March 18th, 2005

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Fleshing Out Yesterday's Cliff's Notes

Skiing.

The Drive Up. Snow began falling in Worcester in time for lunch, so the gang decided to leave earlier than originally conceived. As it was going to be a 4+ hour trip anyway, we knew the snow would slow us down. We were on the road by 2. The snow never abated, in fact, it increased to Wagnerian levels. Every time a semi would zip-a-dee-doo-da past us (and there were several), the wheels would kick up great plumes of snow that washed over our poor car and whited out the world. In those moments, we could only slow down and hope the road didn't jag or turn too fast. The guardrail along the sides became our friend. It was after 10 when we finally arrived in Smuggler's Notch, at our condo.

The first night we had 10 people sharing 4 bedrooms, the following night Tater and Sharon joined us, to make out happy household 12. There was a plethora of room.

Day One: We rented gear and suffered through trying on ski boots and helmets. A lesson on the slopes wasn't too terrible. Our instructor was nice, but didn't bother showing us things that would later become important (like how to take off the skis and what use the ski poles were). We spent time coasting and turning. Trista was a natural, Naveen (an Indian grad student who was also a newbie) and I had more difficulty. Supposedly having ice skating/rollerblading experience would help me. Whoever said that lied out of their butt. Sure, I could maintain balance, but this turning thing... Tricky. The instructor told us to curl our toes. Then he tried the engineering approach about torque. Finally, I just figured it out on my own, and I got pretty good at it. Naveen was having lots of difficulty with the turning thing. Of course, this was really important because we learned no other way to stop.

We had lunch (pizzaland, woot!) and went back out on the learning slope (later, I dubbed it the Bunny Incline, as it was not a Hill, and Naveen would misspeak it to be the Bunny Inclination. This last, Bunny Inclination, would be the name we kept for it) until M-Peg (one of the two Marys who accompanied us on the trip) suggested we try out the lift and a real hill. So, we entered the madness of Mogul Mouse's Magic Lift and Hill. This was the kiddie hill. The REAL bunny hill. It was a nightmare.

It started off so promising. The lift was half speed. We got on and got off (at the midstation, halfway up the mountain. Any further and we would be on expert level. Weird placement if you ask me, but nobody did) without a fault. We felt good about ourselves. Then, we started the downward slide. Trista was the first the eat snow. Our most promising pupil. Morale broke. Not before I freaked out (because she's my wife) and I shouted, "Trista!" didn't watch where I was going, and ended up speeding down the hill out of control. I rolled to a stop. Naveen dropped shortly after. I realized at this point: I hate this. But there was no way to go but down. "Scheizzer," I muttered (because there were children present and swearing in foreign languages is acceptable in my mind around children). Of course the fact that these kids were skiing circles around the merry band of three newbies did not enamor me of the little hijos de putas... But I digress.

We went down the hill. We all crashed. We all burned. But we survived. Problem numero uno for me: no snow plow. Days before we'd come (maybe a week) M-Peg told us how to control our speed by making our skis into a pizza slice shape. You make a wedge, you slow down. The wider the wedge the slower you go. I had forgotten this. I only remembered the turning thing. You turn, you stop. I did not turn as well as I banked. I would bear left instead of fully turning, and that did nothing but speed me up. The worst spill I took was when I was out of sight of the others. My head bounced across the groomed snow because my skis did not release from my boots. Everytime I turned, my feet rose into the air, and my face shoved into the snow. My head hurt. My wrist hurt. By the time I got to the bottom, I never wanted to ski on a real hill, again.

That night, I showered. I ate dinner. We chatted and played Hearts (and I was constantly reminded of Stephen King's "Hearts in Atlantis" as we "Hunted the bitch" (the Queen of Spades) and Bill "Shot the Moon"). Sleep was a welcome oblivion.

Day Two: woke up early again. Not nearly as early as everyone else. Ate. Dressed. Packed up the cars, as we were leaving today. Then, back to the Bunny Inclination. Trista liked skiing. Naveen and I didn't. The night's sleep gave me perspective. I couldn't say skiing sucked. In my undergraduate days, I decided I could not speak about the merit of a subject unless I mastered it. Mastering meant getting a 3.0 or better in it. Thus, I could only really say skiing was not my cup of tea. Skiing was something I did not feel confident about. Skiing was something I had no desire to master.

We arrived at the Bunny Inclination to discover passels of school kids. Thursday was the kiddie day, apparently. They choked up the inclinatin. We went down the hill twice. Very important lesson: Trista reminded of the snow plow. Things came into perspective. I could control my speed without turning. Things got more straightforward.

Naveen agreed to try that Magic Mouse Lift and Slope. Too bad it was clogged with kids. We hunkered in a warming yurt and decided what to do next. Trista had overheard some of the experts talking about a couple of trails as being very flat. Unfortunately, they were also at the top of one of Smugg's three mountains. If we didn't like them, it would be a looooong walk down. Trista really wanted to try it. Naveen was less than thrilled, but finally agreed. Trista saw our (my) hesitation and suggested not going. I told her not to be an idiot (maybe a little harsh, but I was grumpy) and let's do this. What're the odds we'll be doing it again? Slim to none. Let's try it while we're here. She relented.

Mogul Mountain. No half speed lift for us. Our first shot at full speed. We all fell down, after we reached the top station. Steep hill right at the start, curved down from the summet to the trail plateau. I crashed and burned on the plateau. This is flat?

Turns out the actual trail was flat. I went first, scouting out. We took it leisurely. We went no faster than a leisurely bike ride. Some points, it was so flat we had to use the poles (which we'd brought to help us get up) to cross country it to the next incline. We paused along the trail. Took pictures. Had a fun time. Then, we found the slope at the end. Steep. We tried to got slow. I pitched over a couple of times, felt my legs twist in new and terrifying ways. Nothign broke, though. The body's endurance is nigh incredible. We survived the Midway trail. We ended up in the basecamp of Madonna Mountain (Mountain #2). I hunted around for the Meadowlark trail to take us back to the Mogul base. More steep hills? Should we just walk it? Let's try.

No steep hills. Just easy coasting. Peaceful. Chilly but not bitter cold. Nice scenery. We skied across a bridge, past some gorgeous views of Vermont. We ended up back in Mogul. No worse for wear. No falls. A brilliant little exercise.

Lunch time. Naveen told tales of our achievements. I decided: you know, this isn't so bad after all. After lunch, Trista went off for more. I stayed in the restaraunt and chewed the fat with some of the others on the trip. I got to know Young Nick (there were two Nicks, two Marys, two Dans on this trip. We came up with nicknames for them all. Mine was boring, I was just Dan. The other Dan was called either Elf or Toad.) better and M-squared (the other Mary) and Naveen. We went home, after. Four hour car ride. Hit the sack. Sleep was a welcome comfort.
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