It’s funny how every skiing accident story starts with the phrase, “It was the last run of the day…” Have you ever noticed that? Is it just me? You’re chatting with a friend and the conversation meanders from topic to topic and somehow it gets around to skiing stories and they’ve got a great one about when their day went sideways: “Oh man, let me tell you about MY skiing story! It was the last run of the day….”
Every. Time. And every time I think to myself, “Of course it was the last run of the day! If it weren’t, there probably wouldn’t be a story coming.” or “Of course it was the last run of the day. Because after that run, you couldn’t walk, let alone ski, because your knee bent the other way.” I’ve found that starting a skiing story with “It was the last run of the day” is usually totally redundant. So I might as well drop my own skiing story in here. (I have several. But for grins and giggles I’ll share one that WASN’T the last run of the day.)
It was my first time skiing. Ever. I think I was 14 or so. I was with my youth group and we were on a weekend winter retreat. It wasn’t a huge youth group, so we all crammed into this rented chalet for the weekend. It was a Saturday and I was so excited/terrified to ski for the first time. Now, when you’re 14, “fitting in” beats “thinking smart” every time. So when offered the chance to take some lessons for beginners over to the side under that large banner that said “Lessons for Beginners”, I bravely decided to be an idiot and pass it up. “Nah, just point me to the ski lift.” Not sure if those were my words, but that was my attitude. Pretty classic 14, no?
Now, I don’t remember who was sitting with me on the chair lift. It could’ve been any number of historical figures and I wouldn’t have noticed. I only remember how much better my legs felt when I put my skis, strapped to my boots, strapped to my feet on the foot rest of the safety bar rather than just letting them dangle. When they dangled, I felt a lot like Lando Calrissian when his legged was wrapped by one of the tentacles of the Sarlacc as he slowly slid down the side of the Sarlacc Pit.
So I reached the top of the mountain and was nowhere near ready to ski down it. Side note: The majority of skiing I had seen up to that point in my life was Olympic skiing. And those people had a very specific technique: Point your skis toward the bottom of the mountain and let gravity live your life. So, I figured, “If its good enough for Olympic athletes, its good enough for me!” No joke. That was my strategy.
Fast forward 2, maybe 3 seconds later and I get the feeling that I’m completely out of control. I learned very quickly–as beginner skiers do–that the ground is your worst enemy and your very best friend. Its a complicated relationship, to say the least. The ground will slow and stop your descent, but getting to the ground is a rather painful experience that is fraught with uncertainty. I quickly mastered the stopping technique I like to call “falling” and in no time was feeling much more like a skier. Albeit the kind of skier that all other humans on the slopes absolutely hate, but a skier nonetheless.
So, there I was on my glorious descent down the mountain not unlike someone who clearly should’ve been under that “Lessons for Beginners” banner, watching a video on how to put your boots on. I was nearing the spot where all the various trails converge into a wide open area at the ski lodge. I was coming off my trail and into a much more wide open space (thank the Lord) like a bat outta you-know-where when to my left I spotted a ski school of 4 to 5 year olds all skiing pleasantly and correctly as they sweetly slalomed down the slope. And I quickly noticed they were all tethered together at the waist. No kidding. I had no time to wonder why that might be because I was too busy noticing that their path was very clearly going to intersect with my path (the one I had little to no control over). And just as I predicted seconds earlier, I found my left ski which was still attached to my left leg going right between the two skis of that poor unfortunate 4 year old who was leading the tethered-together ski school of children who were in the process of learning the correct way to ski. Like a line of toddler-sized dominoes, down they went. I, on the other hand, for some God-knows-why reason survived the collision still up on my skis and continued my descent. You know those bright orange plastic fences that sometimes line the sides of ski slopes? The ones with the holes cut into them? The ones that are apparently often used to mark where skiers should stop and not ski past? Yep. Those. Well, there was one such bright orange fence right in front of the ski lodge. The ski lodge that featured a 20-30 foot plate glass window so that skiers inside the lodge could relax with hot cocoa or hot toddies and watch skiers shooshing down the slopes.
I found myself airborne over that fence and landing on the wrong side of that fence. I looked up and noticed a large number of hot-cocoa-sipping eyes looking down on me from above. I then looked and saw a none-too-pleased ski school instructor on the correct side of the fence but shouting in my direction. Whether he was shouting at me or not, let’s just leave that to mystery. I got up somehow unharmed and I think I mumbled an apology the way a 14 year old guy would and went on my way.
And that was the FIRST run of the day.
Now, you know I’ve got to extrapolate some kind of lesson here. There’s GOT to be some kind of truth, or principle, or wit, or wisdom, or illustration. If you’re inclined to know what it could be then read on. If you’re good with simply hearing the tale of my first time skiing then we will part ways here. Thanks for reading.
Now, for the rest of you. As my age has climbed (though I feel not much older than I was), I’ve come to think more and more about how I’m living this life. This isn’t unique at all. Its the human experience to reflect, to wonder, and adjust, and to aspire to more as your time gets less. I get that. But what I want to do and why I shared this story in the first place is to truly live a life that 1) doesn’t prioritize fitting in, 2) looks bravely at the opportunity in front of me and doesn’t back down due to fear, 3) lives an out-of-(my)-control life, knowing who IS in control, 4) impacts others around me, perhaps in a way that none of us saw coming, and 5) doesn’t stop until I’m on my back in a box.
I hope you’re glad you stayed. I hope you live life to its fullest today. I hope you don’t have to take out tethered toddlers to learn what God is teaching you today. I hope that you’ll find a way to point your skis in the direction God guides and just go for it.