pushed off and sped down as fast as I possibly dared—without risking an embarrassing yard sale or painful thumb fracture—to watch them perform their stunts and tricks, but it was hopeless. After the first bend, they were long gone. When I finally reached the bottom, I was met with great impatience. “Where have you been? We’ve been waiting f-o-r-e-v-e-r!”
That’s when I knew my job was done. The kids no longer need their anxiety-prone mother lecturing them about frostbite, ski etiquette, and line cutting. Now it was dad’s job. Secretly, I was relieved but saddened, too. Another milestone had been achieved in their young lives.
When the season ended that year, I packed up all the ski gear, along with my neuroses, knowing I would never come out of retirement again. Not without a huge incentive package.