Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Flying is easy. Landing, however, is more dangerous than spring training with the Mets
I came to some conclusions in the short time I was sliding headfirst on my back looking up at the heavens and clutching my ski pole.
First, I can no longer keep up with high school kids.
Second, a ski hill is the second-most dangerous place on the planet, apparently following only the Mets spring camp.
Seriously, the walking Mets wounded includes Carlos Delgado, Ruben Gotay, Marlon Anderson and Ryan Church – who got hurt together – and perpetually gimping Orlando Hernandez. It seems the only one not hurt is Moises Alou, who must be saving his annual injury spree for when games actually count.
And just as seriously, I learned I can hurt myself and others, including a ski lift operator.
I spent the weekend chaperoning the church’s high school youth group on our trip to Crystal Mountain, which is just south of Traverse City, or where the tip of your pinky and ring finger meet on the handy hand map of Michigan.
It started out safe enough, braving some of the easiest runs, identified by green signs and names like “Giggles” and “Hoot Owl.”
Some of the kids thought I was able enough to try some of the more challenging runs, designated by blue signs, which, I must say, I handled skillfully.
After about four of these runs, the kids decided I could attempt some of the dreaded “black diamond” runs, the toughest.
I looked down at one, and it was indeed steep. But it was also pretty wide, allowing me to go from side to side, as opposed to being a goggled bullet stopping only after impaling myself on the wall of the ski patrol offices.
It really wasn’t bad. I could handle the speed, and avoided fellow skiers and other obstacles.
After a few runs down this hill, the kids – who I learned were members of their school’s ski team – took me to another diamond run. We stood at the top and looked down.
“Kids, this is not a hill. This is a cliff,” I stated, accurately. “A cliff with big icy patches.”
Then one of the other chaperones, a mom, said that it was, indeed, very steep and icy, then effortlessly went over the edge and zoomed to the bottom.
“Oh yeah,” the chaperone’s son said. “You need to know that mom is really, really good.”
Then the rest of the kids in turn took off down the hill, through not all as cleanly and successfully as the mom.
I moved over about 40 feet or so where the start was less steep, though still by far the steepest I had ever skied down – and did so with nary a wobble.
Success breeds confidence. And like the also successful and confident Mets of last season, I became a little cocky.
Two of the boys in my group took me on some of the tougher trails after dinner, then to a “terrain park,” which should be properly titled “place where guys show off for snow bunnies.”
The guys went through the half-pipe and on some of the grinding boxes. I watched, clearly well out of my league.
But they convinced me to go through the mini-terrain park, with scaled down grinding rails and jumps. I sought a small bump, caught some small air, landed poorly and hit the deck slightly embarrassed.
But the second and third times over the bump were pretty sweet. And I hit another bump on another run, got some air, landed well and heard someone on the chair lift overhead yell “Good one!”
A little encouragement was a bad thing.
We went back to the mini-terrain park. One of my high school friends was going to try a 360-degree turn, and I was going to hit a slightly larger – but still small – bump.
There was much glory as I floated through the air. The flying part is easy. Landing, however, is not. Skis went flying, one of the poles got tossed and I somehow proceeded down the hill on my back, head-first.
“Whoa, did you guys see my spectacular wipe out?” I asked.
“Austin crashed, too, and he’s spitting up blood!” one of my friends yelled.
These are not words chaperones want to hear. I scrambled over to see him on his knees, spitting blood into the snow – but only a little.
Apparently his 360 ended up in a face plant and his braces cut the inside of his mouth. I could exhale. But we went to the ski patrol just to be sure – after finding my skis and other pole.
After that I ran into another of the chaperones with our youngest youth group member, and they suggesting taking one last run – on one of the easy trails, at my request. My jumping days are over.
Alas, this, too, proved to be perilous. And that was just getting on the lift.
The younger member got a little tangled as the chair approached and stumbled into us. I fell backward – hard, but right into the seat. But the ski lift operator yelled, put his hands to his face and turned away.
“Did you get hit by the chair?” I asked.
“No, it was your pole! You just missed my eye! Is there a big mark?”
Luckily, it wasn’t the tip of the pole and I didn’t see a mark. But I felt horrible.
Two calamities in less than a half-hour is an indication that you should stop skiing for the day. We took our sweet time coasting down the green trails, taking care not to injure anyone else – or myself. Again.