Have I mentioned I’m terrified of heights?
My family flew to Colorado to visit my brother and his fiancé, who moved here a few years ago. Younger and braver than I, they quickly adapted to the Denver lifestyle, going on hiking, skiing and camping adventures every weekend. They even have season passes.
Which explains why they brought us to a Green Circle for our first ski experience, rather than a Bunny Hill. Now, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my sports, but this Florida native has only even seen snow once before. Even the easiest of slopes will be a challenge.
My wife lets me go down first, which I am relieved about because I know if I see her fall, I’m done for. I watch my siblings go down the mountain in awe: How are they so good already? None of us have skied before.
I look back at my mom, who still hasn’t budged from where we got off the ski lift (also a terrifying experience). I inherited my fear of heights from my mom, and we’ve both been talking about how nervous we are of getting hurt. I don’t care how wimpy I sound: With just weeks before the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, an injury is the last thing I need.
Still, though, the longer I stand here the steeper the mountain seems to grow, and I don’t want my future sister-in-law Priscilla to know how afraid I am. I inhale as deeply as the altitude allows and begin my descent.
It only takes a moment for me to reach lightning speed. I try to slow down, to no avail. I am relieved to hear someone else screaming — this is some seriously scary shit —until I realize the source of the shrieks: Me.
Priscilla is behind me, coaching me to make a “pizza slice” with my skis turned inward, though she cannot quite describe how to do so without them overlapping. I manage to stop by digging my poles into the icy snow (Note: This is not they way you’re actually supposed to stop. It is bad for your wrists).
My jaw drops as I watch my younger siblings whiz past; they have already made it down the mountain once and are back for round two. I, on the other hand, have successfully skied all of 12 feet. I decide to move again, but the same thing happens: I cannot, for the life of me, slow down.
The faster I go, the louder I scream. The only thing separating me from the edge of the mountain is what I assume is supposed to resemble a “fence”: Flimsy plastic orange strips stapled onto short wooden sticks. Not very reassuring.
I know I’m going to fall and though it happens quickly; it feels like slow motion. I land on my back, hard. The wind is knocked out of me as I watch the trees fly by in a kaleidoscope of circles. Once I stop rolling, I continue to skid down the hard-packed mountainside for several more seconds before finally coming to a stop.
Priscilla rushes down to check on me and, much to my embarrassment, I begin to cry.
Me. A grown-ass woman. Crying on the side of a Colorado mountain, skis haphazardly dangling in the air. Hardly one of my proudest moments.
I give myself a minute to stop hyperventilating and wipe the tear-induced fog from my goggles. Back at the top of the mountain, my wife Stephanie is shaking her head. It takes everything in me to get up and climb back, and once I reach her she breaks the news.
“This isn’t the Bunny Hill. That’s the Bunny Hill.”
Well. That explains a lot.
We shuffle over to a shorter and more gentle slope. There are little kids and elderly people everywhere: Much more my level.
We spend the next hour making our way down the Bunny Hill. I work on my “pizza slice” technique and Steph gets the hang of it so much she spends most of the afternoon there, even after I call it a day and join my mom at the lodge for a much-needed Colorado Snuggler. The peppermint Schnapps does all kinds of good things for my aching muscles and bruised ego.
The day concludes with the lot of us tired, happy and sore. I am glad I went and tried it out, but skiing is certainly not something I have a burning desire to do again anytime soon. As for this Florida girl, I plan on sticking to my sunshine, sand and sea.