I blame myself, of course, though nothing actually happened. But, if it had, it would have been completely my fault. Let me back up. It all started on Saturday morning. Since we are temporarily living in Breckenridge, Colorado as part of our grand adventure with the kids (read: 40 year old crisis times two) we are trying to get in as much skiing as possible. And it is all fun and games. Really. Though I am a beach girl at heart, our wedding vows included something about me loving to ski and also loving the mountains. Therefore, as a Teague I am by higher mandate also a sworn mountain girl now, too. I have grown to love it because I like the outdoors, I like the scenery, I like the exercise, and I love the hot chocolate. But, secretly at least once every trip,
a couple of multiple things strike me as being ridiculous in regards to the sport: the amount of gear, the expense, the amount of gear, the damn boots (think Iron Man w/o the cool factor), the entire enterprise of sliding down a mountain on foot and the rhetoric of snow boarders and skiers. Yes, they each deserve their own linguistic category because while they can both be equally annoying they are distinctive in their phrasing and general word choice. More on that later.
Even before we had kids, I was shocked by the amount of gear you had to have for skiing: gloves, skis, poles, wool socks, neck warmers, hats, goggles, ski pants, tights for under the pants, a jacket that has two layers, turtle necks, chap stick, toboggan and sunscreen for that odd body part that remains exposed. Now, add three kids to that mix and you can see where the math is headed. It is a lot of Lycra, synthetic wool, and Gortex. And while my kids are half Teague meaning that 50% of their genetic code is programmed for cool, calm and collected; they are also half Dupuy which implies creativity but also a somewhat roving attention span and a tendency to be the opposite of cool, calm and collected. What you have then, are two equally opposing forces fighting for purchase in the garb of native Inuits. Just trust me: socks get lost, hats get left, and people break out in rashes.
In the parking lot we donned the rest of our gear and I noticed that we were the some of the very few not taking shots of whiskey chased with Red Bull. Oh, to be 20 again. Or ever. I was born 45 years old, overly conscientious, and acutely responsible. I never could take shots, “crash” on someone’s floor, or use the word “party” as a verb. This crowd clearly did all of the above, regularly. Good for them. Carpe Diem! But, aren’t they worried about staying hydrated and upright? Watching this, I internally chided myself for not packing the ski helmets. But, we shouldn’t need them, really, as all this effort was somewhat of a dress rehearsal. We were planning to keep the kids on the Beginner’s Hill this time just to make sure everyone was up to speed. Fully geared up, we began the trek to the Gondola hauling our skis and poles-which is a truly awkward enterprise. There is almost no snow on the ground this time of year and only the top of the mountain is white and most of that is manmade. The mountain looks like an inverted waffle cone with its singular scoop of melting vanilla ice cream plunked perilously atop. The walk from the parking lot through the resort and to the Gondola is probably a mile. Do not underestimate the amount of body heated that can be generated while walking a mile dressed like people about to ascend Mt. Everest. We look like lost astronauts plugging along the moons rocky surface. The moon’s surface in this case is dotted with rusting Subaru’s and Toyota Corollas plastered with bumper stickers that read, you guessed it: I would rather be snowboarding. All sarcasm aside, I was looking forward to getting on the mountain. Once you make it through the lines and to the top, you are rewarded with spectacular views of Dr. Seuss like peaks and fresh, cool air. The light scent of pine is refreshing. It is peaceful and you feel transported from the frenetic pace of life below. Unless it is opening weekend on a snow sparse, recreationist dense day in November. Which it was. Sigh. As planned, we headed for the bunny hill which measures roughly 30 yards of immaculately groomed snow. It is really easy to get over confident on a bunny hill. It is shorter and less steep than a common mall escalator. Not to mention the fact that it is frequented by two year olds who have no fear and really low center of gravity. The worst part is riding the magic carpet back to the top. Don’t be fooled by the name. You aren’t going to be flying anywhere on this carpet. This conveyor belt system that ferries skiers/boarders back to the beginning of the slope is astoundingly slow. While it takes 4.3 seconds to descend the bunny slope, it takes a good 3 minutes to be lugged back to the top by the magic carpet which is encased in a protective, plastic tunnel to shield novice skiers from the elements. There is no inclement weather in November unless you count the sun which at those altitudes, while encased in a plastic tube, feels incredibly close. And the thing about the bunny slope is that it is for beginners which means that these are people who have not yet mastered the art of maneuvering in their brightly colored Haz-Mat like ski suits. So, when they fall, which is understandably frequently, the conveyor belt creaks to a stop until the skier can be righted again. You can see that it can feel like an interminable ride and bursting into flames is a very real, if only figurative, possibility. Which is why after having done this for two or more hours I abandoned my better judgment when Ryan suggested we take the kids down the 3 mile Green run modestly named “School Marm”. Green is the easiest level after the bunny hill and I was desperate to actually ski and move a little.
We crested School Marm, and Harper, with her ski tips pointed straight down and her poles raised to the heavens, employed a line she surely picked up from Boarder Lexicon and yelled with jarring fervor: “Let’s light this baby on fire!” With that, my youngest and therefore the one whose cranial bones have had the least amount of time to harden, dropped from sight in a flash of pink ski suit and red curls. It is likely the thesis of many birth order books that all youngest children will risk life and limb simply not to be last. I have mounds of hard core field evidence to support such a theory and her plummeting over the edge without hesitation is yet another frightful example. Unleashed (literally) from the ski harness in which she had trained for the last two seasons in New Mexico, Harper was ON. HER. WAY. She went straight from “Pizza” (a common technique taught to beginner skiers in which the skis are pointed in a slice of pizza shape in order to slow speed and offer a modicum of control) to “French Fry” ( a position that places the skis in parallel lines and encourages ever increasing velocity as one careens down an icy mountain on waxed sticks). The “French Fry” position is for expert skiers only or for the odd third child who manages to break free from harried parents. I was frozen for the briefest of moments until her cries of “WOOO-HOO!” spurred me on after her. Through my goggles, I caught Ryan’s gaze as we descended in unison after our errant daughter: he was a little concerned. This is of note because very little upsets him. He is blessed with an 18 wheeler type of nervous system which means that he absorbs the bumps, pot holes and crashes of life’s highway without getting very rattled. I am more of a Yugo/Smart Car Hybrid: I feel it all. Therefore, it was alarming to see him alarmed. I yelled “PIZZA!!” at the top of my lungs while I hurried after her. Ryan was close behind and the two other kids were snaking after him. It was horrifying. She looked so little and vulnerable zig zagging between North Face wrapped bullets moving at warp speed. This time of year there is a disproportionate amount of snow to skiers/boarders and very few runs are open which places expert, beginners, moderate, fearless and just plain reckless skiers and snow boarders all on the same run. I have been here long enough to know that locals refer to the early ski season runs as the “White Ribbons of Death” because they are narrow, icy and overcrowded. Who in their right mind would put their five year old out here? Lest you judge, please recall the time that I put in on the Magic Carpet.
And then it happened. The laws of gravity dictated that it must: Harper caught an edge and went head over heels, like a ginger and pink snow ball, into a full blown wipe out. It was better than her being broad sided by a stoked snow boarder but it was scary to watch nonetheless. The ski that popped off in the fall was planted in the ground next to her like a flag claiming territory. Her legs looked impossibly tangled and I rushed to her side holding my breath. I dug her out of the snow and once freed, she declared, “I BEAT YOU ALL. I want to do it again!” Relieved that she was not only alive but triumphant, I allowed myself a nervous laugh at this monster that we have created. Watching her aglow in the adrenaline rush that comes from a magical combination of snow, sun, and reckless, unchecked speed I realize that she will someday lead her family to the mountains knowing that the effort is definitely worth it. I just hope she throws a beach trip in there now and then, too.