Proof of Life

I sat down yesterday morning with a cup of coffee and the intention of writing a post to you, and then realized that though I don’t believe in jinxes, and I didn’t really think I could make myself fall down by typing about what a great ski trip we had, I do really hate revising writing and so I put it off until now, simply in the interest of not needing to delete a post about how awesome it was and instead write about how charming the Ski Patrol is and how sweet the doctors in the emergency room in Banff are, and how much less scary it was to be airlifted out of the Rocky Mountains than I thought it would be. Turns out that I’m out the other end of the thing, totally intact.

We skiied during the daytime, with me taking lessons and Joe off doing wild man things, flinging himself off the top of mountains and doing double blacks, while I timidly made the transition from green runs to blue ones. I had a very nice instructor named George, who consistently told me that I’m a much better skier than I think I am, I’m just too nervous. “Relax” he told me over and over. “You just need to relax.”  I’m not sure I have the trick of it yet, because all I did then was really concentrate on relaxing, and I don’t think that’s what George meant, and there were moments (more than one, I’m afraid to report) where I stood a the top of a slope George wanted me to ski down, looked at his intentions, the steepness of the thing, how far you would fall to the bottom with a misplaced ski, and cordially looked him in the eye to say “What the actual f**k, George.”

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Still, at the end of the three days, George presented me with a certificate outlining my skills, and confidently decreed that I could ski any groomed run. “Any” he said, as long as I managed this elusive relaxation. I looked at my card, and immediately noted an error. Muttering, I approached George, and explained that I wanted him to tick off the box that said I could manage small jumps. He looked at me a little confused, and I reminded him that he’s been on lifts with me, surely he’s noticed that I’m five feet tall, and that means that getting off a lift isn’t a simple matter of standing up.  I have to jump. (This made for a dramatic first dismount from a lift last year, by the way, when the instructor told me to wait until my skis touched the ground, then stand up. Never happened. I almost went right round the thing.) “George,” I proclaimed. “You’ve seen me. You know I’m jumping. I want that box. That’s a jump. Tick it off.”

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George agreed, though even now I’m unclear on whether or he truth thought it was right, or was just a little frightened of me. He sat down, put a proper checkmark in the box for small jumps – and added a little note. “On lifts.”  He also told me that skiing with me had been a lot of fun, but in the comments on my report card, I noted that it just said “Been a lot skiing with you this week” and at first I thought the “fun” was just missing (he had several to fill out) but I’ve been told before that I’m rather “a lot” and I wonder if George is breathing a little easier now that I’m headed off his mountain.

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In between death defying runs down the slopes, I knit. I had lots of time in the mornings, and in the car on the way places, and at dinner, and in the evenings,

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and I’m happy to report that the first little border on the baby blanket is done, as is the second larger one, and today on the way to the airport I’ll finish charting the third, big one, and by the time I get home tonight, it should be well started. I’ve big plans to apply myself diligently to that thing over the next week, try to really break the back of it. There’s more than 680 stitches to a round now, so progress feels like it’s slowing down all the time, but it’s still a lot easier than skiing.

78 thoughts on “Proof of Life

  1. Not only talented but SO brave. Yarn chicken isn’t my only game, there’s quite a list: skiing chicken, skating chicken, travel chicken…

  2. So brave…those moments (years ago now, thankfully) when I stared down the slope with Great Unbelief (and no relaxation). However, when knitting there are no broken bones or blue-black sprained things. The blanket looks like a cloud of pure love. I am happy for this baby to be part of your clan.

    • yup, thinking how brave you are to drink red wine right next to creamy white baby blanket…..if you can do that then you can definitely learn to relax on the hill!!! And George is right–I had an instructor take me down the mogul field from h*ll by making me follow right behind him as he traversed the hill almost perpendicularly so we inched down rather than flew down. And it worked: remember looking back up and realizing what I had just done so now whenever I am confronted with a demon run, I just go back and forth across the hill like a pendulum (yes downhill skiers get grumpy but they schuss by)!!

    • I was totally going to say the same thing…seriously Steph, do you want to give us all heart attacks? For crying out loud….

  3. You had me scared there, for a minute. Having stared down VERY steep slopes myself, impressive work. Carry on with the blanket. Can’t wait to see the finished product, and the wee one who will be wrapped in it.

  4. Airlifted? What the . . .? Scared me there for a sec. In my one experience of a ski lesson, I learned that skiing is just falling down a mountain in a controlled sort of way, which I’ve never wanted to do again. Hey, only do it if you enjoy it.

  5. Dude. I was expecting some sort of elegant metaphor about the skis being your knitting needles and a difficult run being a lace pattern on deadline…

    …and then *biff*. What’s your metaphor for a knitting faceplant, again?

  6. Yep, we get the joke — start with superstition and not tempting fate, end with intricate white project and red wine. We get it. Move the project away from the wine — or move in the dark chocolate, if that’s how you’re gonna roll.

  7. Y’know, it’s funny – my riding (horse) instructor was just saying the same thing to me this morning. Apparently, if I were just to relax and have fun, this would all be better. As a lifelong skiier who never quite understood adult learners and their nervousness, I now have tons of sympathy!! Here’s to learning new things all the time, right?

  8. Steph,
    I remember my skiing lessons at 16 in Alaska. I remember I could never manage left hand turns. Right..okay man, but left. Never. I fell so many times I expected my instructor to tell me to take my skis off and sit in the club house….I really did. The fact that you actually got a card, authorizing you to ski is a triumph. I congratulate you madam. All I got for my trouble was bruises, very wet clothes, and the satisfaction of saying “at least I can turn to the left and not fall into a snow bank”

  9. Wow, that’s pretty impressive, Stephanie! I used to do cross-country skiing, but never downhill skiing. Too scary for me. Congrats to you!

    And good job with the blanket, too…

  10. Twenty-seven years ago my SCUBA instructor put his arm around my shoulders after the first (of four) certification dives and said, “Sweetheart, I know you can do the skills but you’re too nervous. Come back into the pool a few times until you’re more relaxed.” I went to 5 more sessions in the pool and eventually got my SCUBA certification. Since then I’ve dived in all but the Indian and Arctic Oceans, with sharks and everything. I’m too chicken to ski. You’re the bomb, Harlot.

    Can’t wait to see the blanket but red wine and white yarn? Brave, very brave.

  11. It’s great you had such a good instructor. My brothers have booth picked up snowboarding this winter and I can’t even imagine flying down the side of a mountain with some sort of ‘thing’ strapped to my feet. I have enough trouble walking. I’m still eagerly waiting to see how the baby blanket will look when it’s finished. Hope you had fun on your trip and the blanket itself is still fun too! 😉

  12. Alright, Steph, ‘fess up: Your “bucket list” includes recreating the ski jump/parachute stunt from the opening of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” right?

    (The blanket looks like a lovely, hole-y mess. When do you start the fourth border?)

  13. I’ve never been a skiier and never will be (I like my kneecaps on frontways), but despite never having considered myself an athlete at all, I’ve been told I have freakish climbing skills. I will apparently climb anything as long as I can get a good toehold and don’t need to pull myself up by my (nonexistent) arms. I remember freaking out quite a few people years ago when I worked in San Diego at a computer manufacturer by climbing up onto the fourth tier of storage shelves, each one of which was about four inches further off the ground than I am tall. That is the extent of my athletic skill.

    Climbing anything in sight doesn’t really count as athletic endeavor though. It’s just walking, only vertically and with twice as many limbs.

    But skiing? Nope nope nope nope … It’s easier to go against gravity than with it. If you go with it, sometimes it can be too enthusiastically helpful in getting you back down on the ground.

    • I put a pair of skis on once. I skied about two metres and then fell over. I couldn’t find a way of standing up that didn’t involve removing the skis, and this was when I realised skiing was not for me.

      • You should find Stephanie’s post about falling off her bike thirteen times during training on new bike pedals, and getting up each time until she mastered them. I’m not sure she ever fell off the bike because of the pedals again. Once is not conclusive.

        • Stephanie’s post about falling off the bike and getting back on is inspiring, but I’m with Judith from Scotland. I also put on a pair of skis once. It told me all I needed to know about me and skiiing: no possibility of a relationship.

      • This. This is exactly what I did the first time I put on skis. I ended up lying in one spot on the ground, weeping, in the fetal position, for some time…and that’s when I realized skiing was not for me.

        As I told my husband when we first had the “do you ski?” conversation: “Your winter sport is skiing. Mine is knitting.”

  14. This is so funny! As someone who luckily learned to ski as a child so feel like it’s just a part of my being, I love to hear you chronicle your training and your progress. I’m with George, you just have to believe you can do it (you can!), relax, and have fun! So proud of you Steph for your courage to stick with it and becoming a skiier!

    • Im not a very good skier but I’ve only tried twice. I like rollerblading and scooters and sometimes I have to thrill myself by just committing and leaning into that jump or corner. I mean little 1 second jumps and slow corners but I will get there in the end!

  15. Young people still believe they’re immortal; that’s why it’s easier for them to relax while doing something potentially dangerous. I have cookie sheets older than George.

  16. Friend went through the lift-top wheelhouse; broke both legs.
    At 5′ tall myself and I “jumped” off every chairlift I ever rode including once from 3′ in the air because my soaking wet ski-pants froze to the chair during a wet spring ski trip. Liftie almost had a cardiac arrest.

  17. A thing to knit, a glass of wine, and fire
    beside me roaring in the wilderness [of snow]
    and wilderness is paradise enow [for now]
    Love that picture!
    So far all I’ve got for my own knitter’s paradise is the knitting (orders of magnitude less complex than yours) and the hope of a firebox being installed before winter arrives.

  18. My dearest Steph,

    Really — truly — you are the bravest knitting daredevil I have ever heard of! Forget the skiing risks! You knit a design at dinner! I would either lose count or never talk to my dining partner. Then you knit in front of a fire — WITH A GLASS OF WINE. And not any wine. Oh, no. RED wine. I quake in my slippers.


  19. In the 10th grade, my PE class included a “skiing module.” At the end of the first lesson, my instructor kindly suggested I consider another sport. I have nothing but admiration for people who ski.

    • At 72, I can honestly say that the worst/most painful experience of my life was tearing up my knee on the Idiotenhuegel (Idiot Hill) poma lift at Taos, NM, when I got my skis crossed. My (knitted, of course) hat’s off to you, Stephanie — I was a mere child of 20-something when I ripped those tendons and ligaments. That convinced me that skiing was for other folks, not flatlanders like me!
      Love the blanket, BTW.

  20. Hi Steph, I have a solution to your jumping from the chair lift — although I’m a bit taller then you many many many years ago I faced the same issue. “Just stand up and ski off” sure I said but my feet don’t touch the ground. My solution to this problem was scoot your bum closer to the edge of the chair just as you’re approaching to disembark and your feet should reach the ground. It worked for me. Skiing wasn’t my thing so it’s no longer a problem.

    • Oh, me too! (5’4″) I scoot my bum far enough forward that I have to concentrate a bit on keeping balanced, but then, yup: feet touch, stand up, and LET THE LIFT PUSH YOU OFF THE DISMOUNT AREA, don’t try to generate a bunch of speed on your own–just steer. My aunt is a ski patrol volunteer and this was her solution to my short legs… =)

  21. Brave woman. I’d be relieved to find the lift could turn right around right up there in the air and go back down to safety all by itself and I’d be taking it up on its offer.

  22. While you are working on this incredible and historic heirloom blanket, please, please, white wine only! Or better yet, club soda!
    That glass of red wine is terror-inducing!

  23. Hello. Just a bit of knitting encouragement for you…. At 39 I just had my third child and he is using the blanket that my grandma knit for me before I was born. My grandma is no longer living so please knit as much love as you can into that blanket as it might be around longer than you! Best Wishes.

  24. I had just a few seconds to scan the first paragraph before I was called away to be soundly beaten for the fourth time this week at Scrabble by my aunt and mother, so I had all that time in between to think “oh no, airlifted off the mountain, doctors, it’s not good.” No wonder my aunt beat me by more than twice the points I scraped up. Glad to hear you’re fine, if tense. I learned to downhill ski at 45 (had to, for my job working with special needs kids) and will never, ever do it again.

  25. I feel like you’d be able to relax while skiing a lot easier if you could figure out how to knit while doing it!

    I admire your skiing perseverance. I’ve been skiing exactly once and found the whole experience painful and frightening. Perhaps I could have felt better about it had I tried it again; for now, I’m content to stay home and knit when my husband and daughter hit the slopes.

  26. I’m SO with you on this skiing thing. I’m about your height and one of the first times I ‘dismounted’ from the lift, I fell headfirst into the snow plow. I manage to miss my head, but tore my jacket and all but cut off my boob. Needless to say, I knew every inch of the lodge.

  27. Are you doing all this skiing because you’ve come to enjoy it, or is it more of a … when one is scared it means one has encountered a challenge one should take on, etc. Or marital enrichment?

  28. I pulled up your blog and scanned it before I went to work. Airlift….emergency room….Ski Patrol….!!! What! Work be damned, I sat down to read and with a sigh of relief found that all was fine. Happy that you and Joe had fun and thanks again for the beautiful pictures of Canada.

  29. Good for you skiing!
    I do ski, but my aunt, from Brazil, is still famous in the family for the one and only time my uncle tried to take her skiing: At the dismount point she announced: “You people are crazy! It is cold and it is dangerous!” and she absolutely refused to get off the chairlift and they had to let her ride it back down.

  30. Ski lifts are the bane of all new skiers over 18 (and some much younger). The ground gets very far away and seems to jump up at you then away again before you can gather yourself to “jump” off. (I too am short but have the advantage of having learned to ski before I was 5.)

    Congratulations on advancing to Blue slopes. If Joe is willing to reign things in he will enjoy skiing with you on blues. I hope you can squeeze your report card into your retreat luggage because I’d like to see how Canada grades it’s improving skiers.

    Again Congratulations on your new skills!

  31. I am totally jealous of your skiing adventures! As an avid skier, I dream of skiing the slopes you visit. ON the other hand. I am drooling waiting for the final blocked image of that gorgeous baby blanket. Drooling, yes salivating. Blessings to you and your family. Ski and travel safe. I await news of a healthy delivery for both mom and baby! Hugs.

  32. Glad you had fun, the last time I went skiing I heard an instructor say to a terrified child “it’s really not dangerous” moments before I did a full out flip and landed on my back. It took me several minutes before I could move and all I could think about was how I’d probably ruined skiing for both myself and that poor kid.

  33. Oy!
    Why does anyone think “Relax!” is helpful advice?

    Since I regularly procrastinate at work by reading about behavioral science research, let me share something more useful.

    One thing that CAN help you focus when you’re nervous is to say to yourself “I am excited”.

    That’s it.

    Because your body is amped up, it’s relatively easy to consciously re-frame your thudding heartbeat as excitement instead of terror.
    Calming your heart by executive order? Doesn’t work.

  34. Banff is beautiful and all but our little ski town is 20 minutes from an airport and has so many greens and blues. That’s where I hang out, as a new 41 year old skier. Kimberley, BC. Cheaper and friendly as all get out, just sayin…

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