Mary McGrath column: Getting ready to ski, again
For a moment, I wondered: "Was this really a good idea?"
Theorizing that my youthful attempts at skiing were hampered by cumbersome equipment, I was ready to try again.
An early significant snowfall soon after my 69th birthday nudged me to the ski hill of my youth. With 70 years in sight, it was time to act.
In anticipation of this day, I'd purchased outerwear. The jacket was a deep raspberry. The pants were raspberry and black small print. I found a raspberry and black plaid hat with black fake fur that completed the look and would keep me warm.
After getting my day pass and arriving at the rental desk, I was greeted by a teenage boy. I had the pass in my hand. Unsure of what to do with it, I asked him: “What am I supposed to do with this?”
He pointed to my jacket. I made a face that translated to "I need help.”
He leaned over the counter, pointing to my jacket zipper puller, and said: “Right there is where it goes."
Next, I needed to rent poles, boots, and skis. After the young man asked my shoe size, he handed me a pair of big black shiny boots that together weighed more than I did.
“They look like casts instead of boots," I said.
“They're like that so you won't have casts,” he answered.
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The boots were so stiff. I struggled to open them. Unbidden, the young man came around from behind the counter to help me.
"It's been 55 years since I last skied!” I explained.
He helped me open up the boots. I stuffed a foot into each one, placing the fasteners closed as if closing a vault. I hadn't imagined putting ski boots on to be a two-person job.
He was back behind the counter as I stood up, intending to walk toward him to be fitted for skis and poles. Instead of walking, I stumbled on to the closest bench. I had no clue how anyone walked in these boots. For a moment, I wondered: "Was this really a good idea?"
Deciding I was this far into it, I kept going. I needed to watch. I paid close attention to the feet of people walking around the chalet. I saw they placed their heels down first. I knew I could do that, too.
I stood up, carefully placing one heel down first, then the other. I walked around the rental area like I'd done it for years.
“OK,” I said to myself as I made my way back to the rental counter. The same young man greeted me as I said: “I'm ready for the skis." He handed me a pair of skis so short, I thought they were some sort of training skis.
"Are you giving me these because I haven't skied in 55 years?" I asked.
"No, these are your size,” he replied.
“But they look so short,” was my quick comeback.
Before he could respond, I raised my right arm and pointed to my wrist. “This is where the tip of my skis should reach,” I said.
“Maybe, 55 years ago, but not today,” he said.
"Really" was all I could say.
"Really," he said.
I carried my skis and poles outside, laying them on the flat, snow-packed ground. The bindings seemed nonexistent: no straps, no buckles, not much of anything. I couldn't tell how the boots stayed on the skis.
I watched people, seemingly, just step into nearly invisible bindings. I tried to do the same. It didn't work. No clicking sound was made.
I wasn't asking for any more help. I walked around outside like I had a reason to be walking around. It was good boot-walking practice. I continued watching people put their boots, nonchalantly, in their bindings.
I tried again. I heard the click. My boots were secured. I had no idea what was different from my first attempt.
I began to wonder if I'd know how to get out of the bindings. I decided not to consider that situation until it was in front of me.
I was ready. The outfit, the skis, the poles, the boots were all in place. My theory about inferior equipment was about to be tested.
Mary McGrath is a lifelong Duluthian and retired therapist.