The annual ski blog, 2008
I just got back from Colorado. Yeah, there was snow. I had my best ski day ever there. And I kept going for six days in a row, all day long or until my feet started killing me. My legs held up fine. At the level I ski now, I have to put so much less effort in than I used to when I wasn't as good. It just gets easier. I couldn't have gone six days straight when I was 30...if I'd tried I wouldn't have been able to walk at the end! There have been trips when I was younger where I hobbled home. Thankfully I'm not too old for skiing, not yet. And of course I could look around and see lots of women my age or much older---not like with surfing, why is that? Is surfing so much harder? (Hell yes---much harder!)
That said, I didn't do as well every day as I did that first day. Is that physical, is it mental? A question for sports psychologists. If you can do it one day, why not every day? Why not more consistently? Really, it's got to be a matter of where your head is at. Surfing is the same, only more extreme in variation: as you know I can be very good one day and suck the next, without a clue as to why. Conditions are a part of it, but only a part.
Conditions varied a lot this week, but were mostly good. What wasn't good---what I tend to forget or blot out from one year to the next---is the crowds. But mark these words: I won't go back to this particular spot again, because not only were the crowds hard to bear, but everywhere I looked they were building more condos and more condos and even a whole new gondola lift. The place is already overtaxed and it's only going to get worse, that is, unless they build a whole new mountain to accommodate the new hordes.
I don't know anyone who skis or snowboards I can travel with, so I always go by myself. It's not the being by myself that I mind, not at all: it's the being around other people. And especially when it's other people on the scale it was this week. Think about how emotionally taxing it is to be by yourself and yet not be able to get away from the constant yabbering of other people, to be constantly exposed to details of their lives you can't shut out. It's much more than waiting on lift lines (watching people who are in groups pretend they're by themselves so they can get on the singles line to get on the lift faster, talking to each other the whole time, grrr! nothing more annoying than that!) No, it's having to listen to families endlessly blab on their cell phones: "We're on the gondola!" "Where are you?" "We'll meet you at the top!" It's having to ride the lift with couples who ignore you while discussing the details of exactly what they want for dinner, what they're going to get at the grocery store, and who's going to cook it. They can enforce their annoying talk, while I am powerless to enforce the silence that goes so much better with the beauty of the blue sky and the sunlight on the trees. Or they talk about how this trip compares to their last trip, how much better or worse the snow is, how much they like or don't like their condo. I had to listen to an extended conversation a couple had about why a friend of theirs can't hold onto a girlfriend---essentially, a dissection of the personality of someone I don't know. I can't have my own thoughts while that's going on! Or a couple of guys who work together talk about work. Not only do I not want to hear that shit, why can't they leave it at home? And another couple debating over whether or what their teenage children at home will cook for themselves. And everybody's cell phone going off with calls from Grandma. It seems no one can leave anything at home even for the length of a lift ride. And I of course could not give less of a shit about what they're eating for dinner or whether Grandma fed their cat. But I can't escape the mundane details of lives of people I don't care about! Maybe if their chatter was at least interesting, it wouldn't be so bad---after all, I'm a writer with vicarious interest in other people's lives---but it could not be less interesting. All the people seemed the same--boring---because they were: white, predominantly blond, well-off Red Staters. As I heard somebody commentate, "Texas is a suburb of Colorado." Also, apparently, Ohio and Illinois and South Carolina. And the hair on the women, they don't have hair like that in New York. Big hair. If I had a choate thought at the end of a day of listening to their stampeding ski boots, it was something like, "I hate blonde people"---and I'm blonde! OK, that is pretty inchoate, but I couldn't help thinking it.
Days and days of this wear on you in a way no amount of skiing ever could. It's emotionally exhausting. More, having everyone talk around you as if you are not there starts to make you feel invisible. That's because you are.
About the end of the third day, I got the pain that I inevitably get in my feet if I ski long enough, despite custom ski boots. It's excruciating, waves of pain like childbirth. And once it starts coming on, it doesn't stop until about twenty minutes after I take off the boots. This day I tried to stop skiing once I felt the pain, but because the mountain is so big and complicated (it's five or six interconnected mountains, actually), it took much longer just getting down so I could stop than I had anticipated. I set out to get down on a green trail, thinking it would be the easiest and quickest way down, but it was so long it took me an hour to get to the bottom.
Once I got there, I was in agony. I fell into a chair on a deck outside a bar. I was quite literally crying with the pain, and not quietly either. The bar was packed. There was a 20-something boy not three feet away from me, intermittently jabbering on a cell phone. I sat there crying, making no attempt to hide it, for at least thirty minutes, trying to gather the strength to walk to the base of the lodge where I would be able to take off my ski boots and put my shoes on. No one looked at me. No one noticed me, though I was surrounded by people. Not one person said to me, "Are you all right? Can I help you?"
I thought of calling the ski patrol for help, to see if they could carry me the short distance to my shoes. That didn't seem like an option. After all, I didn't have a broken leg, nothing was visibly wrong with me. Finally I just got up. I walked slowly to the base. It was probably several hundred steps and each one was excruciating. From the way I was moving, and my tears, it would have been obvious to anyone that I was in pain---had I not been a middle aged woman alone, i.e. invisible. Thousands of people around me, and I was invisible. With each step I cried out in pain. No one could hear me either, apparently.
What is the point of being surrounded by people, if all they do is annoy; if when you need someone, no one can see, no one will help? Why should I have to wait in line behind them, listen to the petty details of their lives instead of my own thoughts, when they don't grant me the courtesy of even allowing that I exist?
If my trip was about one day too long, it wasn't because my legs were tired; it was because I couldn't stand being the one invisible person in a sea of families and couples.
And then on the way back, in a long line to check bags at the airport, a couple literally walked right out in front of me when it was my turn to check in. As if I wasn't there. Of course I didn't let them cut in front of me. The woman said, as if it were a plausible defense, "I thought you were with them"---the family of five that had been nattering in front of me in line the whole time. You see, she just couldn't conceive of a woman being alone. We don't exist, apparently. Least of all an old woman alone. Is there anyone more invisible in this culture?
Like I said, it's not the being alone. It's the way I get treated---and not treated.