Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

...and for 20 years it’s been all downhill

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“Reluctant,” I answered. “Actually, I’m certain I’ll be an injured skier… but until I actually go skiing, I’ll never know, will I?”

The rental boots he brought out of the back room fit like a glove. If only my feet had been shaped like hands, they would have been perfect. But on my feet — shaped vaguely like feet but given a twist not unlike a special effects guy might employ to suggest alien origin — they hurt like hell.

“Are they supposed to feel like they’re amputating my toes?” I asked.

“More or less,” he answered, adding, helpfully, “They’ll stop hurting in a minute.”

He was right. As soon as my toes went completely numb, after I’d clunk-walked around the shop for five minutes wondering how I might disable myself on the spot to avoid carrying this charade any further, they stopped hurting. The pain that rushed, along with blood, to my toes when I took them off, however, brought tears to my eyes.

By that time, Mr. Techno had returned with poles and skis that were longer than any skis I subsequently ever owned. He mumbled something about DIN settings, release pressures, radial fractures, detuned edges. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and finally broke down and admitted I was 35-years-old and had never, ever skied, a choice that, at that moment, was seeming particularly sane.

I had almost skied before. I’d bought a pair of castoff skis from a friend — wooden skis with metal edges and beartrap bindings — when I was 16 for five dollars. I even bought a pair of leather ski boots and was all ready to give it a try when my natural clumsiness left me with a splayed-open knee and a noticeable limp for the rest of Albuquerque’s short winter.

Be that as it may, the next day I was at the base of Sandia Mountain taking a “ski lesson.” I may as well have had a “Rube” sign pinned to my back. Rising from my torture chamber ski boots was a pair of K-Way nylon pants; above that my trusty North Face parka was baking my internal temperature to new heights. A balaclava and borrowed goggles completed the picture. The overall effect was Frumpy Terrorist.

The “instructor” spent an hour teaching us how to stop our forward motion. Fall down was, as I recall, the gist of his advice. Except for me. Looking at my nylon pants, he warned that if I actually fell down on a slope, I’d probably accelerate faster than if I somehow managed to stay upright. His advice to me was, “Pray.” Being an experienced mountaineer, I was comfortable with my ability to self-arrest but wondered how the ski hill would take to me carrying an ice axe instead of poles.