When Seniors Hit the Slopes

Eighteen years have passed since I first wrote a column about skiing in West Virginia. The “Wild Women” friends I ski with aren’t middle-aged anymore. We’re senior citizens. But that didn’t stop us from piling into an SUV during one of the coldest weeks in January and heading to Snowshoe Mountain

Getting fitted for boots and skis and then buckling and buttoning and zipping into our winter gear was more exhausting than it used to be. But the temperature was a balmy 23 degrees with only mild winds blowing. The snow was perfect. We were certain it was going to be a day to remember as we made our way to the top of the first run.

For about five minutes, everything was groovy. Then the Friend Number One fell. We helped her stand up and put her skis back on and went merrily on our way. Not long afterwards, an overzealous snowboarder got way too close to Friend Number Two, who purposely hit the ground to keep from being decapitated. And so the day went. Numerous spills, but no injuries.

Until the last run of the day. As we skied toward the lift that would take us to the parking lot, I got to going way too fast. On a short but steeper-than-I-realized slope, I discovered I couldn’t turn my skis quickly enough to slow down. I went flying. Skis and poles scattered everywhere. My head (helmeted, thank goodness) hit the ground first. Pain radiated through my arms, legs, and neck. Two friends gathered up my equipment while another stood over me clucking sympathetically. “This is kind of like how Liam Neeson’s wife died,” she said. “Only she wasn’t wearing a helmet.”

Somehow that didn’t make me feel a whole lot better.

Obviously, I didn’t die. But I was sore for several days and secretly glad that the ice and snow that fell on West Virginia the following couple of days kept us from venturing back to the resort. To amuse ourselves while we sat inside a drafty old house with no internet or TV, conversation turned toward what we’d choose if we were in charge of naming ski trails. Here’s what we came up with.

BLACK DIAMOND (extremely difficult): Widowmaker (a real trail at Snowshoe), High Anxiety, Death Wish. BLUE (moderately difficult): Faceplant, What Was I Thinking?, Scooter (named for those who take off their skis, place them across their laps, and scoot to the bottom of the run on their rear end. Don’t ask me how I know this.) GREEN (easy): Wounded Knee, Easy Rider, You’re a Chicken. Most fun of all are beginner trails, which tend to have cute names like Bunny Hop, Fairy Dust, Giggles and Slow Poke.

But that’s not what I named my beginner trail. I call it Crybaby. And from now on, it’s likely to be the only trail I’ll ski on.

(February 4, 2018)