The Cast: Cindy (my Snowbunny), Heather (my brother’s 1st wife), Myself (skier), Rawlin (my brother).
I am a marvelous skier! (I wish)
When I was younger, and living in Montana, my family would head out early in the dark hours of cold Winter mornings for a day of skiing, skiing, and more skiing. Those days were some of the best I ever had as a child.
The night before those days were early to bed after hours of making sure everyone had their gear: Goggles, gloves, snowpants, jackets, coats, hats, extra whatevers, and so on. Each set of gear would be placed in a spot that could be quickly identified as ‘ours’ when the wee hours still fogged our minds and eyesights. Each of us would get dressed, get undressed, go to the bathroom, get dressed again, then head out the door, pile into the car, and my mom or dad would begin the drive up to our mountain of snow and ski slopes.
Watching the sun rise through snow cover pines is still one of my favorite things to see. The light would slowly creep into our windows and illuminate the hills as they turned into mountains. The white drifts of powder would waft about as our motorcar’s speed would send them up and about. You could hear the tiny ice-crystals’ clicks as they bounced off the windows and doors of our old four-door. It was like magic.
My point? Well, my point is that from an early age I was taught the basic fundamentals of skiing. Then, as I got older, with every trip, I got better and better. Not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, stretching the imagination is probably the only way I could be). Yeah, so, I got pretty decent at that snowy, downward, thrill-run people refer to as skiing. I loved every ski day. I even have an Christmas ornament of a fox wearing a scarf and leaning forward on green skies. He is one of my all-time favorites to hang on the Christmas tree. I like to set him on branches so that he looks like he is zooming down the tree. I’m off topic now. Sorry.
Well, one might think that when my family moved from the glories of the snow-capped mountains of Montana to Utah—the state that brags about “The greatest snow on earth”—that my family’s ski trips would continue. No. No, they did not. I spent several years not skiing. I really don’t know why. Maybe it was resources. Maybe it was too expensive. Maybe it was just only ever thought of by me… Regardless, it didn’t happen. Until it did.
There came a point where myself, my brother, and his first wife, all worked at a ski resort. This provided my family with a less expensive resource. So, for Christmas (one year), my whole family, and their spouses (if they had them), hoteled up at the resort and skied. It was a blast! In one room we had a hot tub. In another room, we had ski-out and ski-back-in access. It was a holiday to remember. And, I noticed that I hadn’t really lost my touch for skiing (what little I had). I also remembered how much I loved it. There is something about zooming down the slopes. Turning and bouncing off moguls. Zipping past trees in an all-too-narrow shortcut. It is soo much fun!
I don’t recall exactly how the whole thing came to be, but, once (and only once), my future wife, my brother, and his 1st wife went on a ski trip together.
Out of the four of us, three of us were working at the aforementioned ski resort. And, we figured it would be fun to go skiing together, and more fun to bring Cindy along with. You know what they say: Two’s company, three’s a crowd, and four’s a double date. Well, okay, nobody probably says that. But, it’s kinda true. Plus, Cindy had never been skiing, so, it was thought that this would be a fun learning opportunity. It was. We learned. Oh, did we learn.
Just as in days gone by, night before preparations were made. Suits were assigned, plans were made, and basic instructions were provided to Cindy for her first day—of what were intended to be many days—of skiing! It was going to be great! It was.
It really was.
Rawlin, Heather, and I got Cindy comfortable and kitted out. Heather, helped her with boot and ski rentals. I would like to say that we all helped, but really, it was Heather that provided the more valuable insight into boot preferences and ski choices. Once equipped, three of us confidently stepped out, onto the snow. One of us did not step so confidently. Guess which one?
Now, understand, this is not my way of making fun of my wife. No, sir. No. What I’m saying here is that she was nervous. And understandably so. It was her first time skiing. It can be nerve-wracking. Okay? Okay.
So, as I was saying: We stepped out onto the snow to find a small area to practice some of the basics that Cindy was taught the night before. She did pretty well for a first-timer. If I recall correctly, I fell over more times than she did in my efforts to assist her. Just sayin’…
It didn’t take long for Cindy to gain enough confidence to try a small hill. One of the good parts of this was how my brother and Heather could team up in front of Cindy and me in the lift line and let her see how loading the lift chairs is done. Also, the lift operator was friends with them and they asked him to slow it down just a touch for Cindy. He did. Everyone boarded without issue. Things were going splendidly.
Disembarking was easy and without problem. Well, there was a small problem. It wasn’t explained clearly that she needed to push off hard enough to get some distance between her and the lift landing. The people behind her almost ran into her. See, Cindy was making some adjustments to her gear before launching herself into the wild, white powder of the unknown downhill. Understandable.
After some clarity, all was well and the four of us began our descent. Rawlin shot off, Heather followed, and I did my best to stay with my (at the time) girlfriend (I say ‘at the time’ because it was true, and now we’re married). It was, however, harder than I thought to resist the urge to launch myself pell-mell into the gravity-driven joy that is downhill skiing. From what I recall I stayed with her most of the way. She may or may not have fallen over. Honestly, I don’t recall. And, I’m not going to ask her, even though, right now, as I write this, she is in the next room. Because, if I do, I might get an answer that I may not like. So, I’m going with my version of the events.
Anyway, I do recall a few spills. Although, I can’t be certain if they were trial falls—when we began. Or if they were on the way down the hill—due to inexperience. Either way, some did happen (to each of us).
Toward the end of our day, Cindy had gained great confidence in herself and was doing quite well, considering all the time and effort that did not go into her training. She was picking her own routes well and dodging other skiers easily… Really, she was fun to watch. My new little Snowbunny. Then, it happened.
Heather was in front of Rawlin, in the lift line. Rawlin was in line in front of me. The line for the lift we were about to take was in a single file format. One skier in front of the next. Which was fine considering we were still waiting for Cindy to finish her current run. We could see her. She was coming down. She was coming down quickly. The three of us waved to her. She saw us and changed directions. Did I mention she was coming down quickly? Very quickly? Well, she was. She was shooting down that hill as though fired from a gun. And now, she was headed straight at us.
Before she was in earshot, we were yelling at her to snowplow. Shouting it. Screaming it. Waiving our arms and trying to signal the plow formation with our ski poles. It wasn’t working. She was going to hit us. We could see it coming. We could clearly see the path that she was on, and, it was a collision course with one of us. Correction, one of two of us: Rawlin or me. This was going to hurt.
I’ve written before about how time slows down before and during an accident. It is an odd event. You can see that you’re in danger, and yet… You can’t change the event. You just have to stay there and accept what fate has in store for you. So we did. My brother and me. We stayed there. Waiting to see which one of us was about to break (literally) Cindy’s downward streak. Regardless of who it would be, the day was going to be over and someone(s) was going to the hospital. Grea-a-at…
Just as Cindy was about to make her impact of choice… (and both my brother and myself were fully prepared to take the hit—we had even analyzed the surrounding area and noticed the dropoff to our direct left and the unskied powder all about it) She didn’t. She somehow darted right between Rawlin and myself. Her right ski rode directly over the top of the back of Ralwin’s skies, while her left ski slide directly over the front of my skies. She missed us both by mere slivers of inches. The vacuum of space that she left between us, however, almost toppled us both. Then she was gone. Off that dropoff, I had previously mentioned. Headed directly for the large metal pylon that supported the motor for the ski lift. She was going to die.
For those that may think I’m exaggerating, please recall Sonny Bono, who tragically died from hitting a tree—while skiing, in 1998. It happens. It was about to happen.
Have you seen the 1994 movie, True Lies, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis? If you haven’t, or even if you have, there’s a scene where Schwarzenegger is test driving a car and punches the car dealer in the face. Then, the scene cuts to reality and you realize it was just a daydream Arnold’s character was having. Cindy’s death was kinda like that. I saw it occur before it occurred. I saw her hit, bounce off, and fall lifeless to the snowy ground. Rawlin, Heather, and I were beginning to turn our skis and head for her body when the most miraculous thing I had ever seen happened. Cindy didn’t die.
At the last possible second (I mean it, the last possible second—really), Cindy’s left arm went outward and her left ski did the same, meanwhile, her right arm extended outward and her right ski-tip did the same. So, both fronts of her skis were pointed outward, in opposite directions, as well as her arms. And, right before her face made an impression on the pylon, all her inertia suddenly went left. But, because her skis were not exactly opposite, just mostly, Cindy ended up circling the pylon as if it were a merry-go-round and she was tied to the handles while it rotated. Her body, just mere inches from the steel pillar. It was just like a cartoon. She shot toward the pylon, and at the last second her skis went opposite directions, then, Cindy skied around the base of that pillar almost a full two laps.
I don’t think an Olympic Gold-Medalist could have performed better.
By the time Rawlin and I reached her, Cindy had come to a stop. It was a miracle she wasn’t hurt. I’ll tell you what, I’ve known from day one that Cindy was the one I was to marry. I also know that God can perform miracles, even if it is simply keeping my would-be-wife from making a Cindy-sized dent in the pylon of a ski lift.
We’ve never gone skiing since.