When Your Childhood Passion Leaves You Cold

When I was a kid, I loved to downhill ski.

Every Saturday afternoon, my friend Carmen’s parents would drive us out to the local ski resort, Medonte Mountain (which was decidedly not a mountain but a glorified hill in central Ontario). Carmen and I would take a ski lesson together and then spend the rest of the afternoon skiing down one run after another, hardly able to get up and down the hills fast enough. There was one slope that we especially loved called Manitou, a thrilling series of undulating paths carved between trees and emptying out onto a steeper, gently moguled lower section. Even the return trip up the T-bar was exciting, especially if someone fell off and the lift stopped just as we reached the steep part of the hill. We’d sit there, clinging to the bar then laughing our heads off when it jarred us into forward motion again.

So it’s interesting that, as an adult, downhill skiing leaves me cold.

The standard line these days is to do what you loved as a kid. Sometimes that works (see Scaling Trees in Wintertime); and sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometime that train has left the station and isn’t coming back.

But I digress.

Yesterday, my husband invited me out to the local ski resort for an afternoon of downhill skiing. “Ten runs,” he said. “Then we can go out for dinner.”

No, my gut said. No. Stay home. Make a steaming cup of coffee, snuggle up in a blanket and read a novel in the blessed solitude.

I hesitated.

Stay home, my gut said, twisting itself into a knot.

I bit my lip.

“Sure,” I said. My gut dropped in shock and surprise. You’re not serious.

My husband grinned, gave me a squeeze and then set about gathering our equipment.

I haven’t skied very often in recent years. My husband bought me ski passes for a several years running, but stopped after two or three years of my repeatedly refusing to go. This time I thought, oh go try it for heaven’s sakes. You used to love it. Open your mind, dear. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have a blast. So I pulled on my face warmer, packed up my skis and joined him.

An hour later, we were on our way down the Pony Tail.

“So, how was that?” my husband asked after our first run.

I hesitated, not wanting to rain on the parade but also wanting to be honest. I went with the latter.

“Well,” I said, “honestly, I find it kind of boring.” And it is boring. You spend seven minutes going up the high-speed chair lift then two-and-a-half minutes schussing down. Maybe three if you make especially wide turns.

“Glass half full,” he said.

“Maybe,” I replied. But I don’t think it’s that simple.

For one thing, I get cold. How can I stay warm when I spend fully two-thirds of the time sitting on my duff on the ski-lift? I can layer up like the Michelin Man but so long as I am not moving the cold will insinuate itself into my boots and gloves until I’m shivering. When I was a kid, I didn’t notice the cold like I do now. What can I say? I weigh all of a hundred and twenty pounds and, at age 48, my personal thermostat isn’t what it was when I was 12.

And there are things I’d rather do. Hell, I’d actually rather get my teeth cleaned by the dentist than go downhill skiing.

I try. I watch the beginners – that’s pretty darn interesting, poles stuck out at their sides and mouths wide open in fear. It’s also kind of scary and I give them a wide berth. I make a point of taking in the scenery, too, the pine trees dusted in snow, the blue sky– all of which is glorious until the wicked wind chill forces me to pull up my neck warmer, fogging up my glasses leaving me unable to see. Natch. Whatever.

I work on my technique, what little I remember from the ski lessons I took as a kid. I shift my weight carefully, plant my poles thoughtfully, keep my body focussed downhill. My mind starts yapping at me offering tips. You could take a lesson. You could watch a few YouTube videos on technique. You could….

You could do something you’d rather being doing, dear. Life is short. You tried. It’s okay.

What can I say? Downhill left me cold, but then again, this is Ontario. Maybe that doesn’t really count.

Will I go again? Sure. But it won’t be for the skiing. I’ll go to cuddle to my husband on the ski-lift, to enjoy the conversation on the way up the hill and admire his technique as I ski behind him on the way down.

And maybe I’ll ask him this: “How about I take you tree-top trekking next summer and you can tell me how you find that?”

“Deal,” he’ll say, good sport that he is.

And when that happens I’ll be grateful he came and I’ll grant him the same latitude I’ve just granted myself: the power of saying “yes” followed by “You know what? That’s not my favourite thing to do. And that’s okay, too.”

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