December Challenge: Holiday Adventures
But that wasn't the first time I'd ever strapped on skis. Nope. I did that at the top of a crazy-pants-tall mountain in the Alps called the Zugspitze. Some time in the late 1970's, after our family moved to Germany, we went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for some Christmas skiing. Garmisch hosted the 1936 winter olympics and was not only gorgeous, but totally geared for winter sports. We skated. We threw snowballs at passing Germans, and got a few lobbed back. We even swam in the indoor "wave" pool that acted like a beach every half hour.
It was great, until someone in my family got the idea that we should go skiing on the mountain whose top we hadn't seen the whole time because it was up in the clouds. Yeah. Don't know what they were thinking. I had one sister with some athletic ability. The rest of us were pretty much dorks: Thinkers. Singers. Brainiacs. Writers. And one spazz. (Not saying who.)
We should have been smart enough to back out when we found out that the only way to the resort was a gravity defying train-ride up the side of the Mountain. Then we should have been smart enough to back out when we got out of the train and found ourselves INSIDE the top of the Alps waiting on a platform for a tram to take us down to the slopes. BECAUSE WE WERE SO HIGH UP THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY TO GET TO THEM.
Finally, you'd think we'd have worried when we got herded into little corrals while we waited for our rides and all of the Germans started mooing. Yeah. No one was taking this seriously. I mean, the wind was so strong that our tram did some wicked swinging on the way down. But no one seemed to notice. Maybe all the Lager everyone (except us) drank on the way up had certain mind-numbing properties. What did I know? I was only 13.
We got to the slopes and my parents left me with a family friend who was to teach me to ski. But he hadn't skied in ten years and had missed it, so all I got from him was a very distracted "Um . . . put those on, point the skis downhill and go. Bye." And he was gone.
Well. I found out it takes a bit more than that to not be an idiot on two sticks. I took one step off of the rope-tow that had dragged me up the hill and fell right over. Took me an hour to get back up again. Wind kept blowing me backwards.
Once I succeeded and stood over my skis, I pointed down, pushed off . . . and fell over again. Did that several times over the course of the next half hour. It was getting to where I thought I might just stay down there and, you know, study snowflakes, when a German took pity on me and helped me up. It was so kind. I turned to thank him, but he shoved me down the slope. Turned out he was just trying to get me out of the way.
AAAAAAAAAAahhhhhhhh! I shot straight down. No poles, no turns, no shusshing, no nothing. Just: GETOUTOFMYWAYGETOUTOFMYWAYSORRYSORRYSORRYBAM!!
Yeah. It awesome. And it hurt. I remember laying in the snow looking up at the hill I'd just come down and thinking I'd rather die than try that again. Ironically I nearly got my wish. The wind had kicked up to like a hundred knots and visibility was going way down. I had no idea where my family was. All I knew was that as I stood up and looked around I was almost alone on the slopes. Some announcement had apparently been made that the resort was closing due to weather and the lower trams had taken their last riders back to the station. The rest of us would have to hike up to the upper trams. Carrying our skis. On our 13 year-old shoulders. In a million mile per hour wind gusts. I barely made it. The few German men around me looked like abominable snow-men as their faces accumulated snow and ice in the wicked wind-chill.
We got on the tram and the thing was swinging so hard in the wind that the sides were almost parallel to the ground. We were all plastered to our benches hanging on to the windows for dear life, with perma-grins on our faces. No one could move. I thought we might die, but at least I had skied, yeah?
We didn't die. Got to the corrals just fine. Found my family, and began mooing with the Germans again. Then we trained to the bottom of the mountain, alighted in a perfectly calm and snow-sifted village, returned our skis, peeled off our snow-gear, and hit the waves in the pool.
Ahhhhhhyeah. That was the best. What great memories. I still don't know how to ski, though. Even Ski World twelve years later couldn't accomplish that.