A few years back I went on my very first skiing experience which was unfortunately before I had a healthy respect for what is a very fun sport, but one in which to be careful. Arrogantly I was going to ski like everyone else who’d lived in the snowcapped towns of Sweden all their lives. They made it look so easy. I learned on the first trip not only down the slope, but up it too, that it’s a tad bit more difficult than it looks.
I was an exchange student to the ecologically friendly people of the country of Sweden. Sweden is about the size of California but only inhabits about as many people as one of our medium sized metropolitan areas. So, there’s lots of space. A lot of that space is dedicated to parks, sports, and recreational areas. In fact, one of the most powerful political parties is the environmental party.
As a result instead of huge trash dumps, the Swedes pile their trash and once it’s high enough and winter snow falls, add a lift and there you go – a ski slope. Yes, you read that right. I was going to ski for the first time on an enormous pile of junk and trash. What’s more is that I was going to pay money for it too!
My host family had planned a full blown ski trip for later that year and thought it would be a good idea to teach me a little before we go and I was all for that. So, we get all dressed up in all the ski gear and head out in the bitter cold toward the slope. I noted the frozen lake just passed the bottom of the slope and not being on one of those before I thought to myself that I would stop before I got there.
My eyes then were captivated by the skiers shifting left and right gliding down the mountain of snow (thought I was going to say trash, huh?). Filled with excitement ready to tackle the slope, I got in line with my host brother not once letting my eyes wander from the skiers which was a mistake. You see, in movies and TV I had seen only chair lifts where you sit. This was a T-lift and you essentially ski up the slope while the T-shaped bar pulls the skiers up on some type of spring mechanism.
As soon as it was our turn, the attendant grabbed the T and put it behind us and I immediately sat as soon as it pulled on us. Embarrassed as I caused myself and my brother to fall as the pulley isn’t designed for that much pressure, I wished I had paid attention because I was confused what happened. Had I broke it?
Once my brother explained the concept to me, I was again, ready to go. The skiers behind me were getting annoyed by this point and they will only get more annoyed in a few minutes. About a fourth of the way up there I start fiddling with the T-lift because I was still trying to figure it out.
We were on an incline, of course, so when I turned the T sideways there was no longer any pulling and I started going backwards. My host brother immediately flipped around and stopped to watch me as I tried to stop. I finally stopped, but not before I made about ten other skiers have to jump off the lift to avoid being struck by crazy American who didn’t know how to ski.
Now we have to start over again, but not before we let the ones I about plowed over go before just in case there was a repeat performance. New victims are always preferred you know. The third time was the charm and I made it to the beginners section while my host brother went on up to the top with strict instructions that I was to stand still and not try going down without him.
So I look around and somehow my skis slid a little from being sideways and started pointed downward. I began a slow decent. Not knowing how to stop, I didn’t even know how I started; I froze – not from the cold air though. Later I would learn that it’s not wise to go down the mountain “French fries” as they called it. That’s where your skis are parallel and pointed straight down.
I guess I got going pretty fast because people were flying past me. I saw that I was getting down to the bottom in no time and then I saw the lake. No way I was going on that. What if I fell in the water? So, not knowing how to stop, I purposely fell backward. A bright light came from the sky and toward my eyes and then everything went dark.
The next thing I knew my host family was waking me up. They’d found articles of my clothing and ski paraphernalia all over the mountain until they found me – out cold! Call me stupid, but I went right up there again and again until I couldn’t walk. Later, after causing several more annoyed Swedes on our long ski trip, I became quite an avid skier. It’s the best sport and I love it! I’ve taught many people how to ski since thanks to my patient host family. I’ll never forget my first skiing experience – a snow covered “White Trash Ski Trip.”
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