WOSTER: Ski slopes prove some should stay in DakotaI’m afraid we’ve lost our younger son to Colorado. I tried to prevent it before he left South Dakota last summer.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I’m afraid we’ve lost our younger son to Colorado.
I tried to prevent it before he left South Dakota last summer. I told him how great it was to have him within three hours of home. I told him that his mother sure would miss him because no way in the world I was driving her clear to Denver more than once every five or 10 years. I even told him what the late John Milton, the University of South Dakota literature professor, told me in a letter about standing atop a tall mountain and seeing nothing in any direction but emptiness.
I might as well have been talking to the feeder steers. He fell under the spell of the big city, and the Rocky Mountains, and a young doctor who also left the Dakotas for the Colorado experience. In fact, the two of them were planning a ski weekend down somewhere in southern Colorado after Thanksgiving Day; going into someplace they called back country. Thinking about the kid and a ski trip reminded me of the time many years ago when Nancy and I got our first and only experience on the ski slopes of Colorado. It wasn’t pretty.
Nancy has brothers who live in the Longmont area north of Denver. We visited for the Christmas holiday, oh, 20 years ago or so. I’m not sure who suggested it or what made Nancy and me agree to go (we’re usually pretty sensible), but we ended up renting skis and boots and getting lift tickets tossed in at a discount. It was an astonishing deal, my brother-in-law assured me.
Now, I can hold my own on water skis, and so can Nancy. We’d never been on skis in the snow before, though. The brother-in-law had become fairly accomplished in the time he’d lived near the mountains, and he showed us a couple of basics before we headed for the lift. He showed us how to side-step up or down a slope, how to do a kind of snowplow thing, how to swerve back and forth on the slope in a controlled descent and how to get into position to get on the chair lift.
Nancy and I wound up side-by-side on a two-person chair on the lift. We were swaying along admiring the scenery below, about halfway to the top of the slope, when it struck me that the brother-in-law hadn’t said a word about how to get off the chair lift.
I strained to see the top of the slope, hoping to go to school on the skiers ahead of us. It didn’t look all that difficult, really, and I told Nancy that when we hit the top, I’d say “Now,” and we’d take the plunge.
I said it, I plunged. And I slid across the staging area and into a big pine tree, or maybe a fir tree. Nancy hesitated, made the turn and started back down the lift before the attendant stopped the thing and managed to pull her chair into a position from which she could exit the chair and slide across the staging area to bump into me, still pushed up against the tree.
Well, we got ourselves away from the tree and pointed down the slope. You wouldn’t believe how steep the thing was. It looked straight down, and I knew the person was mocking us who named this particular run “Bunny Fair.” We slid off the trail several times, fell in each of the four directions several times and eventually reached the bottom, sore and out of breath. We were using muscles that hadn’t been used for years, and we were breathing air slightly less thin that that on Mars.
I dropped a ski halfway up the lift next time. When it was recovered and I made my next run, I found Nancy halfway down the slope lying on a flat rock, desperate for a candy bar. The Snickers I was carrying might have saved her life.
We helped each other to the bottom, kicked out of our skis and collapsed on a bench, finished for the day.
I’m guessing our son and the doctor can’t identify at all with that experience.
Terry Woster’s columns are published on Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.