It felt like I was on the edge, perpetually falling, on the verge of tipping over constantly. I tried to swallow the panic that rose in my throat like bile. I tried to keep calm. To not give up. I gave up several times over, for a brief second each time.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”
“Let’s take a break, please.”
But the burden my intructor had - making sure I got to the bottom of the hill safely - carried over to my own shoulders and made me feel immensely bad for him - and myself. Why couldn’t he just let me be? I didn’t want to go down, damnit. Or I did but I’d be fine just tumbling all the way down at this point.
It wasn’t until my first five falls that I realized he was not simply an optimistic man who had hope that I could ski down for a few consecutive minutes without falling on my ass every six seconds, give or take. No, he was doing his job. He was getting paid to ensure that crybabies like me didn’t trip over their own ridiculously large paddles strapped to their feet. Except I did, and I was making his life hard.
So I sucked up all those thoughts of giving up and just laying there like a starfish on that stupid hill and tried, tried with all my might, not to disappoint. Tried.
I followed all of his instructions. “Make the wedge, pizza wedge, now!” and “Look up! Look at me!” and “Bend your knees, and turn.. Turn now!”
I guess in my mind I was following all of these instructions but the mind body connection was .. not all the way there, to say the least. It took me several seconds for my legs to even form that useless wedge, my eyes to try to focus on his instead of the snow boats squeezing my ankles, and to turn both of those death machines in the same direction, at the same time.
I think I managed to do one decent turn that stopped a potential fall, and that was also with my instructor, a moderately heavyset man, holding on to my hands and facing towards me, literally skiing backwards on that hill. The rest of the dozens of falls could not be helped.
He assured me constantly even though we both knew I was sucked majorly. “There you go… keep that stance! Don’t worry, I got you. We’re almost there.” (a lie.)
I would inevitably come crashing down again, with my legs twisted in a weird thermal leggings and snow pretzel. I had the pressure of keeping myself alive as well as him because believe it or not, I was looking out for him too! It was very scary to see him skiing with his back faced to the slope.
He fell once because of me actually, and I felt like crying out of pure embaressment and agony as we managed to get up painfully slow, with some creative use of the ski poles definitely not intended for skiiing. I was very aware of how close we were, my small frame next to his much larger one, and my classmates zooming by.
Of course everyone is more concerned with how they look to pay much attention to anyone else yada yada, especially with a task like skiing that requires a huge amount of focus. Still, I couldn’t help the feeling of self consciousness that lingered among the dread, dispair, and weak attempts at encouraging myself to tough it out. For the poor man’s sake.
It was really because of him that I got down the hill and on the ski lift, where apparently my partner had been waiting for atleast 20 minutes. He probably wished he’d never agreed to being my partner.
I had chose him because my other two friends on the trip paired with each other and he was the only other person who fell during trainings so.. Maybe he’d be as bad as me and we could laugh merrily at each other, right?
Yeah, no. No one was as bad as me. A fact proven when one of my friends in my group told me she overheard the instructor say I was the slowest there. Eh.
Anyways my partner proved to have gotten a lot better in the time that I was gone and struggling down the hill. I could barely get on the gondola seat, holding up the line as I got on the second try. Great, how many more people could I make wait for me?
The ride itself was peaceful. We got really high. I do have a fear of heights but usually I’m okay if I have walls around me or I’m enclosed in something. I forgot a little about the day’s mishaps as we got higher and higher, slowly moving down the lines, way above the trees and the little skiiers below. I could finally breath.. Until we began to descend and I heard the all too familiar voice of my instructor from behind me say, “Okay guys remember to bow! Remember what I said before!”
My mind drew a blank before thankfully it all rushed back, all of his instructions during the initial training on what to do when we were getting off the gondola. Bow first, bend your knees and like.. Ski?
Well, we got off and immediately started bowing in tune to our instructor yelling “Bow, bow, bow!” which I assume was mostly for my sake, and not really for my partner.
And what do ya know? I stayed up and steady.. For a little. Cue the fall.
At this point, I’m really just.. There are almost no words. Also, the boy who I’ve always found attractive came gracefully down on his snowboard next to me. Wonderful.
A few seconds later my instructor came up behind me and told me he saw what happened. I protested that I indeed bowed and had no idea why I fell anyways. He told me he was proud that we had listened to him and bowed, and it was not my fault that I fell because the snow must’ve jammed up my skis. Not sure if he was just saying that to make me feel better, but I took it.
Now, I was just glad that it was over - it had been maybe three hours since we had gotten off the bus. Three hours of snow slapping at my cheeks and going up my nose, three hours of the chill creeping up my stomach and thighs, three hours too long of the tight pressure of those horrible boots against my ankles. I was too tired to be humiliated.
My instructor kindly suggested I stay at the training hills, while my partner may go down the bigger slope if he wished. Said partner rushed off, while I begrudgingly made my way back to the beginners site.
Eventually I just took the skis off and shuffled in my boots up, and over, up, and over, up and over. The lodge did not really look like how I imagined it to be - all cement and glass instead of a homey wood cabin. I was too discouraged to even stay out and practice. My instructor, now gone, had tried to keep my spirits up, albeit many of his comments were rather misogynistic.
Thankful to be back in the warmth, I waited for my friends and looked forward to lunch. The lodge for the most part had no cell service but my day began to look up from there on out.