Friday, November 11, 2005

Finding Sweetness In Carving Big Air

One of the outdoor activities that my parents taught me as a youth was downhill skiing. Now here in southeastern Iowa, there aren't any hills worth skiing and not enough snow to ski on most years should you find a hill. So for a couple years, my skiing was confined to the occasional trip to nearby (within a few hundred miles) ski slopes that don't even qualify as bunny slopes by Colorado standards. But somewhere during my early high school career, they got me out of school for an extra week over Thanksgiving and we headed out to Winter Park ski resort in Colorado. I took three days of ski lessons and by the end of the week, I had skied down every run in the resort albeit with many falls on the more difficult ones like The Outhouse! Since that trip, I have never been back out west and have only occasionally skied the surrounding bunny slopes. For the most part it would be terribly dull if not for the company of friends but every once in awhile, it does get exciting and one such time is what I am going to blog about today.

On this particular trip, I was skiing with some friend in central Minnesota one Saturday evening and we were making our last run down the mountain. One of my friends who was skiing in front of me had a terrible wreck with skiing, hats, gloves, etc., flying in all directions or what skiers term as "having a yard sale." I helped him retrieve his lost gear and then we decided to race down the mountain so that we could catch up with the rest of our friends before hitting the bar. I pointed my skis downhill, crouched down as aerodynamic as possible and off I went with Jason my friend close behind. We had the option of several runs and I noticed that Jason had veered off behind me onto a different run. Now all alone, I zoomed down a run that I had been down before earlier in the day but hadn't for several hours. I went flying around a sharp corner sending up a rooster tail of ice as my skis skittered across the now hardened slush that the day's sun had turned the trail into and refocused on my path. Up ahead I saw two groups of snowboarders, one on each side of the run looking up the slope at me with a curious expression. I aimed to split the run in-between the two groups and hurtled on down the slope unseeing of the obstacle that lay ahead in poor light of early darkness. It wasn't until the ground disappeared that I finally understood what they had been looking at.

Over the years, I had tried doing small jumps with my skis only to have horrible yard sales on the slopes beneath the jumps. I just had a terrible sense of balance and had learned that I needed to keep both skis on the ground at all times in order to not horribly die in some tragic skiing accident at an early age. So as I flew off this massive ski jump that these snowboards had constructed in the snow, I knew I was dead. The ground fell away at an alarming rate until I was nearly twenty feet up in the air and hurtling down the mountain at jet speeds. I wildly windmilled my arms attempting to keep my balance and only was only able to succeed about half way. I hit the slope some sixty feet down slope from the ramp on one foot and way off balance. The impact caused one ski pole to jam between the snow pack and my upper torso, preventing me from collapsing in a heap and amazingly keeping me upright. As I regained my balance and kept on going down the hill at a still very rapid pace, I heard a voice yell after me, "Sweet dude!" As I skied on down the mountain and rejoined my friends, I couldn't help but think at how sweet it was carving some big time air. I don't think I will do it again.

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