Timberline is a ski resort located on Mt. Hood, Oregon. A timber line is a line of debarkation into an area where growth is no longer possible.
Now watch as I bring those two concepts together in a special Guru of Negativity kind of way. Today I’m going to share a true story from my period of apprenticeship that we will never speak of again.
The local news just reported that Timberline Lodge has received the first snowfall of the year. It’s not likely to stick around, so it’s a skosh early to grab my skis and take to the slopes, but it does remind me of the time…
The Distant Past
The year was [top secret] and irrelevant to this tale. I was in the first grade. I still remember it well. My grandma was taking me to Mt. Hood for the very first skiing experience of my short life.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was not your average bear. She was a rugged outdoor type and individualist. She had her own ideas about things and she was fierce in her pursuit of them.
For example, one year for Christmas she gave my sister a Tonka construction truck big enough to sit on and ride down a hill. I, on the other hand, received a doll that I kind of remember having the name Little Susie Wet Pants or something like that.
Humans are a culture that invented a doll that simulates the act of peeing. Always remember that.
The point is that grandma liked to mix things up. She didn’t think it was right to force gender stereotypes on wee little children. She was way ahead of her time.
Another typical gift from grandma might consist of camping gear like high tech sleeping bags we were told would keep us warm 150 degrees below zero. (I never did test that.)
So there I was on Mt. Hood with my grandmother and no additional adult supervision. My parents weren’t around. I remember being extra excited because in addition to skiing for the first time ever I was also missing a day of school.
Grandma signed me up for a skiing class and …. this is where it gets good … it was the “advanced” class. Yep, no regular class was good enough for her flesh and blood.
Did I mention this was my first time on skis in my entire life?
The instructor started things off by sending us up the hill and watching us come back down. He wanted to evaluate our skills. Needless to say, my run was a bit shaky. Somehow, though, I made it to the bottom of the hill. He gave me his feedback.
“You’d better go up and do that again,” he told me. He must have already been thinking about pulling me from the class.
The next thing I know I’m at the midpoint of the course and down with exquisite pain. I had broken my leg. They whizzed me off the mountain on a snowmobile ambulance and later that day I was in a cast.
It’s hard to say, but this might be where I learned to utterly despise the sport of skiing. That’s just a guess, though.
Such was a typical outing for young guru in training.
By this time I was an “adult.”
My dad liked to ski. Since I hardly knew the jerk face and we seldom did anything together, getting to spend actual time with him was a rare treat. He had also picked up an annoying penchant of skiing in a fit of midlife crisis or something. So when he invited me to spend the day with him, just the two of us, I pathetically jumped at the chance.
I forget where we went skiing. It was most likely Big Bear or someplace like that.
Funny thing is, for spending the day together, I didn’t actually see him that much. I knew well my limitations on skis. I’ve never grokked the act of skiing at all. So I’d grab hold of a gentle cable that took me up about 15 feet in elevation and very slowly slide back to the bottom. Snails made it down the hill at faster speed.
I distinctly remember the run was named BUTTERCUP. It was me and a bunch of four-year-olds.
In an attempt to be cute the ski resort would give the runs names that were supposed to reflect their degree of difficulty. BUTTERCUP was my domain. Other places on the mountain had more ominous names like CLIFF FACE, CHICKEN RUN, POWDERHORN, PSYCHO PATH, CERTAIN DEATH, TREE DODGER, etc.
My dad spent the day elsewhere on courses like these. I’d occasionally see him briefly at the bottom before he’d hop on the forbidden lift and zoom away to places unknown.
Then he’d be away to ski some more. It was real quality time.
Around lunch time the bastard showed up looking for me. “Hungry?” he asked.
He then described the most mouthwatering meat lover’s BBQ restaurant you can possibly imagine. To a bored and cold idiot on skis it sounded like paradise.
“Let’s go. Where is this place?”
“At the very tippy top of the mountain.”
My next question was the epitome of logic. “How the fuck do you get back down?”
I knew what that meant. The way back down was decidedly not going to consist of BUTTERCUP caliber runs. But, seriously, there wasn’t much decision making that took place. I’m pathetic.
The ride on the lift (which would turn out to be the only one of my life) was fun. The BBQ was awesome. There was something about putting it on top of a frickin’ icy mountain of Hell that made it extra delicious.
Then came the moment I had dreaded. It was time to go back down. That meant real skiing. The time of BUTTERCUP was over. I studied the mountain map and picked what I figured was the course with the easiest name: WIDOWMAKER.
“Let’s do this, bitch.”
With a swish swish my dad pushed off and was quickly down the hill and out of sight.
I pushed off and made it ten feet. Wham! I hit hard and tasted frozen snow.
Wearily I struggled to my feet. I couldn’t help but notice the BBQ stain left on the pure white snow from my face. Delicious.
I pushed off again. I traveled another ten feet. Wham!
To vary the experience, I screamed a bit and flailed around, hitting the snow with my poles like a petulant child. I looked around. I was all alone.
Trust me on this. It was a long way down. Ten feet at a time. Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham!
You get the idea.
Arriving at the bottom I was a twisted ball of rage. Battered, bruised, and my arms were exhausted by all that angry flailing around. I kicked off my skis and boots and stumped around in the snow in my bare feet. Then I turned in my rental equipment and stripped out of my gear. I was done in every sense of the word. D-O-N-E. Fuck my dad.
I spent the rest of the day sitting in the lodge, alone, while my dad enjoyed the slopes and got his money’s worth from his lift ticket.
And that’s how my skiing career was abruptly stopped short.
I was married to a man like that. “Don’t be a wuss. The black diamond doesn’t mean anything.” Seconds later, a ski pole jammed into my upper lip. Ski hills are places where lots of people go to lose their dignity, their souls, their confidence and their front teeth. They are brought there by people who have no shame, no respect, no compassion. They are surrounded by other people with no compassion who call them “lift hazards.” The hell with skiing.
LOL! Well, sorry about your lip. I guess I forgot the part where my dad had a mischievous glint in his eye when he tempted me with the holy grail of skier food. He knew what he was doing.
The hell with skiing! 🙂
That’s a very sad story.
On the other hand, it sounds at the top like you still ski.
I’m preparing some very special BBQ just for you. Come and get it.
I’m really really tempted! when we were in Portland last year, I called to see if Mt Hood was open, but sadly, it was one of the few summer weeks they were closed.
Still on my list to ski there…
I’m glad that first day you managed to get a whole run-and-a-half in before breaking a bone. No wonder it lit such a fire within you to keep it up… 🙂
I’ve always liked skiing. I started in high school on the ice slopes of Pennsylvania. After that, anything that had a dusting of snow seemed like heaven. Don’t get to partake too much down here in SD, though I’m always game to re-try, though I think I’ve probably been downgraded to Buttercup-level trails.
I’d love to hit the slopes with you. Just tie some BBQ to your back.
Big Bear isn’t too bad, but the windy roads to get there can be one hell of a parking lot. There’s nothing like flying in.
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