You don't have to be crazy to ski, but it helps. I mean a death wish is not required but I think if an adult tries skiing for the first time, his last will and testament should be on file.
Growing up, skiing was not on my radar. I didn't know anyone who skied and I didn't live near the mountains. Then college changed my exposure. Beginning in December, my acquaintances from the fancier suburbs or New York City prattled about heading for the mountains on the weekends. My weekend destination was a job, but on Mondays I eagerly eavesdropped on tales of their downhill runs.
Then, when a 10-day, for credit, Winter Camping course was offered between semesters of my sophomore year, I jumped at the chance. I saw the words skiing, snowshoes and skating and read no further. Despite the course title I somehow missed the emphasis on camping. In January. In the northern New Hampshire mountains. Oops.
Carrying our gear like Marines, we hiked to the camping site only to find it was a windswept field at the edge of a tree line, hip high in snow. There was no building, just a large pile of firewood. The military teaches winter survival courses and it suddenly hit me that I had signed up for the civilian version. Despite the beautiful view, my first reaction was, "What am I doing here?" It echoed in my head for days afterwards.
We created walking paths, dug deep sleeping trenches below the wind and laid reflector fires for bedtime. For a week and a half we cooked our three squares a day outdoors and tried to get to sleep in the trenches before being covered in new snow or turning into an ice block whichever came first. I will NEVER forget the 3 AM treks to the designated bathroom . . . just me and my flashlight, and hopefully no varmints. The spot was behind a large tree whose base was tromped-down, yellow snow and where a sack of dried leaves hung instead of Charmin. A shovel leaned against the tree. There were no instructions.
Between meals over the campfire and stabs at sleeping we became winter sport wannabees. I liked skiing, but our timid, curving snowplows didn't look like the alpine racers I'd seen on television. Skating was old hat for me, the toboggan was fun, but the snowshoes . . . aarrgghh. Tromping through the woods in snowshoes turned my leg muscles into burning logs, the only warmth I felt for days. I worried about my shaking knees on skis. My greatest fear was that those aching thighs wouldn't allow me to climb out of my sleeping trench or carry me to the tree at 3 AM.
Despite the primitive surroundings, we made pretty good progress on the slopes and by the end of the course I knew I really wanted to ski. Through college I managed a few days a year on New Hampshire and Vermont mountains, just enough to whet my appetite for more. I expected that when I eventually went to work, skiing would be my main vice. I never considered that I would be hired by a benevolent employer who frowned on daredevils.
American Airlines provided generous sick day and health insurance benefits. We stewardesses, however, were given strict limits on what constituted responsibility. I imagine they had learned from experience that exuberant twenty-somethings occasionally lack judgment. Some stick-in-the-mud vice president wrote our off-work rules of behavior.
Back in those golden years of aviation, our appearance was paramount. If too much pasta packed on the pounds we were on weight check. Didn't lose it quickly enough? . . . off the payroll. An acne breakout, a bad bruise or a cut on a visible body part . . . all were grounds for no-fly status. And we were not allowed to work sunburned. If we over-roasted by the pool, we weren't paid for our sick time.
The same no-nonsense rules went for motorcycle riding, sky-diving, mountain climbing, scuba diving, and yes, skiing. Oh, and any other activity that could be considered harmful to our showing up for departure time. In other words, if it was fun and involved thrill seeking, the answer from uncompromising management was "Nyet!" They obviously hadn't yet heard of parasailing or bungee jumping.
I wanted to ski, I had opportunities to go, but I had that New York City lease. And I knew that if I was off the payroll for a broken leg and had to pay for the medical expenses too, I was in deep doo-doo. My mother's lectures about saving money paled against the reality of being without an income in the Big Apple.
So sadly, I didn't ski again. It was one of my earliest responsible decisions. Oh sure, there were lots of American employees that skied, but they were experienced. My falls, bruises and one serious shin slice had convinced this novice that I was always just one mogul away from the emergency room. By the time I left American 12 years later, motherhood had called, and I had not married a skier.
During the many intervening years, however, I have perfected one very important aspect of the ski scene. I've become an aprs ski professional. I am fully practiced in being comfy and toasty while snacking and laughing by the fireside. Those early freezing nights around the campfire taught me the importance of warmth following hours in the snow and I've practiced these skills for many hours in the intervening years. So, if you are a skier requiring a cheerful companion by the lodge fire, waiting eagerly to share your wine or grog after a hard day on the slopes, look no further. Somebody has to do it. Oh, and I promise not to say "What am I doing here?"