Black and Blue (March 3, 2011)


Last weekend, I went away for a ski trip with my sister, niece KK and some other friends, old and new. As a young teenager, I had partaken in the sport a number of times and developed a certain proficiency, even without the aid of formal instruction. To this day I am not a fan of organized lessons where sports are concerned. Trusting in what I have learned in the past and my usual aptitude for the physical, I prefer to wing it.

The important detail to this story is that my last trip down the slopes was a full 18 years ago. You would think I might find this time lag, more than half as long as my life, to be some sort of deterrent when making decisions about which equipment I should choose. But here we encounter another Becky Sarwate enigma. In many instances, a crippling uncertainty all but shuts me down. However when it comes to physical activity, I am absurdly overconfident.

Last Saturday was one such occasion. As our group emerged from the Chevy Suburban that ferried us to the lodge outside Galena, IL and ran for the equipment rental, I was given a series of decisions to make. My first mistake (of many) on this day was the absolutely unshakable belief that I needed the mid-grade speed skis. The low speed skis were for beginners and I felt absolutely confident shoving aside the ensuing two decades after my last time out that could potentially impact my performance today. Skiing is just like riding a bike, I told myself.

And as our group started cruising down Rookie Lane (one step above the bunny hill), it seemed I made the right call. I was tearing it up – weaving in and out of my group as they struggled to find their footing, taking a couple cracks at the slalom course, and rather arrogantly adopting the tough trainer tone with KK, who was quite nervous her first time out.

In fact things were going so well in Rookie Lane that I started to feel bored. I needed a new challenge. Just to the right of where the rest of my group was practicing, there was a mid-level hill called the Moser. The initial dropoff looked daunting but between the mastery I recalled of 18 years ago, when I was able to ski black diamond hills, and the 30 minutes I had spent getting my groove back that day, I was ready, right?

This part of the story turns into an extended metaphor. You have been warned. Picture me as the Titanic, look glorious in my ski cap, pants and jacket. I’m in the best shape of my life (so I think), and brimming with confidence that I am going to get down this hill without so much as a stumble.

I make it down the first steep launch and my sense of invincibility only grows. I confidently pick up speed with each swoosh of my mid-grade speed skis. I enter the second section of the tougher course, careening just under the speed of sound and then it happens: iceberg! I see the ice rock in front of me before I collide with it.

I elected to pass on wearing a helmet (another great choice!) and have a split second to make a decision. Believing that crashing into a rock with my face might not be a lot of fun, I did the alternative. I forced myself into a backward fall. In doing so, it was “only” the left side of my thigh and glute that took the impact. For those of you who have seen me in person, there’s a lot of padding back there and for once I pay tribute to the fat for sparing me a broken leg or hip.

I felt rather proud of my disaster aversion skills until I pulled my pants down in the ladies’ room. Not only did I feel a tremendous pain, but I saw something that looked a lot like this (image above). I tried gamely to return to the slopes with my group after lunch. The skiing was fine. It was the chairlift repeatedly crashing into my tender backside that finally did me in.

For two days I could neither sit nor lay on my left side, which resulted in minor back strain. The lesson I have learned is that, fit though I might be, I am not Picabo Street and will opt next time for the beginner skis. There’s no shame in it. The second lesson I have learned is to appreciate the protective qualities of my jiggly bits. They may have saved my life.



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