I made two more runs down the hill, both of which were near perfection. Full of what could only be false confidence, I decided that I had earned the right to graduate to the next hill – less for the run, and more for the ski lift.
As I waited in line at the base of the lift, I felt myself becoming more and more nervous as questions began to emerge in my mind. Questions such as: should I get trained for this? How do I get on the lift? How do I get off? What if one of my skis – or both – fall off? What if I drop one of my poles? After all, this was a bit more complicated than the conveyor belt. It actually left the ground. I considered backing out, but I knew I’d regret it. I weighed the regret factor against the risk factor and decided to stay in line, which was actually uncharacteristic of me. Usually, even a small risk was a deal breaker for me.
My turn had finally come. I awkwardly sat on the lift (well, fell into it is more accurate), struggling to secure the safety gate as it began its unexpectedly fast ascent up and above the hill. As I looked past my skies dangling beneath me, I was crippled with complete and utter fear.
The signs posted on the beams certainly didn’t help matters:
MOST FALLS OCCURE WHEN RIDERS REMOVE SAFETY BAR TOO SOON.
BE SURE TO LIFT BAR WHEN YOU REACH DESGINATED SIGN. CAR DOES NOT TURN AROUND
With each passing sign, I grew more and more nervous. I kept my hand on the latch as I waited further instruction to remove it. The signs almost seemed to be taunting me.
STILL NOT YET.
YOU MAY NOW REMOVE THE SAFETY BAR
As I attempted to unlatch the lock, I accidentally dropped one of my poles. I watched it disappear into the snow below. I knew right then and there that it was going to be a long way down.
As my departure point arrived, I slowly disengaged myself from the lift, taking a deep sigh of relief. Although I knew the hardest part still awaited me, I had at least made it to this point in one piece. As I turned to face the hill that awaited me, the relief I felt quickly dissipated. The fear magnified with the realization that there was no turning back. The only way back was downhill.
I spent a few minutes trying to motivate myself to locate any courage deep within the recesses of my soul to no avail. After a few minutes of watching one skier go down after another, I did the sign of the cross and let myself go.
Surprisingly, I got off to flying colors. But as I gathered momentum and therefore speed, I crossed my skis about half way down the hill and tumbled several hundred feet, head over skis. When I finally came to a landing, I laid there for a second to make sure I was intact. Miraculously, I was, but any semblance of confidence I had previously acquired was now completely shattered. I remained lying there, struggling to catch my breath, as other skiers continued whizzing past me. A couple even leaped over me.
I attempted to get back up onto my skis, but the slope of the hill made it impossible, which was probably for the best. I had already tempted fate once. No use doing it again. There was only one choice left: I scooted the rest of the way down on my butt. At one point, I looked down below and noticed several skiers pointing and laughing at me (including small children and a smattering of small woodland creatures). When I finally made it to the bottom of the hill, a ski patrol staffer helped me to my feet. I decided at that exact moment to hang ‘em up. My skiing career was over before it had even really begun. But, at least I got to ride a ski lift. And in the end, that’s what mattered most.