As anyone who’s spent much time with me can attest, I am neither particularly athletic nor someone who could accurately be described as much of a “go-getter.” I’m sort of medium at most things I do. I might refer to my ability level as “serviceable” if I felt extra confident in a given skill, but the label of “expert,” in my case, could really only be applied to activities like napping and selecting pizza toppings.
Don’t get me wrong; I like doing stuff. I like skiing and climbing and, in order to keep Vitamin D deficiency at bay, I’ll even run if the mood hits me right. The problem with any activity worth doing is that it’s often associated with phrases like “gale force winds” and “well below freezing.”
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun, and usually those weather descriptors are much more unpleasant than the conditions themselves. That’s why the hardest part is just showing up. It’s putting your gear the car the night before, getting up before sunrise to drive to the mountains, and pulling up at the parking lot.
And then it’s getting out of the car.
This presented a challenge for my mother and me when we arrived at Eldora Ski Area this morning for what we’d assured ourselves would be a leisurely day. Forecasters were calling for sixty mile-per-hour gusts at Eldora, and despite watching the sorts of plumes you see jetting off the summit of K2 all the way up the canyon, we willed ourselves to continue the drive.
“Look!” I’d say, “I think the sun’s trying to come out!”
It wasn’t, and by the time we pulled up at what I assume was the parking lot, visibility had deteriorated.
As we debated the respective merits of skiing versus fleeing, two crusty old-timers, the kinds of geezers who already have a goggle tan in January, marched back up to their truck and flung their skis in the back.
“No way,” I heard one of them say. I pictured them heading to a diner for breakfast instead, which is where I thought I’d very much like to be at that moment.
For reasons still undetermined, we eventually talked ourselves into taking a few runs. A ski patroller friend had given her some passes, so the pressure wrought by expensive lift tickets was off. I pictured the self-loathing that would accompany my biscuits and gravy, the diner special with which I had already mentally replaced skiing, and put on my boots.
It was about as bad as we pictured. The wind had formed thick slabs on parts of the few open runs, exposing rocks, ice, and other potential hazards on any line you might consider. We could hear blasting in the next bowl, which made me momentarily glad we’d chosen to ski at the resort, where someone else’s job is to make sure you’re not caught in an avalanche. The whole thing was fairly miserable, which meant it was also kind of fun.
Still, we’d shown up, and we were determined to make the most of it, or at least to not be the first to admit defeat. Each time we arrived at the relatively calm base, we’d play a game of ski-chicken, in which each participant pretends to want to take another run.
Unfortunately for me, my mom is kind of a badass, leaving behind graceful tracks on terrain I practically have to survival-ski. I was not going to bluff my way out of this.
At some point, swirling snow gave way to a literal white-out, and my-mother-the-badass pulled up at a stand of trees to more effectively cover her face.
“That was ri-god-damn-diculous,” she announced as I skied up beside her, her voice muffled by fleece and mittens. Without breaking a cardinal rule of skiing—never declare a “last run,” thereby guaranteeing an injury that will render this your last run of the season—we had called it.
We skied back to the relatively empty parking lot, feeling gratified. We hadn’t skied anything super gnarly, and we hadn’t stayed out until last chair, but we had done the hardest part: we overcame the siren call of diner breakfast, we got out of the car, and we put on our skis.
We showed up, and the rest was pretty fun.