I grew up in the upper Midwest, which is mostly flat. We had hills big enough for sledding, but skiing was an exotic activity, exclusive to Alpine natives and rich folks who could afford winter vacations to places like St. Moritz.
But my children grew up skiing. We lived near probably the only hill in northern Illinois steep and long enough to accommodate winter thrill seekers. My daughters are still skiers, as are their children. I did try once. I think I am the only person to ever break a foot on the Bunny Hill. A 4-year-old, skiing like a maniac, cut in front of me and I crashed. (Nervy little showoff!) I became the subject of much hilarity. My teenage daughters brought their friends over to view my cast and the "the Klutz Who Couldn't Even Make It Down the Bunny Hill." The following year, having given up skiing (I have my pride), I broke my back on a toboggan. There were three of us, the Mugwort Bobsledding Team, and we all broke our backs. I began to suspect that I was not cut out for winter sports.
And then, 30 years later, I met and married Darling Husband, a Swiss and a lifelong skier, who wanted to take me skiing. Oh, goody! So off we went to Switzerland, home of World Cup skiing events and hardy people who could drink spiked coffee, carry on conversations and knit, all while on skis. They tromped around in solid-state boots as if they were bedroom slippers and carried skis as if they were mere twigs. I'm here to tell you, those modified barrel staves weigh a ton!
As luck would have it, that year Switzerland was plagued with huge snowfalls and avalanches. Our village suffered; three people were killed by an avalanche and the big ski "hills" were closed due to the avalanche threat. Undeterred, Darling Husband rented skis and boots for me and pressed on teaching this old dog new, snow-born, tricks. I did manage to slide into the village without mowing down any old ladies or flattening their yapping Yorkies. Feeling victorious and, thus far, uninjured, I was happy to take off the skis and sit in front of a fire with a warm glass of glogg, a delicious mixture of red wine, perhaps a shot of brandy and some cider with cinnamon, nutmeg and other mysterious things. It warms the cockles of one's heart and lends false courage to the old and foolish. "Of course! I'd be delighted to try out a small hill tomorrow!" The Swiss are not necessarily a kind people: They don't call that little slope the Bunny Hill, they call it the Idiot Hill.
So, true to my word, the following day I learned to hold on to the rope tow and got to the top of the hill. I looked down. Mistake! From our patio it looked like a small, gentle hill. From the top it looked like the Matterhorn. Add to that a whole bunch of 4-year-olds zigging and zagging down the slope. Suddenly reason caught up with me. I sat down. I took off my skis and slid them down the hill. I scooted down the hill on my butt, apologized to Darling Husband for my chicken-hood (or burst of rationality, depending on your point of view).
DH had told me the story of his wipeout at the top of the same mountain some 60 years ago. He dislocated his shoulder but bravely walked down the mountain, had his shoulder jerked back into alignment and soldiered on. Oh, the irony! Some time after my sit-down strike, DH discovered that his stoic endurance with a dislocated shoulder those many years ago had come home to roost. He had to have that damaged shoulder replaced.
Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.