“Just point the ski tips inward to slow down and stop… the bigger the wedge the slower you go until you stop”
It was our first time skiing… ever. Me, the boys and their mom spent the required time on the beginner’s training course. Surprisingly, I picked up on it pretty fast. Of course the ski slope was a slope only in the sense that the ending point was technically lower than the starting point. The beginner’s slope was officially named Easy Street. I couldn’t have injured myself if I had intentionally tried. It wasn’t long before we were skiing like champs. No matter how cool we thought we might look… I’m pretty sure we were dorking up the entire mountain.
My brother, Eddy and his family were with us. My parents had booked several cabins for all of us. It was one of the last extended family trips we would all take together. We had skied most of the afternoon then returned for an early dinner. It was always awesome going on vacation with my parents… even as an adult. They seldom let you pick up the food tabs.
The temperature was dropping with the setting sun as we finished dinner. My brother said, “Hey, let’s go night skiing”.
“That’s a thing?”, I replied.
“Yes you dumbass… electricity’s been around now for a century. They have lights and everything now.”
Eddy had been to this resort before. It seemed like a fun idea and I didn’t want to be a wuss… so I agreed. Who cares that I had only been skiing a whopping 3 hours… I was ready for the X Games.
Well the wives wanted no part of it, but my sons and nephew were excited. We returned to the cabins to grab our gear and headed back to the slopes. I literally had no idea what to expect. The parking lot wasn’t as full as it was earlier, but there were enough people there to reassure my doubts about skiing at night. We made our way to the ski lift.
“Get off at the 2nd jump off”, Eddy instructed.
“But we haven’t gone that high yet… we’ve only done the Easy Street!”
“It’s not bad, y’all can handle it.”
My boys were just 12 and 9, with Eason being the oldest. G.T. was pretty athletic and was probably skiing better than any of us at this point. My brother got into a two-person ski chair with his son E.J. By the time I got my sons in position, my brother and nephew were at least 5 chairs ahead… disappearing into the darkness.
“Eason, make sure y’all don’t mess around. You’ll have to raise the safety bar… your arms are longer”, I said as I pulled the bar down to secure them.
I jumped onto the next chair alone. I could yell up ahead to my sons. I was actually worried about them screwing around and falling off the damn thing. My brother was right about the lights. I could see them in the distance… spread out at random points throughout the mountain.
As we approached a more well lit area and what I assumed was the jump off point for Easy Street, there was a visible notification stating that it was CLOSED.
“Y’all don’t get off here… get off at the next one boys”, I yelled.
Then I do what I usually do. I overthink things. This is a terrible flaw in my intellect at times. Did Eddy mean get off at the 2nd exit period… or the 2nd exit that was open? I figured it didn’t matter. I was certain I’d see my brother and nephew waiting for us anyhow. We continued upward.
“Dad… is this one the one we get off on?”, Eason yelled.
“I think so, look for your uncle and E.J.”, I hollered back.
As we approached closer, there was no one there waiting. I was confused. Maybe he did mean for us to get off at the 2nd open exit, not just the 2nd exit in number. Hell I didn’t know.
“Dad I don’t see him… do we jump off?”
“Yes! Raise the bar and help G.T.”
It all happened so fast that the exact details are a little hazy. I remember seeing Eason raise the safety bar and jump off. G.T. did not jump off… and now the chair was upward bound once again… with the safety bar in the UP position!
“G.T.! don’t move. don’t try to reach it… just stay still and get off at the next jump off!” I yelled. I even repeated it a second time.
Holy shit… my 9 year old was in an unsecured ski lift chair floating toward the top of a damn mountain and I was helpless to do anything about it. It really could have been disastrous. We had to jump off. I know the signs clearly state you can’t ride the chair lift back down the mountain and I assumed it was for safety reasons. G.T. had to get off at the next stop. The jump off… and apparently the FINAL jump off was coming into view. The signs clearly indicated that this was for expert skiers only.
G.T. jumped off smoothly, no issues at all. As my chair crossed the low ground, I jumped off. We were okay… for the time being. We walked over to where we heard talking. It was a bunch of guys all in their early 20’s. They all turned and stared at us. They were actually cheering G.T. as we approached.
“Awesome dude!”, one guy said to us.
“Tear it up”, another one yelled.
Damn, they actually thought we did this shit on purpose? They must have thought G.T. was some prodigy pupil and a future Olympian?
“Guys… we kinda fucked up”, I said laughing. I was in the chair behind him and he didn’t get off in time. How bad is this?”
“How long have y’all been skiing?”, one asked.
“Oh… about 3 hours maybe”, I said.
They busted a gut laughing. I totally felt like we were screwed. I had visions of helicopter rescues or snowmobiles with red crosses on them. One guy who was more serious approached me.
“Well this is kind of a serious slope… but if you go over there it shouldn’t be too bad. Just whatever you do, don’t pick up speed. Just keep it slow. Do you know how to do that?”, he asked.
“Yeah, I learned that on Easy Street“, I smirked back.
So the plan was simple. We would ski slow… keeping the front tips pointed inward to form the wedge. In the sections that were really steep, we would drop to our butts if the wedge didn’t slow us down enough. I went over this 3 times with G.T.
“Make the wedge the entire time… do not go fast… okay? When I say drop… drop to your butt… ok?”
“Okay… but dad I’m kinda scared”, he murmured back.
“I know… but we’ll be fine buddy… trust me.”
I must have said “drop” at least two dozen times. We’d get back up and start skiing again. When I saw a huge steep drop off coming up… we’d try our best to stop. When that wasn’t working we’d drop to our butt and start the whole process all over. This went on for what seemed like 30 minutes.
Finally we came to an area of people congregating. I could hear my brother yelling to me as we approached. This must have been the area we were suppose to have jumped off at. It definitely was a lot cushier of a slope.
“Are you a dumbass? Why the hell didn’t y’all jump off?”, he said.
I was pissed. I had just dealt with the possibility of my youngest son falling off an unsecured ski chair… halfway skied down a damn X Games mountain on my ass… and now I was gonna have to listen to this? I took my ski pole and prodded him right in the chest.
“I will kick your fucking ass right now. Do you hear me? Do you wanna go right now? I’ll beat your ass in front of both of our kids. I’ll kick your ass right down this fucking mountain!”
Yep, I was obviously pretty pissed off. It was extremely awkward for the next 30 seconds, until all the kids started laughing. It wasn’t long before I was laughing as well. I haven’t been skiing since.