Learning To Ski

By Julie Winberg

What I remember is my feet, probably in some sort of ski boots and the long, impossible skis attached thereto. I was 17 or 18 and my athletic younger sister had insisted that I should learn to ski. My idea of athletic activity was focused in the wrist, as in turning pages of my current book. I cannot remember, although we shared a bedroom as children, ever seeing my sister exercising her wrists.

But she had prevailed, and after all, it did look so easy in the movies. So here we were, on top of Mt. Tom in Holyoke, Massachusetts, back in the old days, when there was a ski resort there. And I was being fitted for rental skis. I couldn’t believe how clumsy and awkward they felt, or how hard it would be to get up after falling, my legs pointing in one direction, skis in another. But finally I made it to the instructor at the top of the baby hill (slope?). I listened carefully to his directions, a bit apprehensively, but finally I was ready. I bent my knees the way I had seen in movie newsreels, tucked my head down, thrust my poles back, and took off, right down that terrifying baby slope. Somewhere on the way down, I realized he hadn’t taught me how to stop! But the movies never fail and I remembered seeing people put the tips of the skis together in a “V”. I figured it out just before the fence, and survived intact.

As I made my way to the top of the hill, the instructor was dizzy with praise.

“Wow!” he shouted, “you were amazing! That was perfect! Are you sure you’ve never been on skis before?”

But it was the end of my skiing career: I was sure it would never be this good again. As good as I apparently was, I was terrified. It wasn’t my kind of sport. I couldn’t wait to return the skis and return to my wrist work. I had a good book waiting that didn’t scare me at all! I never skied again. Once was enough for me.

\"\"Julie Winberg is a language junkie (Esperanto, Italian, French, self-taught Bulgarian) and traveler who lived in Tuscany for 10 years and loves to write. She has published stories about 19th-century lady travelers in Esperanto, the international magazine; memoir pieces have appeared in Hampshire Life, Springfield Journal, Philadelphia’ Welcomat, and Plumb Lines.

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