Robert's column

Column: I’ve always liked to ski, but …

I accidentally and unknowingly veered onto a black diamond run

I used to like to downhill ski, but I was never very good at it.

I was watching a video taken by my nephew of his two young kids, aged eight and six, as they recently sailed down Mount Washington at fairly high speeds with what looked like very little effort at all.

Of course, their parents have been bringing them to the ski hill since shortly after they were first able to walk, so now it’s second nature to them.

I never had that luxury when I was growing up.

My family never lived near any ski hills like my nephews and nieces do on Vancouver Island, so my skiing abilities have always been more than a little stunted.

I did try to get into it when I first moved here and visited Mount Washington a number of times to see if I could build the skills necessary to cruise down the slopes as easily as my nephew and niece currently can.

But, being in my 30s at the time, I had become old enough to develop a good measure of fear and caution that young kids don’t seem to have.

So, while I could make it from the top of a ski run to the bottom, there was not much grace or beauty to my style, and my slow progression down the hill, with my ski poles flying in every direction like some deranged porcupine, was about as good as I got.

While I was a little apprehensive when two old friends from back east invited me to a ski weekend at Whistler several years ago, I hadn’t seen them for some time, so I went.

I acknowledged to them that they were likely better skiers than I was, so while they went straight to the top of the 2,200-metre mountain to take the runs for more experienced skiers, I decided to take some of the more undemanding trails on the hill.

I found a trail that was marked green (which means easy) and I had a couple of enjoyable, while comparatively slow, runs on it.

I went up for my third run on that trail and about halfway down, I accidentally and unknowingly veered onto a black diamond run, which is one of the more difficult trails at Whistler.

I approached a ridge on the run and wrongfully assumed it was the same one that was about two feet high that I had gone over before, which had put me in the air for a split second, so I sped up a little to gather momentum.

But when I went over it, I was horrified to find myself flying through the air over a ridge that was about eight feet high.

I remember I was airborne long enough to decide to try to handle it like a professional skier, and I got into that crouch position you see them do in competition.

I really thought I was going to make it until I hit the hill at an uncomfortable speed like a drunken sailor and pretty much exploded.

My skis, poles, gloves, cap and scarf were torn away from me as I went head-over-heels for quite a distance until I finally came to a stop, with snow stuffed into every orifice and the wind knocked out of me.

There was a debris field filled with my equipment and clothes behind me and when several teenage girls came upon the crash site, they were so concerned about my condition that they called in medical personnel, who were quickly on scene.

By this time, I was able to catch my breath and the medical people determined that no bones were broken, but they laid me on a sled behind one of their snowmobiles and took me to the bottom of the hill for more observation.

After they finally released me, I spent the rest of the day in a hot tub nursing a beer and my pride.

When my friends arrived several hours later, they were shocked and amused by my story.

They said they saw the medical ambulance carrying someone down the hill and they had joked that it was probably me, and they found it hilarious that it really was.

Anyway, hip problems prevent me from skiing anymore and, while I miss it a bit, it’s probably just as well.

Robert Barron writes for the Cowichan Valley Citizen.

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