Reflections on the downhill slide

Like everyone else in My Home Town, I started skiing in childhood and by first grade, I was a regular at Pisgah.

I liked skiing, but like everything in my youth, I never took it seriously, so I never got good at it. At best, I was competent. This meant I could get from the top of hill to the bottom, without looking good or breaking any records, but without breaking my leg either.

After high school I never downhill skied, but a few years ago I took up cross-country skiing. I’m no good at it; in fact, the way I do it, it’s less like skiing and more like shuffling and stumbling. No matter, it gets me out in the woods, and gives me the illusion of getting exercise.

Last year I only got out a few times, and at the end of the winter I had the lack of conditioning to show for it. So this year I swore I was going to ski my way to fun and fitnessor croak in the process. And early this week, aflame with grit and determination, the Amazon Queen and I headed out to the VIC to tear up the trails.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: The AQ rocks strength and endurance that makes strong women flinch and strong men weep. So if I ski “with” her, it’s only due to her good nature. Or perhaps it’s her Girl Scout background: Her skiing with me is the equivalent of helping a frail old lady across the street.

Waxing and waning

Anyhow, there I was at the VIC, poles in hand, skis on feet, visions of schussing in the tracks of Billy Demong and Tim Burke dancing in my head.

The AQ took off and I followedsort of. While she glided off into Winter Wonderland, I shuffled, huffed, and puffed, my Winter Wonderland being me wondering what I was doing out there in the first place.

After about 10 minutes of that nonsense, I called out to the AQ.

“Hey,” I said, “I’m hardly moving.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Dunno,” I said. “Can’t be the skis, since they’re the ones I’ve always had. But they’re just not skimming on the snow.”

“Lemme look,” she said, checking the skis’ bottoms.

“Yep, ice is forming on them,” she said.

“Why’s that?”

“Not sure,” she said. “Maybe a combination of the temperature and humidity or something like that.”

“So what can I do?”

“Nothing,” she said. “I’ll do it.”

“And what is it you’ll do?” I asked.

“Wax ’em, of course.”

Of course.

She took a tube of wax out of her pack and slathered the bejammers out of my skis.

“There,” she said. “Now you’ll really notice a difference.”

And I did.

Whereas before my skis were dragging over the snow, now they seemed anchored to it. It felt like I wasn’t wearing skis, but foundation blocks. Still, I bravely soldiered on. But when I hit my first downhill, my spirits plummeted -?even though I did not.

Rather than streaking down the hill in one smooth motion as I’d always done, I was going down in fits and starts. Things were so bad, I wondered if I’d somehow gotten attached to a sky hook. I looked around and up. No sky hooks. Also no idea why I was barely moving.

When I finally schlepped up to the AQ, I was tired and disgusted – with myself. Little did I know things were going to get worse.

“This is nuts,” I gasped. “What could possibly be wrong?”

“Well,” she said, “if it’s not the snow and the temperature, there’s only one thing it could be.”

“Which is?”

“Extra weight.”

“What extra weight?” I said, suddenly realizing I was holding my stomach in.

“Not mine,” she said.

“Yeahwell I may’ve gained a pound or twoor three, even. But it can’t be that bad,” I said, hating the whiney tone of my voice.

The AQ said nothing. She only shrugged and gave me that look that cops give guys they just caught red-handed and who are screaming about their rights and innocence.

“I mean, none of my clothes are tight on me,” I said.

She nodded, the look on her face unchanged.

Strictly speaking, I was telling the truth. All my clothes fit the same as they have for years – my winter clothes, that is. Of course, all my winter clothes have lots of extra room to begin with, in order to accommodate extra layersof either clothes or adipose.

“So you wanna keep skiing?” she asked.

“Not really,” I said. “I’m beat. Probably my blood sugar’s depleted. I need cookies, I think.”

Again, she said nothing. Instead, she shook her head and curled her lip slightly in the universal sign of disgust. Then she shimmered off, leaving me in jerky, rubber-legged pursuit.

A sweet afternote

The ride home was a quiet one. I had some serious self-loathing to attend to, and didn’t want to ruin it with pleasant conversation.

It was obvious if I ever wanted to cross-country ski again, I’d have to diet, starting soon and lasting a long time.

The night was pretty much a wash, its highlight being an email from a woman named Svetlana from someplace ending in ‘istan” who, even though we didn’t know each other, was really interested in meeting me sometime soon, perhaps for marriage. It sounded completely on the up and up, but I was too bummed to reply. I just hoped she could cope with that disappointment.

Then I ate half a box of chocolate-covered caramels, reflected on the unfairness of life, and was headed to bed when the phone rang.

It was the AQ.

“Hey,” she said, “things aren’t as bad as you thought.”

“Why?” I said. “You taking out an insurance policy on me.”

“Don’t I wish,” she said. “No, Mr. Morbid, I just discovered something.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

“Well, the wax I put on your skis?”


“It was storage wax.”

“What’s storage wax?” I asked.

“It’s what you put on the skis before you store them, to protect them.”


“And it’s like tar. So that’s why you had so much trouble skiing today.”

“You mean it was all due to the wax?”

“Well,” she said, “it wasn’t all due to the wax.”

I thanked her and said goodbye.

So that was good news – all my skiing problems were caused by the storage wax. I was overjoyed.

This called for a celebration?- a few more caramels and some scoops of ice cream seemed the perfect party dishes.

As for the diet? Tomorrow, or maybe the day after, seemed an ideal time to start.