Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bumpy Enemies

Have you ever had a day of skiing so bad, you cut the day short after two shockingly miserable runs, then just sat in the lodge with a beer and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos in your hands, put your head down on the table and laughed incredulously into the void? If not, I will share a bit about how that might go.

The roads were slick up into the mountains on our recent ski day; a big dumping of snow had many people frantic to hit the slopes but in their haste, they instead spun out on Snoqualmie Pass. We, thankfully, did not spin, but that was the last thing to go right.

There were ominous whispers in the wind as Coco tried to put her ski boot on at the car but lost her balance and planted her socked foot directly in a foot of snow. It got worse when we boarded the chairlift and it stopped for a lengthy amount of time while we dangled fifty feet in the air. I fought rising panic when the chair just.... well, it just didn't move, dammit. And then it didn't move some more. And then some more.

I silently and desperately ran through rescue scenarios. How were they going to get us down from all the way up here? Do they have cherry pickers mounted on snow cats at the ready? Were we going to have to bungee? Would we have to jump down onto inflatable bouncy things and if so, how long would it take to inflate those things and wouldn't they just slide down the mountain anyway? Alex cheerfully chatted with the kids to distract them from the fact Mom had suddenly gone silent, wide-eyed and white knuckled. Mom had gone to her unhappy place.

The chair began blessed movement again after nine agonizing minutes of non movement. I began to breathe again, though my relief was short lived. After we dismounted from the chair and started getting PUMPED for skiing, we realized there was no easy way down. We had unknowingly jumped onto a chair that serviced only black runs, which are for experts, and one blue run (intermediate) that was so steep, it is my opinion it should be labeled blackish-blue, kind of like the color of a really bad and violently inflicted bruise.

My kids have the skills for the easiest green runs only. They are very much beginners, still skiing without poles and using wide snowplow stances to master their balance. They do not remotely have the skill sets nor confidence to tackle a blackish-blue, especially one with a fresh dumping of snow that was thick, deep, and quickly being shaped into moguls -- a.k.a. bumpy enemies.

Coco said flatly, "No, I am not doing this" as we stared down the steep slope from the top and I said without any confidence in my heart, "You can do it, we'll do it together, one turn at a time, nice and slow." I took one very slow, wide, careful turn in front of her to demonstrate how we were going to get down. She attempted the same, panicked in the middle, picked up speed, and face planted in the snow. And then she was crying and refusing to move any more.

I got a little crabby with her after many minutes of her sitting, crying, and pounding the snow. She was not reacting to my rational, "Coco, you've got to move, we have to get down somehow, we have no choice" and instead just shook her head "no" with her mouth set in a grim line.

I tried teaching her how to sidestep down the slope but the moguls (bumpy enemies) prevented it. I eventually convinced her to stand up and give it another go -- pretty much by threatening to maim all her stuffed animals at home if she didn't move -- but after a couple more turn attempts and a couple more hard falls, Coco was done. She took off her skis in the deep snow and left them in a pile as she stomped down the mountain -- though with the steep pitch she occasionally fell forward onto her chest and slid a few feet. I skied awkwardly behind her, holding her skis in one hand and my poles in the other and staying as close to her as possible to protect her from skiers and snowboarders rocketing down the slope from above. They could anticipate avoiding me, but no one would expect a small angry girl on foot.

It took us 45 minutes to get down that slope, made longer than it needed to be because she stopped every few feet to turn around and yell, "I'M NEVER SKIING AGAIN." My patience stretched to the breaking point and my enjoyment of skiing at a complete standstill, I yelled back, "GREAT, NEITHER AM I!"

Ahhh, making family memories!

Lucien fared better, at least he kept his skis on, and Alex got him down the mountain fairly intact despite a handful of confidence rattling falls. We breathed heavily at the bottom, where we were met by our good friend German Dad and his son, one of Lucien's best friends. We had all eagerly anticipated a day of skiing together the day before but in the moment, we all just kind of looked at each other in horror and wished we'd taken up another winter hobby.

I had to get Coco over to another area of the mountain where we could access some green runs. Everyone else was winded by that first terrible run, too, so decided they would join for a breather and a regroup on easier terrain. Unfortunately, the only way to get to the other part of the mountain was to traverse straight across a couple runs then take off our skis and walk twenty feet uphill to a pass-through.

It was like a little game of Frogger as the six of us skittered straight across the slope between downhill skiers and snowboarders. Then Lucien lost his balance and fell into a deep snowbank where he could not free himself. What a shitshow.

The chairlift for the green runs did not improve our rapidly deteriorating spirits. It was crowded and full of beginners, which is never an efficient nor easy scenario. There were people slipping and sliding everywhere, challenged with keeping their skis under them even when standing still. The woman in front of me in line just suddenly fell over to the side. She was standing there one moment then, with no explanation or seeming disturbance, she was suddenly on the ground. Her three family members standing to her left just turned, looked down at her, and returned to facing forward. They didn't say a word to her.

The woman tried and tried to stand but her skis kept getting jumbled. I leaned forward and helped her get her skis parallel, then told her to plant her pole in the snow and push up from it, and she would pop right up. She didn't pop, instead she slid sideways into her teenage daughter who just looked ticked off and said, "JESUS, MOM!" with an angry face. That poor lady, on the ground, embarrassed, and with total dick kids to boot.

I tried to help her a few more times but finally suggested she just take off her skis, stand up, and put them back on again. And that's what she did. From her face, I could tell she was never going to ski again -- which now made three of us.

The beginner chairlift line was not well managed nor marked so quickly devolved into chaos. It was a two-person chair but often six people shuffled forward shoulder-to-shoulder then all just kind of fought it out at the actual boarding platform. Alex, German Dad, the kids and I ended up far from each other as the mishmash of the line continued to mishmash. Coco and I went up first. As we were whisked away on the chair, I saw Lucien and his friend were about six people behind us, and Alex and German Dad about ten people behind them.

Coco crash landed getting off the chair so I picked her up, brushed her off, and said, "OK, you ready to ski for real? This one will be fun!" I could tell she wasn't convinced because she was crying again.

Halfway down the slope, as I skied behind Coco, I heard a voice yelling my name from up on the chairlift. It was German Dad and he was alone. Why was he alone? He looked as confused as I did.

He yelled down something like, "Hey, MJ, wait for me, I think something went wrong." I yelled back, "Why are you alone? Where's Alex?" and he said, "I don't know." Then I said "Where's your son?"and he said, "I have no idea." Incredible how everyone had gotten lost and separated somewhere between the chairlift and the top of a short beginner hill. "So.....where's Lucien?" I yelled and he said, "I think he got kicked out of the chairlift line."

For fuck's sake, people, skiing is not this hard!!!

I skied down quickly to find Lucien alone and fuming at the bottom. The operator had told him his lift ticket was not valid (it was) so pulled him out of line. Alex was stomping around somewhere demanding to speak to a manager about the ticket situation. German Dad and German Dad's Kid eventually found each other on the green run and made their way down to us. Lucien was so embarrassed and so angry by then, he announced he was done and was going to the lodge to eat a hot dog. I had to admit it sounded pretty good.

The Dads and I literally dragged the kids to the lodge because it involved yet another uphill traverse. We each had a kid hold onto the ends of our poles as we pushed uphill on our skis, pulling kids behind us as if we were well trained sled dogs. We may not have done much skiing that day but we got a really good workout dragging kids all over the place and carrying their equipment down steep slopes and fishing them out of snowbanks.

German Dad was pulling Lucien up that hill when Lucien lost his grip on the ski poles. The Loosh began to slide backwards, to which he yelled with what was intended to be rage, "Oh! and now I'm going backwards! Exactly how I planned!" Then he fell over and while lying in the snow, stuck his fist straight up in the air and yelled, "AWESOME!"

Lucien said all these things in anger but frankly, that's when things started to get funny for us adults. We tucked our chins into our chests and started laughing, that kind of laugh you don't want anyone to see (your very mad kids) but can't keep inside any longer. Sometimes it reaches a point of absolute absurdity and that's when it gets fun again.

German Dad and Alex shuffled off to the chairlift to do a few runs together, trying hard to salvage something from our shitty day, while I secretly giggled my way to a table in the cafeteria. The kids' spirits rose as I promised them hot dogs but plummeted again when we learned there was a water line problem in the cafeteria so there was no food.

I bought 500 bags of junk food of all shapes and sizes and a round of beers for the adults, which were very much appreciated when German Dad and Alex staggered in soaking wet about fifteen minutes later. The snow had turned to heavy drippy snow-rain while they were on the chairlift and Alex's "waterproof" jacket had failed him. He was drenched and shivering and could no longer feel his body. So we sat him on a heater and I bought another round of beers.

I call this one "dazed misery."
(photo courtesy of German Dad)

German Dad began giggling again as we sat across from our grumpy babies and said, "Gosh, this day was so great, I'm having a hard time choosing my favorite part!" The giggles soon overcame us adults, which was especially hard for Alex because his face was frozen. The kids got angry at our laughter, said, "I can't believe you guys are laughing at this right now, we hate you, you ruined our weekend!" We knew we should have kept the laughter on the downlow.

Grumpy babies
but the beer was friendly
(photo by German Dad)

Alex and I decided to turn our day passes into season passes that day. We stood in line at guest services and had our pictures taken on our way out, and we now all have laminated passes permanently affixed to our ski jackets. You may wonder why we did that after our worst day of skiing in recent memory and we certainly wondered why we were doing it in the moment, too.

The short answer is a greater force was compelling us. We are skiers at heart. Skiers strap slippery boards onto their feet and head straight down mountains; they are not a sane nor rational people. Terrible ski days will not keep true skiers away for long. Just don't tell the kids we're going back, and often.

Subject change. Did you know all Amazon boxes are labeled with numbers on the sides designating the size and shape of the box? I didn't know that until my parents picked up a new box number identifying hobby. They know them all and like to call out a box's number from a distance. Once when they were at my house, they said, "Wow, a 1AB, we've never seen that one before." It also tickled them immensely to say, "MJ, you got a 1B4 coming in the mail with Lucien's gift inside."

Lucien received a 1B4 from Colorado because he recently turned 12. Every day he looks more grown up and pushes away from us just a tiny bit more. He's still letting me squeeze him when we're on the couch watching a movie, though, and he still runs his ideas past me and asks my opinions. He's gonna have to find his way without me someday but I secretly wish I could hang onto his ankles and drag along behind him forever. He's always going to be my little dude.

The Loosh is funny, clever and quick-witted beyond his now-12 years. Some of his quips are approaching legendary status in our friend community and are repeated often. He added to his reputation recently when a friend said, "I prefer white rice to brown rice" and Lucien said, "That's rice-ist."

And you should have seen his face when he found out that annual ski pass was one of his presents!

Until next time,
it is likely,
I will continue to ruin my children's weekends.


  1. I don't believe I've ever had a ski day quite that bad.
    May your ski days improve, and may your rice always be diverse.

  2. I once spent an agonizing hour on a slope in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We "accidentally" went down a trail used for a Grand Prix event. It was my third time skiing. A low point was throwing my poles across the slope while scream "F BOMB!" as loud as possible. I was directly under a ski lift and provided great entertainment. The low point was when a group of Americans sailed overhead and one said, "Dude! She's still there!" I love skiing and I can't wait to go back. Skiers at heart, indeed.

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  4. I suggest shorter, more frequent posts so this blog can be taken off life support. Don't think you have to post a recap of the last many weeks. Just a teaser to keep the plates spinning. Take the pressure off yourself.

  5. Ha, Unknown.... I was just here doing exactly that with the same thought in mind. Life support indeed! Help!