No guts, no glory

By Kris Ferrazza | Feb 19, 2021

We have been thinking about a pandemic-friendly activity that would get our daughter out of the house, and my husband is suggesting downhill skiing.

I pondered it a moment, and decided it likely is low-risk, considering it’s mostly outdoors and we could go when there are no lines and crowds.

But the closer we get to actually going, I can’t help remembering my history with downhill skiing, which was anything but low-risk.

When our teen was quite young, we took her skiing on a beginner slope. She did great, and quickly graduated to the main mountain. It wasn’t long, however, I realized I was holding her back, even on the beginner trails. The grasshopper surpassed the master by around age 6.

She and I were descending an easy trail, and I encountered some ice, so I stopped and shouted there was ice straight ahead. She nodded.

“So be careful,” I called, gesturing across the trail. “It’s all ice right here.”

Again, she nodded.

“Are you afraid?” I asked.

She shook her head no.

“So why aren’t you going?” I asked.

“Because you’re in my way,” she said impatiently waving her tiny poles.

Oh. I see.

As a child, I remember my father strapping an old pair of wooden skis to my boots, and taking me to the backyard where there was a decent hill. Once I summoned my courage, he gave me a push. When I reached the bottom, I was still upright. Victory!

So I assumed that experience would translate into a fun adventure when I signed up for night skiing as a student in high school. After school, a big group of teens piled onto a school bus and headed to a nearby ski mountain.

After a quick trip to the rental shop, we were in business. Needless to say, I should not have been taking a chair lift ride to the summit without adult supervision. What was I thinking? What were my parents thinking? But it was the 80s, and times were different, I guess. Heck, in those days, we didn’t even wear helmets.

So up we went, and it was glorious. I remember the sky was full of stars and the higher we went, the colder it got. The lights were on, illuminating the sparkling trails below.

My best friend and I chatted excitedly and before we knew it, it was time to dismount. I watched the pair in front of us, observing how they lifted the bar and then simply stood up and glided down the small incline.

We followed suit and — miracle of miracles — made it off safely. But little did we know, that was the easy part.

Faced with decisions about what trails to take, we realized we had no idea what the various colors meant or where each trail might lead.

We opted to follow our classmates down the more gradual slope, but quickly realized it was steeper than expected. There was ice. Lots of ice. We fell down again and again and again. We laughed until we cried, wheezing and zig-zagging across the trail, and tumbling halfway down the mountain.

At one point my friend veered off the trail, clearly out of control, and grasped the needles of a small pine tree, clinging to it for dear life. More laughter.

“The heck with this,” she finally said. She released her bindings from her boots and picked up the skis. “I’m walking.”

We still had a long way to go, but I had to agree it would be safer than careening down the rest of the mountain in the dark. So we trudged back down and turned in our skis.

Years later, I decided to try again with my now-husband, who assured me he could teach me in a flash. We got to the mountain, grabbed our gear from the rental shop, and headed up the lift.

“Are you sure I should be going to the top?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s not that steep. You’ll be fine.”

Once we got off the chair lift, I was filled with a familiar feeling of dread.

“There are no green trails,” I said, having done my research this time. “I wanted the green trails for beginners.”

“You just have to go down this to get to that,” he said, pointing at a black trail.

Oh no, he didn’t.

“I am not going down that,” I said, planting my poles in the powder.

“What are you going to do?” he said. “Follow me. You’ll be fine.”

Visions of the ski patrol whisking me down the mountain danced in my head. I shuffled to the mouth of the trail and looked down.

“Not happening,” I said.

“OK, well, just watch,” he said, gracefully slipping just a few yards away from me. “See? It’s nice.”

I tried to follow, but I was gripped with fear. I could see for miles in the distance and it was impossible to ignore how high up we were. I started toward him and gained speed.

“Stop!” he said. I didn’t really know how. So he grabbed my arm as I zoomed past. He gave me instructions about how to snowplow, shift my weight and turn my skis to control my direction and speed.

“I can’t do it,” I said. Meanwhile, preschoolers zoomed past us.

“Those toddler don’t even have poles,” I said, trying not to cry.

“Come on, try,” he pleaded. “It’s fun. Remember: no guts, no glory.”

Then it hit me. No guts, no glory. That was it. I did not have the guts to do this, and I didn’t even want the glory.

“Get me off this hill,” I finally said through clenched teeth. So with time and a lot of patience, we made the slowest descent down the mountain in ski history. He stayed with me and once we were at the bottom, I happily went back to the bunny slope to practice with the little kids. Meanwhile, he was free to zoom down as many double-diamond trails as he liked.

At the end of that day, I hung up my skis once again...until Elizabeth came along.

After the most recent trip with my daughter, I realized I should leave the skiing to my better half and my teen, and simply face the facts: no guts, no glory.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.

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