On the slopes…and the bruises to prove it

I've skied since I was a teenager and I still suck.

The problem is that you can't get any better when you only ski once a year.

Case in point was last weekend at Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, New York.

Is this me? I wish!!!
Is this me? I wish!!!

I try to get out with my buddies once a year to go skiing. So this year, I tried to prepare myself by going to Brimacombe, a local ski hill with smaller hills. My plan was to ease myself into the longer runs at Holiday Valley Resort.

I chose a weekday, so there would be fewer skiers to a) laugh at me b) run into.

Unfortunately, mother nature wasn't playing nice that day and the -20C temperature was simply too cold for my aging body. Oh, and another reason was that helmets are mandatory. Well, kind of mandatory. The safety rules suggest a mandatory policy, and yet there were some skiers with nothing more than woollen toques.

If you've seen the size of my melon, I was leaning towards a ski helmet for safety.

But, ski helmet? Now this was a totally new aspect of skiing. What brand do I get? What is considered safe? What is the standard? And most importantly, which helmet will make me look the most awesome? Very important question in the world of skiing. In the immortal words of tennis star Andre Agassi, "Image is everything".

After stepping into the retail store at Brimacombe, I realized that I wasn't ready to pay $200 for a helmet and I hadn't been a "dude" for some time. In other words, I had no idea what the guy was talking about.

I left Brimacombe helmet-less and had yet to set foot on a ski trail.

So the next day I paid $50 for a helmet at Canadian Tire. Don't tell anybody, but it was really $55. I told the cashier it was a little bit dirty, so she dropped the price by $5. Nice.

Helmet? Check. Equipment? Check. My wife Angela and I bought brand new, second-hand skis, poles and boots at the end of last season. So, not only was I going to be skiing at a larger hill for the first time this season, but I was going to be using equipment I had never tried out before.

Welcome to Holiday Valley Resort. Longest run 4,440 feet, compared to Brimacombe's 300 feet.

My first run was horrendous. I fell getting off the chair lift, I fell on my way to the start of the hill and I fell many, many times on the way to the bottom.

My friends Bob and Chris, both excellent skiers, just shook their heads and tried to control their laughter.

"Jeff, you just have to do this and this, blah, blah, yada, yada, and you'll be fine".

They might as well have been speaking a different language, and to be honest, they were.

It's OK though because at least I had Josh. He's a few years older than me, skis less than me and seems to understand and relate to my lack of ability. He's a true brother in the fraternity of crappy skiers.

So, it was OK when Bob and Chris speeded down trails with names like Eagle and Chute, Josh and I were more than happy to conquer deadly runs like Candy Cane and Sugar Plum.

And when I suggested that it was time to head for the lounge for a beer, Josh was more than happy to oblige. Even if we had only completed three of the scheduled eight hours of skiing that day, nobody had to know.

With our helmets and goggles we looked like seasoned athletes.

And you know what? I think I'm going to go skiing at least once more this season. Baby steps, right?


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