Ski-Bum Cultural Immersion, Part 2 of 2

Mountain Man and I crossed the Utah-Colorado border on January 12th, 2016 at 7:23 AM. We stayed in Colorado until the 18th of January, but my most developmentally pertinent experiences occurred during the first few days of our visit.

One of the first photos I took in Colorado

The first important experience happened on the 12th. We skied Vail that day. I had been so excited to see the mountain through his eyes; I had fancied that it’d be like getting a private tour of Disneyland under the guide of Walt Disney himself.

Looking at the Vail resort from the parking lot

But Mountain Man had other plans, of course: upon our arrival at the bottom of the lift, Mountain Man curtly announced that he’d be skiing alone today so that he could “get the full Vail experience.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was crushed. I was also exhausted from our trip thus far, sleep-deprived, hungry, and feeling the altitude. So, I snapped. I screeched at him and he screeched back at me and we caused quite the spectacle. It was pathetic. I think we both cried. The war ended in stalemate, at which point Mountain Man did some kind of fancy 180-degree turn on his skis and the next thing I knew, he was on the lift, heading up the mountain.

I went back to the lodge. I sat down and, between sniffles, tried to get a hold of one of my parents in the hope that they’d lend an ear while I vented about my stupid boyfriend. The cell reception was poor, though, and it was a Tuesday, anyways, so my parents were at work and thus wouldn’t have been able to chat for long even if my calls had gone through. So, I gave up and began to mentally run through my options. They were looking pretty slim, and I was about to settle on a day of drinking alone, when my eyes finally focused on the sign that had been right in front of me since I sat down: “Lessons.” I was sitting right in front of the ski-lesson desk. A glance up at the prices set me to sniffling all over again, though, and it caught the attention of the girl behind the counter. She asked if she could help me with anything. Sensing opportunity, I dramatically dropped my face into my hands and sobbed. She quickly came around the counter and asked what was wrong. I said:

After listening to me blubber on for a minute, she said that she might have an idea and to wait right there and she’d be right back. She then hurried behind the counter and disappeared through a doorway beyond. In a moment, she returned with a middle-aged man in tow. He wore a red-and-black suit with a white cross on the breast—a ski patroller?

The man introduced himself, but I don’t remember his name. I do remember that he once coached a group of Olympic skiers, and that his daughter was about my age and on the Vail ski team. He was done with all of that now, though; hence, the ski patrol get-up. The man then asked me to repeat my sob story, which I did with all the same fanfare, and when I finished, he smiled kindly and said, “Why don’t you go get your skis back on? I’ll meet you out front.”

What ensued made me cry all over again, but this time, for joy. This man, out of the kindness of his heart, gave me a free, private ski lesson. He taught me how to turn in powder, how to turn on groomers, what to do when you hit an unexpected patch of ice, how to maneuver through the trees, how to go off jumps without eating shit, and even showed me around the mountain a little bit. What he did for me was probably closer to getting a tour of Disneyland from Walt Disney than anything Mountain Man would’ve done for me. I even got to meet the guy’s daughter afterwards, who did a few runs with me and gave me a few more pointers from a different perspective. They treated me to hot chocolate at the lodge afterwards, and as we sat around the fire, sipping our drinks, they almost convinced me to move to Vail and join the ski team. But, the magic was cut short when Mountain Man showed up and dragged me away, ranting about how he was done skiing for the day because a part of his binding had broken off and he would need to get it to the shop before they closed.

I don’t remember what became of Mountain Man’s binding, but that’s probably because I was still processing the earlier part of my day. That free lesson had instilled a self-confidence and definite hope for my future as a skier—two things that Mountain Man had yet to offer me.

Vail from the top of one of the easier runs

We drove that night to Breckenridge, where we would spend the next three nights, and where I would have the most meaningful Colorado experience of all. But I’ve written enough for one post; next week, I’ll tell you about my time in Breck.

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