I like my skis. Actually, I love them. They’re royal blue, with a print of white hibiscus flowers and sprays of bubbles, or maybe snow—something small, white and droplet-sized anyway—splashed across their glass-shiny surface. I suspect they’re part of the reason I look down so much: I like to watch them carve through the snow.
The problem? They don’t actually carve. They “sort of” carve. So says Ron anyway.
At first I am disappointed at this news. My slick, pretty, perfect azure-as-the-Northern-sky skis … not so slick? Not so perfect? I look down at them, these forlorn sapphire stems attached to my feet. Suddenly they seem no prettier than weathered fence posts.
Then, as if a cartoon light bulb blinks to an incandescent “on” position above my head, the full realization of Ron’s condemnation of my skis hits me: I have something else to blame besides my own self. The reason I can’t ski well isn’t my lack of coordination, my rodent arms or my complete inability to, well … ski. The reason I can’t ski is … my skis!
Ah, yes. Abysmal equipment. Gear malfunction. Clearly, this is the problem.
Ron says he has an idea. “I’m going to put you on some blades,” he says.
A brief vision of me hurtling down the mountain in a pair of white, lace-up figure skates skitters through my head. I furrow my brow. Blades?
Ron tells me blades aren’t ice skates. They’re short, stubby skis. I think back to something I noticed from the chairlift last week: a man on short, stubby skis—blades, I mean—sliding up steep inclines, launching off jumps in the terrain park, turning a 360º atop the snow.
My spine straightens in inch. “You think I could handle those?” I ask, beaming with pride. Clearly, he has faith in my skills. Clearly, he sees promise in his pupil.
“You’ll either love ’em or hate ’em,” he says. Then he swooshes away to grab them for me. Ten minutes later, I’m standing in skis about as long as my forearm. Midget skis, I think. I am wearing midget skis.
Ron points me to the bunny hill, where a small 4-year-old girl slowly inches down, wearing skis that, like mine, appear to have been imported from the Lollipop Guild. I redden slightly. Aren’t these cool people skis? Shouldn’t skis like these be attached to an adult doing mid-air somersaults, not a person who has only recently mastered potty training?
I shyly shuffle past her and over to the magic carpet, the slow conveyor belt that gently moves bunny-hillers up the nearly flat hill.
Along the way I try to reason with myself. Ron wouldn’t put me in munchkin skis unless he knew what he was doing. He wouldn’t put me on the bunny hill unless these things were destined to fly. Isn’t that what that guy in the terrain park was doing with them last week? Flying?
That’s it, I think. Ron put me in these stubby suckers on the bunny hill because they are, in fact, so cool, so fast, so fly-worthy, he wants me to be able to contain my as-yet-untapped skiing marvelous-ity. I beam again. Then I ease onto the magic carpet in front of Ron, pretending its 1-mile per hour speed doesn’t even slightly call into question my aforementioned marvelous-ity.
“So, are these, like, super fast or something? Like what the cool people wear?” I yell over my shoulder as casually as possible, pretending I’m not fishing for confirmation that I, indeed, have joined the expert ranks.
“Uh,” Ron says, the pause floating there in mid-air like a too-light snowflake, “there’s actually a kind of joke about blades.”
I turn around. “A joke? About blades?” I am befuddled.
Ron tells me the joke. I cannot repeat it here. But suffice it to say, the joke is not about blades. It is about the person wearing them.
With decidedly less swagger than I embarked upon the magic carpet, I disembark. Ron tells me to ski down. I ski down. No urge for a mid-air somersault erupts from within, but I certainly feel comfortable and in control. I tell Ron as much, and he ushers me to a real hill. Again, I ski down. Ron skis in front of me (turning circles on his full-length skis, I might add), yelling commands for me to bend my knees, to roll my ankles from left to right, to look up, to carve.
And I kind of do. Much more easily than I did in my blue skis anyway. I marvel at my new-found marvelous-ity. At hill bottom, Ron turns me around to study the parallel (okay, mostly parallel) lines I’ve made in the snow as I carved my way down. The thin, swerving cuts glint in the sunshine. And just like that, I get it. I finally get what it means to dig in my edge, to carve. I look down at the fiberglass amputees bound to my boots, suddenly full of love and empty of shame for them. These blades are magic! I am magic! No—they are blades of glory! I am blade runner!
I spend the rest of the lesson riding up and carving down the mountain, feeling quite smug on my blades. Ron even pulls out the video camera and tapes me a few times. In my mind, I am moving very fast, with the style and grace of an Olympian. (Note: upon later review of the tape, I discover that the speed and Olympic-caliber style I perceive is somewhat different from the actual execution of speed and style. But no matter; it felt really fast and Olympian-ey. See the stiff-limbed video below.)
“I love these,” I yell to Ron as I swoosh on by. “Love them!”
At day’s end, when I slide ever so perfectly to a controlled stop, I am sorry to see the blades go. I hand them back with as much tenderness as a mother would hand over her child. Then I look around for my skis. They’re propped up against a wall cluttered with other skis, poles, lockers and snowboards. I feel a twinge of guilt at having so easily abandoned them. Like a no-good philandering husband, I’ve fallen in love and left them for a younger, smaller-proportioned model.
I hoist them up on my shoulder with a sigh and clomp out through the snowy parking lot to my car. I gently load them into the hatchback, then slip into the driver’s seat. As I back out, I catch a glimpse of them in my rearview mirror.
Along their bright blue surface, flecks of snow are melting. Each one slides into another, meeting and melding into slow, sad rivulets. Eventually, each thin stream gives way to gravity, slipping southward, gathering at the skis’ edges, teetering, then falling, drop by silent drop. It sounds sort of strange, a bit dramatic maybe, but those drops … ? They looked a lot like tears.
Want to read more blog posts about Lynda’s ski lessons? Click here.