The Cavalier Daily
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Bunny slope blues

For hundreds of years, my family has lived in the heart of New England.

Despite 100 years worth of opportunities to take advantage of the snow-covered mountains in our backyard, no one in my family has ever felt the need to try skiing.

No one, that is, until I allowed a few friends to convince me that strapping long pieces of metal to my feet and throwing myself off the side of a mountain for college credit was a good idea. Last semester, I gamely enrolled myself in a one-credit skiing class, figuring it would be a fun way to get some exercise. Each year, hundreds of University students head to the slopes at nearby Wintergreen Resort to have some fun and call it a class.

But what they don't realize is the complexity of such an undertaking.

Before I could get to the mountain, I needed to outfit myself. Waterproof everything is necessary for those intent on flying down an icy hillside. It took a while, but I finally managed to put together a suitable ensemble. I was unhappy that I had to wear my waterproof overalls - quite possibly the most unflattering jumpsuit known to man - but at least I was ready to conquer the mountain.

Standing amid a couple hundred other University students in the bitter cold on the first night of class, I eagerly awaited my first run down a slope. My stomach was aflutter as I thought of two friends who recently broke bones skiing and of my mother's final words to me before my pursuit of mountain glory: "Sonny Bono died skiing, you know, and he'd been doing it for years."

Still undeterred, I tried to figure out where among all these bodies I belonged.

A gentleman asked my friend Morgan and I if we'd ever gone skiing before. When we said no, he pointed us in the direction of a ski instructor who was assembling his class for novices. Rick, our instructor, began the lesson by teaching us to put on our skis. The seven of us in the class did it easily, and we all began to believe that skiing was not all that much of a challenge.

Half an hour later, as we attempted to go down the novice hill, skiing began to seem more complex than I had initially imagined. Not only is remaining in control while accelerating quite difficult, but avoiding other people recovering from a fall or just taking a little break is hard too. By the end of the lesson, we were not fearful of the mountain so much as the snowboarders.

Snowboarders, especially novices, seem to have little or no control as they hurtle down the trails. All the collisions I witnessed that first night involved an errant snowboarder and an unsuspecting skier. In my mind, snowboarders replaced trees as the most likely cause of my death.

Even with the trepidation I felt toward the snowboarders, Morgan and I decided to make good use of our time at Wintergreen after the lesson by practicing stopping. By the end of the evening, I was enamored with skiing. "I think I'm a skiing prodigy," I told anyone who asked about my first foray into the sport.

Visions of myself skiing over moguls in the not-so-distant future were in my head as I headed back to the mountain for my second lesson. Again, I spent the evening racing down the slope confident in my ability remain upright as I picked up speed. Skiing was definitely in my blood.

A week later, as I peered down the incredibly steep face of an intermediate slope, skiing suddenly did not seem so natural anymore. "I think I might cry," I told Morgan as we skied to the instructor for last-minute instructions on conquering the top part of the hill.

"You'll be fine," she assured me.

Midway down the hill, the class reassembled to bask in the glow of its achievements. We had handled the top of the slope like pros (albeit terrified ones). But as we stood there, I suddenly fell backward and began skidding down the mountain on my back. Along the way, I ran into one of my fellow students and knocked him down.

"I am so sorry. Are you okay?" I called out.

"I'm fine," he replied, "But we're still moving. Can you stop?"

"No!" I couldn't even locate my limbs, much less control this trip down the mountain.

Eventually, the rest of my class caught up with us. Morgan helped me up and watched with amusement as I removed some snow from my overalls. A few people who saw my human avalanche stared pitifully.

"This is not worth one measly credit," I informed Morgan.

"Kate, I thought you were a skiing prodigy," she said and smiled.

For hundreds of years, my family has had good reason to stay off ski slopes. They are treacherous and cold, and more importantly than someone else killing you, you could easily maim someone else.

Although I enjoyed much of my time on the mountain, my head is no longer filled with visions of slalom glory. Instead, I concentrate on getting down the bunny slope without incident. It's surprisingly more difficult than I thought.


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