Too old for downhill skiing? No way!

I’ve been thinking about downhill skiing, but I haven’t hit the slopes yet this year. It’s been abnormally warm in the Northeast, and most ski areas opened much later than usual. Today my daily e-mail from Jiminy Peak reports packed powder conditions, but I know the snow is machine-made, and the wind chill is below zero. I’m putting it off till we’ve got a few inches of the real stuff, a calm, sunny day, and minimal lift lines. Chances are that means January.

I wrote the following poem several years ago, when I took up downhill skiing after a hiatus of many years. When I wrote of the skeptics who told me I was too old, I really meant my husband, but I was too diplomatic to say so. He was relieved today when I told him I might not ski as much this year  – he still thinks I’m too old, and he’s still wrong.

Downhill Skiing

Too old for downhill skiing? The skeptics told me so.

On the downhill side of sixty, my brittle bones might shatter

If I fell. My reflexes, never all that great, were no doubt shot by now.

My Rossignols, state of the art in ‘69, were obsolete today,

The leather run-away straps flat-out illegal. Now metal brakes are in.

New equipment? Rent if you must, they said – you’ll soon get over this insanity.

The skeptics spurred me onward to the slopes.

 

On the first day of downhill, I thought they might be right.

Muscles screaming in pain by mid-day, trembling, weak.

My brush-up lesson an exercise in panic, my instructor a sadistic drill sergeant.    

Don’t work so hard, he barked. Face down the fall line!

No more cowardly traverses – carve big, arcing turns!

You’ll pick up speed, but it’s all right – let the mountain take you down!

The falling was easy, the getting up, well nigh impossible.

 

On the second day of downhill, I gave it one more chance.

A four-hour twilight ticket, alone under the arc lights.

A full moon flanked by Saturn, the mountain glistening white

With dusky shadows, snow boarders hurtling by.

Fleeting glimmers of hope, elation when turns felt right.

My falls were fewer than the first time. Once, two men skied to my rescue,

Made sure I was unharmed and helped me to my feet. I have trouble too, one said.

The rigid boots don’t let you flex your ankles. It’s hard for everyone.

 

On the third day of downhill, I wasn’t quite so scared.

Another night excursion, a few more runs this time, and just one fall.

Carving huge curves through fresh powder, conquering moguls,

Remembering the sergeant’s words, facing down the mountain,

Relishing the growing sense of power in my thighs,

The sense of cellulite melting away, vanquished by muscle.

The tingling sense of well being and the hot chocolate in the lodge.

 

On the fourth day of downhill, I knew that I was hooked.

Glorious sunlight, fresh fallen snow and steeper slopes than ever.

Still the young men on snowboards, surfing far too fast,

But I’d learned to trust to fate, to share the chairlifts with them.

I promise not to kick you getting off, said one. But if I do, feel free to kick me back.

They fell often, flailing in spectacular windmill wipeouts, then popping up unharmed.

Me, I didn’t fall at all the fourth time. But if I had, it would have been all right.

 

Too old for downhill skiing? I proved them wrong.

I’ll always be a cautious intermediate, shun the black diamond expert runs.

But I’ll buy those jazzy skis and boots, be stronger, swifter than I was at twenty,

A Viking crone carving graceful arcs on my long slow downhill glide.

©2003 Julie Lomoe

I’ve gotten the jazzy equipment I wrote about, plus a helmet – I don’t want to end up like Natasha Richardson. I rarely fall anymore.  My prediction was dead right  – I’m still a cautious intermediate, and I still haven’t skied any black diamond trails. But I’ve got my coupons for free lift tickets from the Warren Miller movie, and a Value Pass for discounts at Jiminy, which is only 35 minutes from my house. And I’m still a member of the Out of Control Ski Club, which runs bus trips to Stratton and Gore with ample time for après-ski partying.

Writing this post, I’m getting more in the mood for skiing. What about you? Any downhill skiers out there? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re in the Capital Region. Maybe we could carpool to Stratton some Wednesday – that’s when they honor the free lift ticket coupons.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 20:01:04

    We used to do an annual ski trip but haven’t in about the last ten years or so. It’s not that I feel too old to ski, it’s that I dislike wearing all those clothes and lugging the equipment. I’m perfectly happy walking on the beach instead.

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Dec 19, 2009 @ 18:46:26

      Hi Jane. Yes, lugging the equipment is a drag, but I’ve got it down to a science so it’s not too bad. It would be far worse if you’re bringing a whole family!

      Reply

  2. Betsy Tuel
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 00:15:23

    In this post, are those pictures of you, Julie, skiing?

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Dec 19, 2009 @ 18:53:05

      Hi Betsy. No, that’s not me – I found both photos via Google. But they both reflect what I love about skiing – they show women skiing alone in a glorious natural setting, and the steepness of the slopes is about my speed. (I don’t like skiing with and trying to keep up with other skiers!)

      The second photo is from a Maine tourism site, and it reminds me of the view from the top of Jiminy in the Berkshires, or some of the southern Vermont areas like Stratton or Okemo. Beautiful but not nearly as intimidating as the Rockies!

      Reply

  3. Patricia Stoltey
    Dec 21, 2009 @ 18:32:35

    I was on skis once, for a few minutes.

    Then I was on my back in the snow, looking up at the cloudless sky. A hang-glider jumped off the closest peak and drifted down, landing on his skis at the bottom of a run. It was nice, but my husband was embarrassed and made me get up and remove the skis because I wasn’t trying.

    I spent the rest of the afternoon in the sun at the resort’s outside cafe with a glass of wine. I consider skiing a spectator-sport.

    Reply

  4. Skiing
    Dec 24, 2009 @ 00:41:08

    If one get progress in Skiing, it becomes a form of expression.

    Reply

  5. moguls
    Jan 11, 2010 @ 01:19:33

    Great read..when it comes to skiing, there’s a difference between what you think it’s going to be like, and what it’s really like!

    Reply

  6. autism
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 10:37:38

    I have shocked myself and started to get interested in skiing when observing the winter olympics in Vancover Canada. At the beginning it appeared like a very scary variant of russian roulette but now I reckon it has all the excitement of running if, if you stay away from the steep slopes. At the present moment I am taking in as much as I am able on the races from the Web. Then next stop will be getting someplace to have a practice like the nearby ski slope.

    Reply

  7. Marlene McNew
    May 30, 2011 @ 00:43:55

    May I utilize the two photos of women skiing above? I would put them into a poem video on YouTube (non-commercial). The poem is about women’s skiing (not fully written yet). Here is a sample of a different ski poem on how I feel about skiing:

    The Promise of Smile

    It is not rush of speed on which I feed
    but the transformation of rile for smile
    the triumph of focus as fear recedes
    the demand to disease to “Wait awhile.”

    Downhill glide grounds the moment in alive
    as self-belief takes charge in “want it” stance
    mind releases chains to float across thrive
    while body follows rhythm of Earth’s dance.

    The skis edge impressions in heart and mind,
    of movement’s grace, my undying love for her
    of lessons mountain teaches me to find
    of stilted wings that still feel flight’s wonder.

    I hold her close, my beloved mother mountain.
    She comforts me through winter’s passage,
    for she reflects the open arms of possibility
    that transform caterpillars into butterflies.

    Thanks!

    Marlene

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 16:13:49

      I just came upon this comment months later. Your poem is beautiful. I found the photos of skiers on a Google image search – I don’t have the right to say whether you could use them or not; in fact I probably shouldn’t use them myself!

      Reply

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