Thursday, August 5, 2010


Before mastering the mountain, I enroll in ski school. It costs $99, but I think my life is worth it. My friends buy their lift tickets and we part ways. I travel the catacomb of hallways and find “my class”.

“I’m Mac,” the instructor says. He looks older than dirt. With tan and weathered skin, he clearly has spent his life on the slopes. “Let’s do introductions,” Mac suggests. “I’m Andy,” says the blonde man next to me. “Desi Girl,” I reply. Then the four GORGEOUS women with accents share their names and that they are visiting from Puerto Rico. Mac nods and says, “I’m going to review boots and bindings. Then take you outside for snow exercises.” Normally I like school; I’m a dork with a mild addiction to buying books. I believe the path to Lakshmi (the goddess who blesses wealth) requires diligent and faithful devotion to Sarasvati (the goddess of education). But ski school feels like gym class, the one study whose success eluded me.

Mac clears his throat and says to me, “do you want to explain what I said to them? Or are they okay?” It takes a SOLID minute for me to realize (a) Mac thinks all non-white girls in his class are Hispanic (b) Mac doesn’t hear the difference in our accents and (c) if he would just listen, he could discern the four Puerto Rican girls speak FLUENT English.

I survive indoor ski school and on the way outside I start conversation with one of the four girls. I learn they are with a group of 24 Puerto Rican girls. Twelve flew in from Puerto Rico, the other 12 live in Boston and all 24 road-tripped for a Vermont ski weekend. Half of their group can ski and is on the slopes. The other half is scattered amongst three different ski school classes.

Once outside we learn to balance, fall down, get up, walk sideways, and snow-plow/stop. We catch up with another ski school class and two female students slide over to me and in unison say, “Hola!” Then they begin speaking in rapid fire Spanish. Finally, when I can no longer handle standing there, encrusted in snow, with my runny nose, I say, “I don’t speak Spanish and I’m not with you.” Really?

* * *

Around noon ski school is over and I meet my friends for lunch. Wynn offers to take me down an easy slope, the closest thing Killington has to a bunny hill. We dump our trays and put on our skis.

In order to get from the dining hall to the easy runs we ski next to a divided highway. Meg leads the way, swishing and swerving like an Olympian. Siobhan is close behind her; Kate skis at a medium pace, keeping a watchful eye on Wynn and me, just in case I need help. I push off and am pleased at my pace. Wow, is this what control feels like? Yippee! I feel cold wind on my face. I feel powerful. I feel elegant. Then I hit a bump that rolls into a dip of an icy decline. I recover but have gained W-A-Y too much speed.

“Slow down!” Wynn screams. “I can’t stop!” I scream back and find another bump. “Turn left!” Wynn screams. I try and try and try. But like Zoolander I cannot turn left and become an out of control pink and black blur shooting diagonally across the run, STRAIGHT towards the highway filled with cars and trucks. Why didn’t they teach us how to change direction in class? Right now that seems more important than stopping!

The landscape upturns. I lose my balance; plow into a snow bank interspersed with thin seedlings and fall down. Wynn and Kate rush to my side and find me on my back, staring at the grey ski tangled in skis and poles. Wynn peers over me; her cheeks red and flushed. “Anything feel broken?” she asks gingerly. “You mean other than my spirit?” I ask. Kate has started crying because she is laughing SO hard. “Kate help me get her up!” They pull me onto my feet and reattach skis to my feet. “Holy shit!” Wynn yelps. “Who puts a highway next to a slow run for beginners? I totally thought you were gonna die.” Nice.

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