This doesn’t look good. I should probably make the prudent choice and turn around. I’ve still got all week before the new job starts.
Rain turned to sleet, then snow, as I wound my way from Bend, Oregon to nearby Mount Bachelor, the city’s crowning jewel. Every winter, thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the snow covered mountain to…shred…powder…or something.
When I moved from New Jersey to Bend last June, I made several promises to myself:
- Cultivate friendships that felt like family.
- Pretend being naked in the middle of the woods was normal.
- Go backpacking.
- Tour the west coast.
- Ramp up The Vegan Dollar’s YouTube channel.
- Try all of the winter sports: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing.
In other words: Do all of the things that petrify me. As of this month, the only two left on my list both involved skis. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mt. Bachelor rewards new skiers with an incredible deal via their “Ride in 5” ski lesson package, complete with equipment rental.
Because people swarmed to the mountain on weekends like Go Jules Go to compliments, I decided to attend my first lesson on a Monday. I had already talked myself out of it for two weeks. The memory of my one and only other downhill skiing experience was still powder fresh in my mind.
I was 11, and somehow, in the course of two hours, managed to: drag my mother off the chair lift, crash into a fence, and fall down a ditch, requiring a pimpled, teenage rescue team. I’d always been considered an athletic kid, but apparently this was limited to swimming pools and soccer fields.
This past Monday, I turned left into the Sunrise Lodge parking lot, clenching and unclenching my jaw. Ten foot high piles of snow blocked any form of signage.
Seriously? They don’t tell new skiers where to go? This is a sign. I should just go home and hug my dog.
Eventually -on the third attempt- I made it to the proper parking lot and found the check-in and rental office.
“You look excited!” the check-in employee exclaimed. He had clearly been born with a snowboard attached to his feet.
“That would be the sheer terror,” I retorted, feeling the wild look in my eyes.
“Oh no, you’ll be great! Let me just make sure I have all of your information… And what is your weight, my dear?”
I swallowed. I knew this was coming. I didn’t even lie, lest I increase my chances of death from 99.9% to 100%. Besides, it was printed right on my new Oregon driver’s license [because despite the endless smiles and generosity, they are MONSTERS here].
I was sure to tell everyone at the outfitting station that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my eyes darting frantically from the rows of skis to the exit sign.
“I think Matt Damon wore these in The Martian,” I marveled at my borrowed ski boots. They were harder to get on than pantyhose after a steamy shower.
“NASA actually used ski boots as the model for their latest expedition.”
My head shot up and I looked at the guy who’d just made the remark.
“I don’t care if you’re yanking my chain,” I said. “I choose to believe you.”
“Do you want a helmet?” he called as I headed outside, shockingly heavy skis in tow.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“You mean we’re not just practicing how to take these on and off today?”
I’d been certain that, in a package of five lessons, lesson one was simply: These are skis. See you next time!
He laughed and walked over to a giant wall of black helmets. “I think it’s a good idea.”
“I’m not gonna argue! Safety first,” I replied as he jammed a 47-pound bowling ball on my head. I had flashbacks of a similar moment preceding my epic mountain cycling fail. He tightened the chin strap and I waddled outside, almost an hour early and feeling utterly ridiculous.
By the time my Australian instructor, Rohan, introduced himself, I was so antsy to get moving that I shouted,
“I’m Jules! It’s great to meet you!”
Because it was a quiet Monday on the slopes, there were only two other first-timers in my class, a couple from Brazil, who chose to spend their week-long vacation away from their hometown beaches and…learning how to ski in central Oregon. I sized them up. We were all going to die.
The lesson was two hours long, and much to my dismay, in under an hour, our downhill ski instructor announced that we were going to ski downhill.
After nearly falling on Satan’s conveyor belt, which jerks you forward as soon as you place your skis on it, Rohan decided it was time for the real deal. The ski lift. The part I had been dreading since my summer ski lift tour.
“I’m not gonna lie,” I confessed to Rohan as we boarded the lift. “I’m glad these snow pants are waterproof.” I glanced skyward and said a prayer.
Rohan held my arm as we disembarked and miraculously, I didn’t fall. By the second and third rounds, I was launching off on my own with all of the confidence of a newborn giraffe.
“Looks like you two ah friends nowah,” he said in his Australian accent, nodding towards the chair lift.
“I might even let it take me out for dinner,” I grinned.
At some point, Rohan had to tell me to slow down and prove I was still in control on the turns.
“Wheee!” I cried as I flew past him and he laughed in spite of himself. When we hit the bottom of the hill, I said, “Admit it. We’re the best class you’ve ever had.”
“I’m very impressed,” he smiled indulgently. “It helps that you’re all athletic.”
And suddenly, 26 years in the making…
REDEMPTION. Turns out..
…I LIKE TO SKI.