I am not coordinated. I’m not saying this to invoke sympathy or encourage people to say “oh, yes you are”. My family certainly won’t argue with me about this. I jokingly say that any activity involving sticks and balls is not for me, but it is more than that.
Some of my earliest school memories involve the humiliation of gym class. I remember an exasperated teacher trying to show me how to catch a ball, cringing as the ball came toward me, staring in puzzlement as it bounced off my hands. There were the typical indignities of being picked last for a team, being told I couldn’t play because I “would make the sides uneven”. I learned to avoid organized physical activity at all costs.
But I wasn’t an inactive child. I loved riding my bike. It was often a horse, and was used in many complicated games of let’s pretend. I made up intricate games involving balls and the side of our apartment house. I liked rubber-band rope, and hop-scotch, as long as I played with other little girls that were not very coordinated themselves, or overly critical of my lack of physical prowess.
As I got older I tried different sports occasionally. Tennis proved to be another example of the “no balls and sticks” rule. Powderpuff football was fun, involving random running around in the cold air. In college I discovered I liked racquetball, because even though I missed the ball more often than not, at least it came back to me, so I didn’t have to spend all my time running after it.
I’ve been a runner off and on since my twenties. Its still one of my favorite activities, since I can actually do it well, and even correctly. Running isn’t complicated. And I even rode REAL horses for a number of years when we still lived in Missouri. This is an activity that involves a LOT of coordination, and a fair amount of physical courage, but I had a kind, if demanding teacher and I loved the patient horses. I didn’t let my klutziness turn me into a couch potato.
When Daniel was eight years old some friends invited him to visit them in Colorado. While he was there, they took him skiing for the very first time. When he came back home he announced that we ALL needed to go skiing. It was great! So later that same winter, we did.
We went to a small resort in Colorado named Silver Creek. It doesn’t even exist under that name any longer, but it’s close to Winter Park, for those of you that know the area. It was very small by Colorado standards, but perfect for beginners.
That first time skiing was a lot of fun. Since everyone was a beginner I was no better or worse than the rest of my family. I found skiing fun, but a little scary. I didn’t like it when the slope opened up into a big bowl toward the end of a run, and you could see far down into the valley below. I quickly discovered that in situations like that it was best if I didn’t look too far beyond the ends of my skis.
Everyone in our family liked skiing. Living in Missouri, the most sensible place to go was Colorado, so that’s what we did. Usually once a year we would head west and spend four or five days on the slopes. Everyone else progressed rapidly, gradually attempting longer greens (the easiest runs) and soon blue runs (intermediate slopes) as well. Except for me. I liked skiing the beginner slopes but I didn’t like to go very fast. I skied with great control. I started joking that I was the slowest woman on the mountain. There was some truth to that, but it also started to be a problem. It didn’t take long before nobody else wanted to ski with me.
We started expanding our skiing horizons. Silver Creek became too small and easy for everyone, (except me!). One year we spent a day at Winter Park. In what became a familiar pattern, the rest of my family went over on the “big” mountain, while I stayed on the easy greens. The problem with Winter Park was that the greens all ended in a big bowl. Places like this were supposed to be easy because there is so much space to make big wide turns, but the steep vistas gave me the willies. I ended up using the super-easy green that went all the way around the mountain. This way turned out to be TOO easy, and such a gentle incline that I had to use my poles at some point. I was bored, but I also was scared. What to do?
A started on a quest. Surely with the right lesson I could overcome my fear and improve my skiing enough to go faster and ski a blue. Every year I would try another lesson. My form definitely improved, but my fear did not. With some further experimentation we discovered Copper Mountain. This was a great resort for us, big enough to keep the rest of my family happy, and lots of easy greens to keep me from getting bored. Besides the greens ended in the same general area as the blue and black runs, so at least we could all meet for lunch!
It retrospect it was pretty funny to watch the different reactions of various ski instructors over the years. Some found me exasperating. Some found me amusing. Some threw up their hands (or poles) in defeat. All those years of lessons gave me excellent form, but didn’t remove my fear or make me go any faster. In one of the last years that we went skiing before we moved overseas, I took a 3 day lesson “guaranteed to make you ski blues” by the last day or the lesson is free. Did I ski a blue? Yes I did! Did I ever do it again after the class was over? Well, no. Was I still the slowest woman on the mountain? Guess.
During our years in Asia we never managed to go skiing, so when we moved to New England last year it had been at least 3 years since the last time I had been on a mountain. When we went to Bretton Woods last year it was beautiful, but very, very cold, and windy. The first day we tried cross-country skiing, but that’s another story. The second day we tried downhill. Three+ years with no skiing had magnified my fears tenfold. I was in such a panic that I went to the very baby-est of the slopes at first. As I cautiously made my way down this slope I realized that I did remember how to ski. But I was apprehensive about getting out on the big mountain. I took a lesson, but it was a hard day. I didn’t really have fun and never really found my groove. Maybe it was time for me to relegate skiing to the “sticks and ball” sport category. But the rest of my family loved it. What to do?
A couple of days ago Daniel, Lee and I drove up to Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire. That’s one of the wonderful things about this state. There is pretty good skiing within a couple of hours of where we live. As it turned out I liked this resort a lot. The green runs are on a different mountain from the blue and black runs but other than that I had a fine time. The greens were just my speed, fun without being too scary. I was happy to have found the pleasure in skiing again. I guess I won’t have to give it up after all!
Since the slopes are so close to where we live I expect that we’ll go skiing several more times this winter. Who knows? With a little more practice maybe I’ll improve. Maybe I’ll be able to go faster and I’ll no longer be the slowest woman on the mountain. Maybe I’ll even ski a blue again! Who knows.