Taking Tea in the Kasbah

photo credit: kennymatic via photopin cc

photo credit: kennymatic via photopin cc

As I mentioned in my recent letter to a certain classy British actor, I went on my first downhill ski adventure this weekend. I have been on several cross-country ski outings, but I had not given myself the chance to learn how to ski down the side of a mountain. When I heard that the 12 year-old’s cross-country team needed chaperones for a day-long ski trip, I seized the opportunity to see if I had what it takes to become a skier.

We arrived at the ski resort with just enough time to get our gear from the kind people behind the rental counters. I had never worn downhill ski boots and was amazed at how difficult it was to walk in them. The 12 y.o. and I clomped around the rental room with the grace of a pair of newborn Storm Troopers as we tried to determine if we had the right fit. We stared in awe at the other people who could walk from one side of the room to the other with relative ease, not once stopping to tell their companions “this is going to make getting to the bathroom a bit awkward.” Those other people, the ones who called themselves “skiers”, were talking and laughing and swapping stories with words like “powder” and “drop offs” and “hot toddy” in them as though they had full mobility in their lower extremities.

photo credit: pheochromocytoma via photopin cc

We’re in the club. photo credit: pheochromocytoma via photopin cc

When it was time to wobble outside for our lesson, the 12 y.o. stepped outside, quickly threw an arm over her face and yelled, “My eyes!” She had, of course, forgot to bring her sunglasses and couldn’t see a thing. We clomped back inside the rental room and asked our friends at the counter if we could also rent some ski goggles. The older man who had helped us acquire our boots considered my question for a moment, then darted his eyes to the right and then to the left. Satisfied he was safe, he pulled out a shoe box from beneath the counter. Before he removed the lid he said, “The owner would prefer people to head upstairs to the store to buy some goggles.” He paused, sizing us both up and down to see if we were worthy. Then he took the lid off the box, handed a pair of goggles to the 12 y.o., and said in a low, conspiratorial tone, “You can borrow these. But you didn’t get them from me.” We gave him a knowing nod and trudged outside, both of us feeling like we were just initiated into The Ski Club, which I believe is kind of like Fight Club, except instead of exchanging punches, members are given secret goggles with amber-colored lenses.

We joined our motley group of fellow beginning skiers: a pair of six year-olds who delighted in falling down every chance they got (which was often), a young high school boy who considered the instructors’ lessons “mere suggestions”, and a displeased-looking trio from India who appeared to be dumped off brought there by their host on “a fun cultural outing”.

Then, for the first HOUR we were instructed to take microscopic side steps up the side of the bunny hill and then, MAKING YOUR SKIS INTO THE SHAPE OF A PIE WEDGE – I SAID A PIE WEDGE, NOT A WEDGIE, PEOPLE – gently ski down the bunny hill. Repeat 80,000 times or until you are exhausted and fall over in a heap in the snow. Whichever comes first.

snowy tree on a mountain

By the time this portion of the lesson was over, the people from India had bailed, the six year-olds disappeared into a snow bank somewhere, and we were left with the “I make my own rules” high schooler. Our instructor, Gene, told us we had finally graduated to “The Magic Carpet”. My ankles were starting to throb inside my Storm Trooper boots, but I wasn’t about to wimp out on a chance to get on something as mythical sounding as *The Magic Carpet*.

We swished and wedgied our way to the sacred spot at the base of the real bunny hill (apparently we had been practicing on the baby mole hill). Gene revealed to us The Magic Carpet, which was not a carpet at all, but a moving walkway in the snow, just like the ones at the airport. It was indeed magical in that it transported you to the half-way point of the bunny hill, allowing you to save your energy for practicing your PIE WEDGE ski stance on the way down. I stared at it in awe. And then the snarky voice in my head reared up and was all like, “FOR THE LOVE OF SNOWMEN AND PEPPERMINT SCHNAPPS WHY DID I HAVE TO PRACTICE SIDESTEPPING UP THE BABY HILL 800,000 TIMES WHEN THERE WAS A MAGIC CARPET THAT COULD DO IT FOR ME??? WHY, GENE??? WHY???”

The mythical Magic Carpet is in the foreground

The mythical Magic Carpet is in the foreground

I successfully shushed the snarky voice in my head, not wanting to jeopardize my chances for a ride on The Magic Carpet. I got in line behind some obnoxiously skillful four year-olds who had apparently mastered the art of skiing so quickly they’d spent most of their morning lesson riding The Magic Carpet and smoothly swooshing down the bunny hill. I ignored their little smug looks and stepped onto The Magic Carpet for the short, yet blissful and gentle ride to the top.

After a few runs down the bunny hill, my ankles were registering their revolt by sending pulsating stabs of pain with each step I took. Unfortunately, my delicate, twiggy ankles could not be more securely fastened in the Storm Trooper boots and as such, they were suffering. I was certain that I had shed several layers of skin inside the boots and any further swishing and pie wedging down the bunny hill at -2.3MPH was only going to make it worse. I had been ignoring it because I wanted to finish the lesson with a ride on the ski lift and, at the very least, a run down the bunny hill from the tippy top. Sadly, not even a ride on The Magic Carpet could convince my ankles to take one more step. I told Gene I had to sit out the last half hour of the lesson because my ankles were rubbing in my boots and were now painfully sore.

Thinking I was your typical newbie wimp, Gene told me I was doing great and to stick it out just a little longer. It was clear he wasn’t going to let me give up so easily, so I had to take it up another notch. If I was a writer worthy of the title, I was going to need to do better than “sore ankles” as a lame description. That’s why I told Gene, thanks, but no thanks because my ankles felt like they were being bludgeoned by cheese graters dipped in acid inside my boots of death. Gene gave me a concerned look from behind the amber lenses of his ski goggles, which I’m sure meant he felt sorry for me and my poor ankles. He said something about there being a first aid area in the lodge and then resumed the lesson the 12 y.o. and Defiant Boy.

The 12 y.o. and her stellar skiing

The 12 y.o. and her stellar skiing

The 12 y.o. finished her lesson with a successful ride on the ski lift and a run down the bunny hill. I finished with two slightly bludgeoned ankles and a smidge of my pride still intact. The 12 y.o. swished and swooshed gracefully to the door of the lodge while I hobbled and limped my way back, only barely avoiding the temptation to walk the last 100 yards barefoot in the snow instead of keeping my ankles in the boots of death for one second longer. As soon as I made it inside to a bench, the Storm Trooper boots came off. I think I yelled hallelujah or maybe something inappropriate for all the stares I received in the rental room, but I didn’t care. My ankles were FREE.

If I hadn’t been so wounded, we would have spent the afternoon practicing our pie wedges and impressing everyone with our newly learned skills. As it turned out, the 12 y.o. had had enough of skiing for the day and after a leisurely lunch in which we regaled our friends with our tales of conquering moles and bunnies, we packed up and headed home. It wasn’t quite the ski outing I had in mind for us, but we did learn a lot and had some fun.

Would we go skiing again? We both agreed we definitely would. I, of course, will pack seven pairs of socks, twenty-four band aids, two neck pillows (one for each ankle), and the ethically and sustainably harvested fur of one Yeti to shove in my Storm Trooper boots to protect my delicate, toothpick-sized ankles. I may also give snowboarding a whirl to see if it’s any easier to master and to give another instructor the chance to hear my brilliant descriptions of pain and suffering.


How about you, adventurous readers? Any tales of conquering the slopes, bunny-sized or not? What adventures have you taken that didn’t turn out as planned, but left you willing to give it another go? Any advice for those with delicate ankles who would like to ski or snowboard for longer than a couple of hours? The tea has been steeped, my ankles are under wraps, and the pillows are fluffed. Come share your ideas, suggestions, and thoughts. I always love to hear from you.

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20 thoughts on “Conquering the Bunny Hill in Storm Trooper Boots of Death

  1. on ,
    Marcia said:

    Tami, I was eating my lunch at work (w/o tweezers) while reading your bunny hill adventure. I almost spewed chili across the room when I read your ankle torture description “…my ankles felt like they were being bludgeoned by cheese graters dipped in acid inside my boots of death.” Wow, Funny stuff! That gave me a pretty vivid picture of excruciating pain though. The two neck pillows idea (for your ankles) caught me off guard too, for a good laugh. Now I must get back to work. Take good care, Tami.


    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Glad it made you laugh, Marcia! (You’re quite a hoot yourself with those tweezers.) 🙂

  2. Well you CANNOT quit now! You’ve got to let those ankles heal and go back for your ride on the magic carpet. But you are absolutely right about the Storm Trooper boots. Every year I have to break mine in again. If you owned a pair, you could try walking around the house with them, just to build up calluses on your ankles. And of course, if/when you have your own, they just FIT better than rentals.
    Snowboard boots are more comfortable. Snowboard lessons are more exhausting.
    And, you can’t expect your skiing skills to match your writing skills right off the bat. Gotta say, your writing skills are amazing. Absolutely LOVED this description of the first day of skiing!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Nah, I won’t quit. I just need some better gear. Like you pointed out, I figured there has to be better fitting boots out there besides the ones I rented for the day. So glad to hear that snowboarding boots are more comfortable. I can tolerate an exhausting snowboarding lesson as long as my ankles (or anything else for that matter) isn’t in pain.

      Thanks for the abundantly kind words about my writing skills. I’m thrilled you enjoyed reading about my adventure. 🙂

  3. Your tale reminds me of my experience. I ski twice at the same time — first and last. I broke my wrist the summer before playing tennis and was reluctant to chance another fall. The private ski instructor finally through his hands in the air and said, “you can’t do. I give up.” That was it. Now I hang out around the fire and read or write…and love it.

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Oh, that’s too bad your ski instructor was so quick to give up on you. Even so, it sounds like you’re quite content by the fire. Not a bad place to be when the snow and wind is blowing outside. 🙂

  4. Sorry to hear that the problem with your boots made for a less than optimal experience, but I’m glad it doesn’t seem to be deterring you from another go at it. I can’t believe I let myself live for 14 years in a place that got a lot of snow, and never tried skiing or snowboarding. Now it’s infinitely more inconvenient to try it out.

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Growing up in the midwest made downhill skiing a bit inconvenient for me, too. Then I moved out west and have not made good use of the opportunities practically outside my front door. There’s an embarrassment of riches here for an outdoor enthusiast and I’ve only scratched the surface, though to be fair to myself many of the adventures really do require some kind of lesson or instruction so you don’t get seriously injured. Going on a hike? I can do that just fine. But rafting down a river with rapids? Rock climbing down a mountain? Skiing or snowboarding? I’ll gladly pay for a lesson or two so I can return home in one piece. 🙂

  5. The one time I ever tried downhill skiing (back in year 9), I remember trying to get on the ski lift — one of those pommel ones, which is kind of like sitting on a large knot on the bottom of a rope — and failing miserably. Instead, I floundered about prostrate in the snow, skis hopelessly tangled, while several pommel things swung around and past me, and the other onlooking skiers laughed like maniacs. At least that’s how I think it happened — I’ve blocked the experience from my mind.

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      I’m seeing a theme here in the kasbah with the skiing stories and not so fond memories of the experiences. So sorry that happened to you, Ellen! It makes my less than ideal ski day look tame in comparison. I’ve never seen a pommel ski lift before – sounds treacherous to navigate. I would have ended up face down in the snow, too. 🙂

  6. Your experience (SO well written) brought back vivid memories of my first time(s) on the slopes.

    Those snow boots are wicked even when they fit right. I, too, first learned on a bunny slope with no one but an experienced skier (and boyfriend) to teach me. He got bored with the bunny slope. So, up the mountain we go (with me sucking wine from my little over-the-shoulder leather sack).

    Off the ski lift we hop. He skis off. I fall in a clump. The dudes in charge at the top drag my body from the landing pad. Boyfriend is NOWHERE! I managed to get onto a black slope. My legs were jelly from trying to snow plough down that sucker. I finally took off my skis and walked down the slope. I have NO CLUE why I turned down the offer to be taken off the mountain on a snowmobile. Pride, I guess. Oh, yeah. MUCH better to walk down the trail than zip up on a snowmobile.

    SO well told, Tami. Learn to traverse the mountain ASAP. It’s the only thing that will save you.

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Heaps of thanks, Gloria! Glad you enjoyed reading about my adventure on the slopes.

      What is with friends/boyfriends deserting my fellow newbie skiers in their time of need? This is the 4th story like that shared here in the kasbah this week! I am so very thankful my first time on the slopes was with a 12 y.o. who was as clueless as I about skiing. You are made of sturdier stuff than I, Gloria, to not only have walked down the slope in those wretchedly stiff boots, but also for going back and trying it all again. You are a skiing rock star.

      I will go back and conquer more than the baby mole hill and the half-bunny hill. The Magic Carpet will be seeing a lot more of me until I feel I’ve got more control over my PIE WEDGING down the hill.

  7. Ka-snort on conquering moles and bunnies! Tami, you are such a brave soul. I was invited to go skiing once, when I was far younger and limber. Still, I hesitated. What if I broke a leg? My inviter assured me if I broke anything on my first time out, it was more likely it would be a thumb than a leg.

    Yeah. I decided to stay home and wash my hair!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      It’s a bit intimidating getting up on that mountain with only a pair of slippery sticks and skinny poles to help me find my way in the snow. There’s a reason I’ve put off giving skiing a try. Broken anything never sounded good to me. I’ll stick with the bunny hill until I’ve got that down. There’s also a good chance that I’ll never go beyond that and I’m o.k. with that, too. When it comes down to it, I’d rather keep full use of all my limbs thankyouverymuch.

  8. “FOR THE LOVE OF SNOWMEN AND PEPPERMINT SCHNAPPS ” ~ Bwahahahaha! Love this line.
    I have skied quite a bit, but I don’t have any great tales to tell. ~ didn’t take lessons, just swished down the mountain. Ahh, to be a teen daredevil again 😉
    I did try scuba diving once, though, which didn’t go as well as planned. It was in Cozumel and my instructor’s name was Elvis ~ long story short, I got lost from the class, was convinced that jaws was after me just out of my eyesight, panicked and rushed to the surface where I received a tongue lashing from Elvis himself.
    …and I would do it again 🙂

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Scuba diving is on my Adventures List, though I hope my instructor is kinder than Elvis was with you. I would have rushed to the surface, too, if I thought Jaws was out there just waiting for a Tami-sized snack. Glad to hear it didn’t deter you from doing it again. 🙂

  9. I haven’t skied in years…the last time I went was with my sister, whose guiding principle was “three runs and a beer”. That may have contributed to my extended hiatus. Your post totally cracked me up, Tami. Strong work!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Thanks, Liv! I like your sister’s guiding principle, though I think mine would be “three runs and hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps”. You know, to warm me up. 😉

  10. You are very brave! I have never downhill skied. I have rollerblades though, and the fellow who took me up and then down steep hills on those skates my first time out cured me of ever wanting to ski downhills. I overcame my fear of rollerblading and actually love it, as long as no steep hills are involved! Pavement and concrete are not falling friendly!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Rollerblades scare me more than skiing for the exact reason you pointed out: pavement and concrete are not so soft when falling. At least snow provides a little cushioning. You’re more brave than I to get on those things. 🙂

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