In LAUSD, when parents take their kids out of school for a week, it’s probably because their car broke down. In snowier parts of the country—and, inexplicably, parts of San Diego—it’s to go skiing.
You know how sometimes you hear about a thing for the first time and then you hear about it everywhere for the next few days? That was me and Ski Week, officially known as President’s Week, and oh was it ski week at Mammoth. The mountain was crawling with adorable bundled-up children who were twice the skiers I’ll ever be. Their moms crowded the beginner class AK took. I was envious and a little suspicious of anyone entitled enough to pull their children out of school just because the snow was too perfect to resist. But mostly I was just excited to get started on my own Ski (Half) Week.
Christine and Jody were once again Ski Mom and Dad to a gaggle of their friends, organizing the condo rental, telling us whether our boots fit (“If it’s too comfortable, it doesn’t fit,” said Christine, who was a tough-love Ski Mom), and, when Jenna accidentally returned my rental skis, which looked just like hers, Jody recalibrated Jenna’s bindings to fit my feet. Right there in the snow!
“Are you guys excited to be beginner-free?” I asked Christine when AK and I were getting ready to leave.
“We love beginners,” she assured me.
“I mean, I know you love us as people, but….”
While I told the guy at the ski rental shop that my ability level was 1.2 (3 being expert; he had no use for nuance, apparently, and wrote down “1”), I did try some intermediate slopes this year. And not just because I accidentally got on the wrong lift and tumbled down them like last year.
But all blue-square slopes are not created equal. I discovered this when Jody and Christine—who will someday enroll their kids in calculus as freshman—convinced me that I could totally take the gondola to the VERY TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN AND SKI DOWN UPPER ROAD RUNNER, THE SKINNY LITTLE BLUE SLOPE THAT HUGS THE SIDE OF A CLIFF.
Poor Jonathan and Jenna, my fellow intermediate skiers (except Jenna really is an intermediate skier, not a show-off beginner like me, and Jonathan is only intermediate compared to Jody and Christine, whom I watched jump off the top of that mountain in a move that, had I done it, would have meant I’d decided to say good-bye cruel world).
Poor Jonathan and Jenna, who had to wait as I cautiously snowplowed for thirty minutes straight until we finally reached a wonderful little oasis of wide blue slopes bordered by gentle snow drifts and trees, not double-black-diamond cliffs.
For a little while, I was exhausted and sad that my fear of heights had stopped short any natural skiing ability I had. I had fun playing in the freestyle park, even catching a half-millimeter of air on one hill, and thought maybe I could be a ski jumper instead of a downhill racer. You know, when it comes time to declare an Olympic specialty.
But memory is a tricky and opportunistic thing, and by the time I’d sauna-ed and showered that night, I was thinking, Next year. Next year I’ll do Upper Road Runner at a speed faster than one mile per hour.
And while for three days I was so ski-obsessed that I dreamed I was on the slopes the second I closed my eyes, there was lots to do besides ski (for which AK, who was tired of the my-husband-dragged-me-here moms and the instructor who tried to sign her up for his 5 p.m. yoga class, was particularly thankful).
We made mac and cheese and veggie chili and curry with lentils, all of us eating like lumberjacks. We put parkas over our swimsuits and ran screaming down the icy stairs to the hot tub. Some of us played Guitar Hero while those of us who sucked at Guitar Hero napped on the couch.
And on the last day, AK—who’d been the most literal of good sports about skiing—and I went sledding, which is like skiing on your ass. All the fun, no training necessary.