By DARREN HANDSCHUH
The last time I went skiing was in elementary school.
I enjoyed screaming down a tree-lined mountain while attempting to stand on two pieces of glazed wood, but I just did not have an opportunity to pursue it.
My dad gave me a choice of skiing or playing hockey. It was an easy decision because I already had some hockey gear and it was hinted that hockey should be my sport of choice.
It was a subtle hint, something along the lines of “You’re playing hockey this winter.”
I didn’t mind, actually, because I liked the game and some of my friends played so I laced up the blades instead of strapping on the planks.
I did do some skiing as a kid and in Grades 4-7 when our class went several times on organized day trips to a local ski hill.
We all piled onto a big yellow bus and, much like in the classroom, the cool kids sat at the back with the social heirachy sorting itself out until the dorks were left sitting at the front next to the teacher.
I can’t remember exactly where I sat, but I do recall it was not a very long walk once I got on the bus.
Once aboard the provided transportation it was a raucous and noisy ride to the ski hill where we would put on our rented boots – that always and without fail made our feet hurt – and grabbed our rented skis before heading to the T-bar for a tow up the hill.
A great deal of social status came with the type of skis you were given as well. Certain kinds were in vogue and if you were unfortunate enough to get one that was not considered cool, well, you might as well strap a couple of 2x4s to your feet.
The uncool skis worked just as well as any other pair of skis, but they simply were not cool therefore the wearer was not cool.
The ski days always started out with a brief lesson before 60 kids were turned loose on the mountain.
As often happened, a few of us turned skiing into a full-contact sport. We would barrel down the hill at break neck speed all the while trying to body check each other into oblivion.
After delivering a hip check to a buddy of mine, I soared down the hill laughing all the way, while he sat at the top of the hill just being sore.
My joy did not last long as payback was on the way.
I spent the next couple of runs trying to ski while looking behind me all the way down the mountain.
Eventually we reconnected at the top of the hill and my buddy – who was acting suspiciously friendly – encouraged me to follow him down a trail that went through some trees.
He took off and a few seconds later I followed. I watched him go around a bend and as I reached the same bend I found there was a small jump.
Now that would not be a big deal except my ‘friend’ was standing at the bottom of the jump with an evil grin on his face while holding his ski pole in the air like spike.
He was kind of crouched and ready for impact. He had obviously planned this little incident from the moment I accidentally ran into him a couple of runs earlier.
Sure, it may have looked like I intentionally came across the slope slightly from behind and then cut hard at the last moment to deliver a near picture perfect hip check, but in reality I was simply skiing, minding my own business and we just happen to collide.
It was not my fault he did a triple summersault with a full twist while I zoomed away.
I knew immediately revenge was at hand, but it is hard to dodge something when you are airborne. I managed to knock his pole out of the way with my own ski pole, but I twisted to the side as I did it.
When I hit the ground the tips of my skis had crossed and one went on one side of a tree, one went on another tree making an X while I went through the middle.
My skis hooked on the trees and I did a Superman impression without the cape as I shot straight forward. My skis however stayed with the tree and I crashed like the Exxon Valdez on New Year’s morning.
To say it was painful was to say Elvis had a doughnut problem.
My friend took off laughing like a madman while I lay in five feet of snow wondering when they would find the body.
A few classmates witnessed the incident and asked us later why we did such stupid things.
The best answer I could come up with was, “I dunno, because it’s fun.”