I have Fridays off. I know. It sucks, right? Having a week day off gives me amazing opportunities, like avoiding the legions of weekend warriors on the ski hills. The only drawback is that I’m mostly alone. No one else, my age, has Fridays off. Therefore, a few Fridays ago, just like most Fridays this winter, I went skiing solo.
It was a warm, sunny afternoon not an alpine start at all and even though no significant snow had fallen in the previous weeks, the conditions looked decent enough from the chairlift. I went down my usual warm up run and thought it would be fun to push it a little harder. However, I felt queasy about doing it solo. How is pushing your limits in a well controlled ski resort riskier when alone, I wonder. Until I figure this out, this is how it is for me.
On the second chairlift ride, I sat with two sympathetic old men. One thing I’ve noticed is that the crowd during the week is mainly composed of older men and women, some of them backed by 40+ years of skiing experience. They are superb to watch, with exquisite technique and quite friendly to boot.
I am rather outgoing and being by myself, I find, gives me the liberty to engage more often and more thoroughly with strangers. I asked my two chair partners, aged 63 and 72, where was the good snow. Follow us on our next ride, they said. I could have let the age difference stop me and I could have let the fact that I didn’t know them stop me too, but I bit the ice and accepted gladly. This was, after all, the occasion to push a little harder. Because I didn’t know the run they were taking me on either, I asked how it compares to my nemesis, a double-black diamond, the last pitch of which, I’ve mainly gone down on the defensive (read on my heals or with my most cherished survival techniques possibly accompanied by yelps of fear). The two old men said it is similar and looked at each other, a bit worried about my abilities. I shrugged it off saying they should come rescue me if I fell. They laughed and we launched in it.
I surprised every one, including myself, rolling away over the steep walls. At the bottom of the slope, they cheered and fist bumped me (I fist bumped 70-year-old men. Awesome!). I thought, however, it was not nearly as hard as my nemesis and told them so. Of course, they challenged me on it. I accepted with a pride-filled grin.
We rolled quickly down to the last pitch of my nemesis and stopped to look down. Ice. Dreaded icy patches. As I said, I’ve come down this pitch a few times in the past, using my best survival techniques: traversing, falling leaves sideslips, down stepping, and downright escaping (i.e. cutting to the next slope before this section). This time, animated by the encouragements of my two friends, I started to sing my skiing mantra (yeah, that’s right, I have a mantra for pretty much all the activities I practice). My skiing one is “lean forward and attack the slope”. It wasn’t pretty but I did it. My skis bit the ice and I carved it!
Victory arms, woot-woots of glee, and a second round of mittened-fist bumps carried us three up in the chairlift looking for another challenge to tackle. On each chairlift rides, we shared bits of our lives. One of the two men had been a goalie for the Ramparts a long time ago and “stopped” (his own mitten quote marks) a few pucks from Le Démon Blond. The other used to camp in a trailer at the bottom of the slopes with his family and ski relentlessly every weekends. Awesome dudes!
When we parted, we kissed on each cheeks (like Quebecers do), fist bumped one last time and I told them I’ll be looking for them on the slopes next week.
What a friggin’ amazing day!