Why Everyone Should Unintentionally Break the Rules While Learning to Ski

I never really got the hang of most winter activities, despite living in New England with direct access to snowy mountains and a not-so-terrible sense of balance. I can go down a blue square on a snowboard without too much difficulty. I can take my ice skates off the wall, throw a mediocre snowball, and sled without breaking any limbs. Never have I ever, however, felt like I excelled at participating in the coldest months of the year. This break was going to be different, I decided. This break I would become a professional skier, and look good while doing it.

My dreams of being known as Gabrielle, the Really Excellent Sportsgirl were first eclipsed when I realized that the only ‘ski’ jacket I own is from fifth grade, size 14 kids. Seeing as I’ve only grown 2 inches since I was ten, it was a perfect purple marshmallow fit. No ski bunny status for me.

Catamount Ski Area, just over the border into New York State, is about an hour away from where I live. The drive was easy and entertaining with my three guy friends at eight in the morning: half-asleep, half-hating each other for quirks we don’t realize unless it’s early, half-listening to the GPS. I fully enjoyed driving by the Norfolk library, though. It’s my favorite I’ve ever been to.

The day continued like this. I left the car unsure of how to hold my skis, poles and boots plus a very important book about vegetables were things to go disastrously on the mountain. The book was most important not to ruin. I put on a helmet despite emphatic comments from my friend that I looked like an idiot, and real people don’t care about safety. I snapped my goodness-knows-how-old boots into a pair of borrowed skis, and headed onto the conveyer belt up the bunny hill.

Called the Magic Carpet, this hill, which looked extremely flat from the bottom, and resembled Everest from the top, was teeming with children under the age of ten. I silently, and later not so silently, cursed each and every one of them as I fell on my back, fell on my knees, fell on my face before I could make it to the bottom of the stupid carpet. Getting up from falling was what I was worst at, so my friend who was ‘teaching’ me had to lift me back up by my armpits each and every time. His instructions to me for the next run were always the same, “I don’t know Gabrielle, just don’t fall this time.”

But I did. And again, and again some more. When it was time to get on the big girl hill, I hesitated getting off the chairlift, and found myself being whipped right back around down the mountain. This was absolutely the best part of the trip. It was just before noon, warming, and I had a perfect view of stretching mountains in states I wasn’t sure of, though they had to be the best states to have this exquisite landscape. I wondered why people don’t just stay on the chairlift more often. I would pay for the lift ticket just to ride up and down all day.

Ski Patrol Sandy had a different idea. As soon as I reached the bottom of the ride of bliss, redeeming myself from winter sports failure because I, Gabrielle, the Really Calm Wondergirl, had a transcendent moment of true beauty appreciation, (and who cares about being good at sports when you’ve discovered the true meaning of existence), was getting yelled at. Or, not yelled at, per se, but severely reprimanded. Sandy, in her abrasively yellow coat and Red Cross fanny pack, was asking me, in a sarcastic nasally tone, questions like “Did you enjoy your trip down the mountain? Yeah? Did you have a really fun time not getting off where you were supposed to? Hmm? Thought you’d just take a little trip down the wrong side, did you?”

Although I didn’t plan out this excursion, it turned out to be not only a highlight of the week, but of my entire occasion. I enjoyed my trip so much, even, that I took the time to write this indulgent piece.

After reading my vegetable book for a few hours, I was able to get up and off the mountain successfully.  It took me about a half of an hour to make it down the most basic slope, and I fell hard. The sense of accomplishment that I should have felt at the bottom was overshadowed by my moment of solitude on the way down.

The next time I go skiing, which may not be ever, I would like to not get off the lift again—this time in Sandy’s honor. It seems like she’s spent too much time, like we all have, staying in the comfort of her everyday. The landscape is so much prettier when you’re not sliding down a mountain at an unworldly speed on a pair of sticks. It’s so much prettier on the wrong side.

 Image Credit: Domenic Pascariello

Gabrielle Campagnano (Opinion Editor)’s favorite word is communication. She is described by close friends (and enemies) as “diligent,” “an appreciator of words,” “jolly,” “hottest monogomist” and “moogle”. Although she concentrates in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence, you can talk to her about intelli-rap and Szechuan peppercorns. Post-grad, Gabrielle plans on readying the next generation of artists (ages 5-10) to take on the world with mindfulness and sensitivity.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Wonder Mother

    I promise that next year, should you so desire, Santa will replace the tragic elementary school ski jacket with one more benefiting your winter wondergirl status. I loved this piece because I could picture you every step of the way.

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