Saturday, March 05, 2005
On this day:

Bruised But Not Broken

The ski trip to Winter Park was great. The scenery was awesome, the weather was perfect, and as far as I can tell, I didn't break anything. Aside from a couple of bruised knees and a left big toe that hurts when I walk, I can't complain much.

There are a couple of advantages to being a novice skier. One is that (in general) people take pity on you, and another is that there are plenty of things to keep your mind off of the cold temperatures. You spend most of your time trying to avoid falling down, knowing full well what gravity and the mountain have in store for you. It's amazing how quickly the mind operates under such conditions, providing just the right combination of expletives to meet each new situation. Thankfully, my friends were very understanding when they met with curses aimed in their direction. In spite of all the frustration and the lingering soreness, though, I'm ready to go again next year. are a few other random observations from the trip:
  • The Denver International Airport is very nice, even though it's over 20 miles outside of Denver (away from the mountains) and looks like a circus tent. A word of advice - be sure to schedule a bathroom break on your way to and from the mountains.
  • On a related note, the DIA has been called the "most inconvenient airport" in America, a "failure" and a "gigantic waste of money". Twice the size of Manhattan, it opened in behind schedule in 1995 amid huge cost overruns (nearly 3 times the original estimate), and was initially plagued with problems with its "state-of-the-art" baggage-handling system, which had to be replaced. Guess it comes as no surprise that it's government-owned and operated.
  • My friends and I travelled to and from Winter Park in a "Home James" van. I loved that name.
  • The views from Berthoud Pass near the Continental Divide, at 11,307 feet, were spectacular. (Random macabre thought - how common is it for people to spread their loved ones' ashes at the Divide?)
  • When we first arrived at the ski area, the experienced skiers in our group graciously offered to help those of us who were first-timers learn the basics of skiing. We started out on one of the bunny slopes, which had a moving conveyor to ferry skiers up to the top...about 30 yards or so on a very gentle slope. I learned quickly that the key to getting on the conveyor is to lean forward a bit so that you keep your balance. I.e. the first time I got on, I swayed forward and backward, then fell very ungracefully off to the side - my pals got a big kick out of that, especially since the staff had to stop the conveyor to give me a chance to get up.
  • My ski instructor was a lady named Sandy, in her 40's, originally from Australia. Very good instructor...and very encouraging. After landing about 5 feet in front of her on one of my many falls, she said, "That's OK, Lee...I enjoy having men fall at my feet."
  • Getting on and off the ski lifts was not at all enjoyable. I was one for three in successfully dismounting the lifts. On one trip up, I sat beside a couple from Minnesota who were very nice, especially since I had almost caused the wife to fall when I sat down in the chair too soon and my skis slid into hers. We had a good conversation on the way up - it kept my mind off the fact that the 50-100 feet drop to the mountain below would hurt alot. When I fell out of the chair at the dismount point, both husband and wife were able to ski past me with no problem, even wishing me luck in skiing down the mountain. The snowboarder in the chair behind me wasn't so fortunate - he fell over me as I was trying to pick myself up and get out of the way of the next chair. The lift operator was about as pleased with the situation as I was.
  • Most embarrassing moment: Sliding down a slope on my back for 20 or 30 yards in a "bent-leg sit-up" position, finally bringing myself to a stop by sticking my arms out beside me and jabbing my hands into the snow. Then, as I lay on my back in pain, some smart-assed ski instructor skied by telling me that I "should fall to the side next time," as he led his class of gawking 7-year-olds right beside me, apparently so they could learn from my example.
  • The mountain air is refreshing, but keep this in mind: the high altitude and low air pressure can result in some unpleasant effects on the human body that interfere with the air quality.
  • I noticed several times that my heart was pumping really hard - I didn't realize how much your body starves for oxygen at altitude. Walking up a flight of stairs was a real chore. Funny thing, though...I didn't notice any of this much while I was tumbling down the ski slopes.
Anyway, there are plenty more stories and observations, but that's about all I'm willing to tell. Haha. (Hmmm...maybe I should turn the comments off in case any of my wonderful travel buds decide to add anything.)