Geronimo On Skis by Tina Wagner Mattern
Okay, I admit it; I am one of those people whose Guardian Angel has spent much of his time shaking his head and doing frequent face-plants over their ill-conceived, “great” ideas of the moment.
A memorable cause of one of my angel’s heavenly headaches occurred in grade school when my class was offered a ski trip to Mt. Hood. Although I had lived in Portland Oregon most of my life, I had never had the opportunity to go skiing, so I was thrilled at the prospect and immediately signed up. Over the week of waiting for the excursion, I daydreamed of swooshing gracefully down snowy slopes at breakneck speed and flying past my cautious classmates. I couldn’t wait!
The day arrived and our rented bus delivered the class to Timberline lodge, where my classmates, who were already experienced skiers, unloaded their equipment. Those of us who had none headed for the rental office. Once there, I was outfitted with the requisite boots, skis and poles. When I was asked, “Would you like to pay extra for safety straps?” I said, “Huh?” The man explained, “They connect your skis to your ankles, so if one should happen to fall off, you won’t lose it.” I thought about it…well, if a ski fell off, how far could it go? I’d just go grab it and put it back on. “Nah,” I told him. “I’m good,” grabbed my skis and poles and hurried to the nearby rope tow. Once I got my boots on and figured out how to fit them properly onto the skis, I was eager to follow my classmates up the intriguing rope tow contraption. Moments later, I was at the top of the Bunny Slope and watching my friends swooshing down the incline. Taking a deep breath, tucking my poles against my sides, pointing my skis downhill, I launched myself onto the slope. WHEEEE! I was flying! It was exhilarating and I was loving every minute of it….until I looked ahead and saw the crossed bamboo poles that marked the line-up point for the rope tow, coming closer every second. I suddenly realized I had no idea how to stop! A blink or two later, I crashed into them, scattering them and everyone in line, in different directions. But I had stopped; that was the important thing, right? The attendant glared at me, as did the other skiers, the poles were replaced and we all headed up the rope tow again. The second time down was as exhilarating as the first, and this time I did try to steer away from the line-up poles, but not successfully. I crashed into them again. This time, however, the skiers saw me coming and cleared a path. They were not happy! The attendant groaned, held up a “wait” finger at them, pulled me over to the side and said, “You can’t keep doing this! Now pay attention,” and gave me a quick demonstration of how to do a snow-plow stop, which I mastered pretty quickly. The people in line applauded, albeit a bit sarcastically. My next two trips down the Bunny Slope and stopping at the bottom were a success! Yay! Seeing myself as somewhat of an expert now, I figured I was ready for the Magic Mile chairlift! So, I made my way over and joined the line of excited skiers ready to schuss down the face of magnificent Mt. Hood.
The line moved forward as skiers stepped in front of the oncoming chair, sat, and were whisked into the air. And then it was my turn! The woman in front of me stepped forward. But just as the chair appeared behind us, I somehow caught one of my skis on the other and before I knew it, the chair was there, I flopped onto the seat, and my ski fell off! Shocked, I stared down at my now ski-less right foot and then up at the snowy mile-long slope before me, and thought, good grief, what do I do now? I can’t ski down this mountain on one ski! Our chair passed the 10 foot pole, and I squirmed uneasily, wondering if it was indeed possible to snow-ski slalom, as one could do on water skis. The chair passed the 20 foot pole. I looked down; the snow below me didn’t look that far away, but the mountain ahead did. As my transport moved steadily forward, my mind churned…should I? Shouldn’t I? Seconds later, I decided, nope, I can’t do this on one ski! So, just as the chair reached the 30 foot mark, I dropped my poles…and jumped!
Fortunately, the snow pack below me was deep and I plopped rather ungracefully into the massive drift. Unhurt, but buried up to my chin, it took me a few minutes to dig myself out to retrieve my poles and remaining ski, which had of course fallen off on impact. I brushed myself off and headed back to the chairlift line. The first thing I noticed as I approached was that the lift was no longer moving. And then I caught the expressions on the faces of not only the lift attendant, but everyone in line behind him. Every mouth was wide open in apparent shock! When I reached the end of the line, the attendant ran up to me, wild-eyed, and shouted, “Why on earth did you do that?” Surprised that he was so clueless, I held up my remaining ski, “Well, duh,” I muttered, “I can’t ski down this mountain on one of these!” He stared at me and then shook his head, “We sent it up with the person in line behind you”. Oops! No wonder everyone’s staring! Embarrassed now, I muttered, “Sorry! But now, how do I get my ski back?”
Turned out I had to ride the chair again—this time with no Geronimo stops along the way—and pick up my ski at the top of the slope.
That first trip down the face of the mountain, after my scenic route of getting there, was all I had hoped it would be. Once again I was flying, poles tucked tightly against my sides, the wind in my face, laughing with the sheer joy of it all…and then the tips of my skis crossed! Suddenly I was airborne! The next thing I knew, I was a pretzel. My skis, naturally, hadn’t fallen off as would be expected. Still crossed, one pointed left, and the other right. One pole had gone under my coat and sweater and was lodged under my chin, while the other was still in my hand, but was somehow bent in half. Surprisingly, I wasn’t hurt in the least, but unable to get up because every limb seemed to be heading in a different direction. The whole situation struck me funny, so I was laughing as the ski patrol swooshed up and commanded, “Don’t move! We’re getting a stretcher up here for you.” I laughed harder. “Hey, I’m fine, just help me get untangled!”
Well, long story short, I was, they did, and I finished my trip down the mountain. Never let it be said I’m a quitter. Just ask my Guardian Angel.