Maxed Out 

...and for 20 years it’s been all downhill

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Christmas just past — and let’s all be thankful it’s over — included a personal milestone, an anniversary of a life-changing event. While the halls were decked and the carols droned incessantly about town, I was the guy walking around humming Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“It was twenty years ago today….”

It was twenty years ago December 27 th I first clicked into a pair of skis. Ever.

I did not expect to particularly enjoy skiing. It wasn’t my idea to go skiing and, left to my own devices, skiing was something I never would have thought of doing. I agreed to go reluctantly, the way someone agrees to do something their partner enjoys but they’re pretty certain will fall squarely into the why-am-I-doing-this category.

But I got double teamed. My Perfect Partner — who, at that time, was only my Future Perfect Partner — had a mild jones for skiing. I knew this when I got into the relationship but assumed it was both latent and just one of those things I’d have to overlook, much as she tried to overlook my penchant for slipping Frank Zappa or discordant jazz into the playlist of life.

But when we journeyed to New Mexico for Christmas 1986, a meet-the-family trek already wrought with enough potential landmines to start a guerilla war, she and my younger sister conspired to not only go skiing but to drag me along for the slide. Faced with a partner who had graciously agreed to spend the holiday in terra incognito, an emotional landscape of slippery surfaces and sharp edges, it would have been churlish of me to tantrum out of going. Coupled with the taunts of a sister who knew where all my long-dormant buttons were hidden and could push them like an accordionist in a mariachi band, taking a pass on skiing was out of the question.

Late on Boxing Day I trundled on down to a “sports” shop listed in the Yellow Pages under “ski rental and orthopaedic appliances” and placed my fate in the hands of a rental tech who was reputed — by himself — to be a hot skier.

“I need to rent some ski equipment,” I said.

“Skis, boots and poles?” he inquired.

“I need all those things to ski, right?”

“It helps,” he said, curling the right side of his mouth in a gesture I wasn’t sure was contempt or opportunity.

“What kind of skier are you?” He asked the question, I’m sure, to taunt me into admitting I was no skier at all.

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