Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ski legs

What's the first thing you think of when you hear the words "Spring Break"?

That's right -- Oregon!

We spent the week of Spring Break skiing Mount Bachelor outside Bend, Oregon.  The most important thing to know about Mount Bachelor, aside from the fact it's a gorgeous volcano with great spring skiing conditions, is every Mount Bachelor employee has a different answer to any question you might ask.  The key is to keep asking people until you get the answer you want.

For instance, after asking if we could rent our package-deal equipment earlier than anticipated, one employee replied, "No way, step back, rule breaker," another said, "I have no idea" and continued staring dreamily into space but the third said, "You bet!  Come on over and let's get you suited up." And that's what we did.

Alex and I no longer own ski equipment so we had to rent, which is always a bummer.  Ski rental equipment is the worst.  The skis are never well waxed, which will sometimes give you the sensation of skiing through glue and rubber bands.  Your eyes may widen with concern when the dreadlocked white man behind the rental counter hands you your rental poles.  "Did you just put those through a wood chipper?" you'll ask but the real question is, are they really still poles?  Or are they now just a loosely attached collection of dings, dents, and scratches?

You'll envision all the people who have held those poles before you and obviously wiped out in spectacular fashion.  You will hope the fault lies in the crappy abilities of the skiers themselves and not bad pole juju.

Ski boots by their nature are never going to be comfortwear.  They're heavy and bulky and give you the grace and ease of movement of a Transformer.  The omniprescent sound in a ski resort is the *clunk clunk clunk* as people sidestep down staircases made intentionally wide to accommodate a skier's comically limited maneuverability.

That's all awkward enough but the difficulties are magnified in rental boots.  You might as well shove your foot into a cement block that is both way too rigid yet always loose.  The boot buckles will be worn and tired and no longer serious about their jobs; they will weakly grasp the other side of your boot but will regularly bust open when they can't take it anymore. By lunch you will have bruises on your tibias.

I haven't skied in a handful of years and much has changed.  For instance, skis are now short.  When the adorable (adorable!) rental guy from Santiago, Chile, handed me my skis, I looked at him suspiciously and asked, "That's it?  Where's the rest of 'em?"  They looked like kid skis -- except once I saw my kids' skis I realized they'd gotten shorter, too, and are now approximately the same length as pencils.

He laughed and said, "How long has it been since you skied?" I said it had been a long time, since back when ski lengths were normal.  He told me I would love the new length because it makes it so easy to turn I would barely need my poles.  I said, "good, because I don't have a whole lot of faith in those mangled things."

I assembled myself.  As I *clunk clunk clunk*ed my way out the door, I looked over my shoulder at adorable Chile guy and called, "I can't wait to try out my magic skis!"  Then, not looking where I was going, I ran into a pole in the middle of the room and had to stand there for a minute rubbing the side of my head.  Adorable Chile guy waved and looked encouraging but he was probably thinking, "She seems nice. I should go visit her in the hospital later when she inevitably winds up there."

Other than the skis, skiing remains much the same as I remember.  The chairlift ride is thrilling as your legs dangle high in the air.  The sound of the chairlift is the same --a vibrating hum, accompanied by a rubbery squeaky squeaky when you pass through the wheels of a support pole.  Dismount is still a challenge as you navigate around the newbies who just bit the dust in front of you.

Our first run was painful -- my form was weak and my unhappy rental boots barely hanging in there.  I can't say I noticed an ease of turning on my mini skis but it's been so long, I can't remember what it felt like to turn before.  As slightly awkward as that first run was,  both Alex and I were hooked on skiing again by the time we reached the bottom.  Alex got immediately back in line for the chairlift and called over his shoulder, "I forgot how much fun this is!"  Our next runs showed quickly improving forms and increased confidence. We were soon skiing like the wind, as we were both raised to do.

I'm standing on top of a volcano!  YEEAAAH

Alex and I, as in all areas of our lives, have very different styles when it comes to skiing.  I like to stop several times during the course of a run.  I rest my legs, look around, watch other skiers, appreciate the view.  Alex, however, has a mission and that is to WIN and BEAT THE MOUNTAIN.  He skis down a mountain like if he doesn't beat some arbitrary time record, the mountain is going to be taken away from him.  Then he's immediately in line again, while I'm still halfway up counting the snowflakes on the front of my jacket and giggling alone.

Alex and I weren't always so different.  The years have changed us both, in that we're each becoming stronger caricatures of what have always been our core selves.  It usually works well, having our strengths lie in different areas, but when it comes to skiing it just means we get separated a lot.  I'd ski down to a fork in the slope and be stymied -- "Well which way did he go?  Why the hell didn't he stop?" -- then I'd shrug, continue on my way and call his cell phone when I reached the bottom.  He would inevitably be on the other side of the mountain so we would take a few runs solo, work our way towards the middle, meet again, high five.

That's actually a great summary of our marriage in general -- we're on the same mountain but each doing our own thing, and sometimes we meet up for what inevitably become our favorite runs.

The weather was incredible, the snow soft, the crowds minimal.  My happy place became the sunny bar terrace where I would have a beer at the end of the day and watch my kids finish their lessons on the bunny slope.  Coco got so frustrated by her repeated falls she sometimes stayed face down on the snow and pounded it with her tiny fists for awhile.  It's OK, girl, we've all been there.

Our final day of skiing was a different weather story.  It was foggy followed by sleet and snow with zero visibility on the mountain.  Alex and I did a few runs in complete whiteout conditions.  I skied on Al's heels, stared at his back and yelled, "Don't you dare take off without me again!" The darkish blob of his jacket was the only object keeping me anchored to the earth.

We would still get back on the chairlift after each wet, miserable, scary run.  To love skiing is to be gripped with an irrational fervor.  We would suggest another run hoping conditions had improved up top (they hadn't).  We hunkered down on the chairlift with our faces tucked into our jackets to avoid being pelted with the sharp ice chips flying out of the sky.  We would then make our way slowly down the run using our gut instincts or, in a pinch, echolocation.

The kids are really the best part of our ski vacation.  We started with two kids afraid of skiing and left with two skiers.  Lucien, especially, has taken a shine to it and improved dramatically in his few days on skis.  He's now overconfident and trash talking, "Oh yeah? You think you can ski?  You can't ski, I can ski. Watch this and weep, sucker!" *fall* 

We stopped in Portland for a night before coming home to Seattle.  Portland is still Portland -- delightfully weird and filled to the brim with hipsters. While perusing the open air market, we overheard people say head-scratching Portland things like --

 "I hand painted the design on this t-shirt.  I wanted it to be like a man, but also like a fish.  And I wanted him to wear a tie.  It's a classy fish man." 

and from the sleepy-voiced man wearing knee-high socks and sandals --

"I knit these socks myself from vegan fiber."  

The latter comment begs the question.... vegan fiber?  I get it's not wool, but aren't other basic fibers vegan?  Like cotton?  Have I stumbled into an episode of Portlandia?

 delightful wares for sale in Portland

In a spontaneous happy turn of events, Alex agreed to entertain the kids for the evening so I could go out with Supermodel Neighbor, my beautiful man friend who moved from Seattle to Portland last year.  In an even happier turn of events, he brought along two of his friends who are also male models.  I went out with three male models.  Nothing to complain about there.

All three are quick to point out they don't do much modeling anymore and it's not how they define themselves.  That's totally true and I respect that, but I'm still going to call them male models because it makes my life seem more glamorous and exciting than it is (she says as she packs the banana into the dinosaur lunch box).

Our night out in Portland involved a performance by Michael Hurley, a seventy-something-year-old folk singer I've seen perform before, also with Supermodel Neighbor, back in Seattle. There were many beers.  In the later hours we craved late-night junk food and found it in the form of fries covered in cheese and Russian dressing. It was not my favorite combination.

going out with male models can make you feel short

The conversation was boozy and may or may not have included me agreeing to be a surrogate for their experimental three-man-made baby.  There was also some speculation as to how many cows a person could eat in a year.  Also lots of talk of pork.  Bottom line -- if you have the opportunity to go out with three male models, you should do so.  If you want to find some, you'll be able to identify them in the wild by their knit beanies.

Go, Coco, Go

Returning from vacation sucks,


  1. As someone who lives in a land without snow, this was both hilarious and full of wonder! You're so fancy, with your stories of make-believe things like sleet and ski boots.

    1. Bec oh Bec, always happy to see your name in here. Let me know when you come to Seattle and I will teach you to ski. Hilarity will ensue. Then I will come to Australia and you can teach me how to box a kangaroo. Is that what you do there?

    2. Deal! Although with my chronic lack of coordination I better wait until I can afford insurance. I don't know how to box a kangaroo but I could teach you to surf while avoiding sharks, will that do?

  2. I love that picture of Coco!
    How are you having that much fun?! You're right, there is nothing like that feeling coming down the mountain. This said from the worst skier in the world who just might retire after breaking her arm 2 years ago.
    Your kids will be so happy you started them at this age, they'll always love it too!

    1. Hi Lou! I hope the kids always love it -- Coco is still a bit suspicious but hopefully she'll come around. Too bad it's at the end of the season and we have to wait months and months before we can do it again.

      Best to you, Lou, ski like the wind!

  3. well it has been a while since I last skied and am so glad I got rid of all my outdated gear-what... short skis you say....I wouldn't want to embarrass myself wearing old fashioned stuff-I loved to ski it was the ONLY sport I was good at-gosh I miss it-well it sounds like a good time was had by everyone-coco has been cautious before but usually joins ranks in the end-and as ALWAYS I loved the finale 3 male models-booze and beauty-WOO HOO!

  4. i've been reading your blog for some time now but never commented. I'm always cracking up laughing when reading, I really like your style and humour.

    i just wantet to say that this paragraph ('' That's actually a great summary of our marriage in general -- we're on the same mountain but each doing our own thing, and sometimes we meet up for what inevitably become our favorite runs.'') is probably the best thing I've read and it sums up my relationship with my boyfriend so perfectly i just had to copy it and send it to him, hope you don't mind :)