We start our tale like this –
Arriving in Canada, three boys and a hubby in tow, after driving through a rainstorm with little to no visibility, straight into the open, icy arms of the slopes; slopes on which we intended to peacefully ski.
The plan was to experience a short stay, arranged in advance and neatly packaged into scheduled days off from school.. ah, the first-world challenges of tetris’ing kids’ vaca time with working parents’ vacations.
We sprinkled the planned fun time over a weekend, so hubby and I wouldn’t have to miss much work.
Why would I go skiing, you’re thinking right about now.
Isn’t skiing one of the most dangerous sports??!
(That’s what I was wonderin’, too!)
IS Skiing Indeed the MOST Dangerous Sport?
I researched this question and found a rather interesting study (an evidence-based one, at that) that said that this was among the many myths of skiing; propagated, it said, by none other than my lovable medical brethren – doctors!
It read that
“If we consider deaths, activities such as driving an automobile and using a bicycle involve a risk of death on a per hour of exposure that is similar to skiing. However, the risk of tearing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), is much higher while skiing.”
I haven’t yet torn my ACL, thankfully, so I’m considering myself one of the lucky ones at this point in time, having skied on various occasions over the past few years, and still finding myself motivated to hit those slopes.
We left just before noon, collecting our children from each of their respective buildings (we were ‘lucky’ this year to have inherited a spot at each of the 3 school levels – elementary, middle AND high), and set out on our bulky-car-with-one-of-those-ski-holders-in-back-that-turns-your-SUV-into-a-bus way.
Driving there allowed us to bring our own equipment with us which, FYI, does NOT make skiing safer (when compared to renting, as some may think. It’s just another one of those myths, clarified in that aforementioned study.)
Now I want to say that I was prepared; so many of us feel that way, up until the very moment where we hop off the gondola, and into the beckoning serenity of a snowy mountaintop, only to then stare down the disinviting angle of the slope beneath us.
For me, looking down always – ALWAYS – results in the same inner monologue, and always starts off with the same question: “Why am I doing this again?” This inner monologue happens regardless of the ‘color’ of the slope (ie green, blue or black).
This time around wasn’t any different. After questioning myself, and following those up with a few breathing exercises to compensate for my fears, I took on the slope.
But the slope of this particular Canada skiing excursion gave me a super-sized beating; one that’s rather hard to forget.
The Beating, in More Detail Than You Probably Need.
It was cold, first and foremost.
And when I say cold, I mean it in the bone-chilling cold sense that you feel on the inside of your finger-, or toe-tips, and then spreads down into the depths of your marrow.
And we all know that hypothermia sucks.
But what you may no know is that hypothermia is defined as a core body temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Furthermore, I’ll allow you to venture a guess on the lowest body temperature ever recorded, in a hypothermia survivor.
* pause for guesses *
A whopping 56.7 degrees (13.7 Celsius)!
The Case of the Frozen Physician.
The whopping internal body temperature was measured in a Swedish radiologist (a doctor! *woot woot*) who had a ski accident, trapping her under an ice layer in freezing water for 80 minutes straight.
Dr. Bågenholm was lucky to have found an air bubble under that ice, but suffered circulatory arrest after 40 minutes in that frigid water.
How did they know, you may wonder?
Because they tried pulling her out a mere minutes after she fell and it took them that long, and with various tools like shovels.
Bågenholm was paralyzed from the neck down, when she awoke from her coma 10 days later, and was angry at her colleagues for having saved her because of the condition she was left in.
However, she made a complete recovery thereafter, and has since apologized for those sentiments.
What an ordeal.
As for me, no amount of layers ever seem to feel like they’re enough.
They never do in bitter cold.
So there I stood, up at the top of the mountain, 9 layers thick – not including appendage covering like liners or socks or balaclavas – trying to move in slow motion through the snow and the crowds, like a newly arrived astronaut just landed on her mission, but not quite rehearsed on where to go.
You know that feeling?
Then, despite the giant marshmallow feel (think Ghostbusters villain but donning a snow suit), you somehow make it to the edge of your hill and prepare to descend.
Your boots step onto those skis and snap into those bindings, and you hope – pray – that they were adjusted correctly at the start of the season.
You’re also concomitantly praying that no inch of skin is exposed, because we all know that once you’re off, there’s no climbing back.
I know because I tried.
If skin is, in fact, exposed, it’ll set you back an extra, oh, 15 to 20.
This, as you fiddle to peel off layer by layer, and then have to work your way meticulously back, making sure you’ve retraced all steps to get layers back on.
Believe me, you’ll pay for it if you don’t.
It’s like surgery – exposing the layers you’re operating on and then putting them back neatly into their rightful place – but on the slopes.
As our trip continued, I was now facing the formidable slippery slopes of the Mont Tremblant peaks.
Despite my excitement, the mountain didn’t prove a gracious host, and didn’t usher in my arrival, as I had hoped. In fact, it did everything it could to push back against me, along every step of the way.
First it was the aforementioned cold.
But I managed to overcome that.
Then it became about the ice.
Now, ice can be a good thing – it really can.
Why, there’s ice cream, and ice sculptures, and phrases like ‘ice, ice, baby’ which surprisingly, will get you an honorary mention from the Smithsonian (I’m not making this up!).
Even Iceland, which I experienced first hand, is a really, really good ‘ice thing’, and which you can freely read about, in my coverage of our vacation there!
But icy conditions on a wintery ski slope?
.. in fact, it is an absolute contraindication, if the physician in me may say!
Patches of ice greeted me everywhere – the apparent mix of warmer climate of previous days and rain.
The end result?
My careening down, at full steep-angle-speeds, unable to brake no matter how hard I pushed down on those boots below.
Essentially, I became an ice skater, even sneaking in a pirouette or two. Or three.
We ironically watched a documentary on TV later that evening on Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, and recognized some of the moves from my very own escapades on the ice, just hours before.
(Incidentally, who believes that Tonya Harding didn’t do it? I’ve watched recent coverage, both on TV and the big screen version – I, Tonya – and it fascinates me to watch her underdog background unfold. But was she as innocent as she claims? Weigh in below!).
Tumbling Body, Tumbling Confidence.
Despite an intense focus on my form, on that chilly morning run – no, runs, because it was more than just a single one – down I went; again and again and again.
And sadly, my plops (as in all the plopping down I did – right to the ground, *plunk*) slowed down my crew.
Tumble after tumble, I not only fell behind, but felt my confidence falling, too.
I was losing to the mountain, zero to one.
Do you know that feeling?
It happens among casual skiers like me, where essentially, ski fall begets ski fall.
It’s all part of a well known concept in the world of psychology, and not only where skiing is concerned.
Psychology Today discusses it, in a 2011 article:
A bulk of research shows that when people are put in situations where they are expected to fail, their performance does plummet. They turn into different people. Their head literally shuts down, and they end up confirming the expectations. When they’re expected to win, their performance shoots back up. Same person, difference expectations.
The ice had given me a beating, leaving behind a gigantic bruise.
The comfortable skier I had been at the onset of our trip had morphed into a frightened one, paralyzed by the anxiety of peering down my next path. To boot, my body was working overtime to resist doubling over, from the aches and pains of having been brutally tossed around.
I paid for it the next day, with a stiff neck that even 800 milligrams of ibuprofen couldn’t loosen up!
And please, people, take ibuprofen responsibly (FYI 800 mg is a very hefty dose. Don’t try it at home, unless your doctor allows it!)
Tumble after tumble, I not only fell behind, but felt my #confidence falling, too. I was losing to the mountain, zero to one. Do you know that feeling? It happens to casual skiers like me, when #ski fall begets ski fall. Click To Tweet
This is the part of my blog post where the Rocky theme song starts to play in the background. Softly, at first, but gradually turned up.
You may not visually be privy to this, but I’m pumping my fist into the air as I type this, metaphorically standing up and dusting off.
Because the trip is now behind me, so are the negative memories of the experience, which I’m actively willing to go away.
My body still reeling from the numerous falls, tumbles, and ski splits, I choose to think back on the fabulousness:
the laughter had with friends,
the sweetness of the beaver tails ingested apres-ski (we’ve considered tossing our medical careers in place of a Beaver Tail franchise in our neighborhood, no joke. We could serve them up, fried fresh and lathered with the extra sugary toppings, and then convert our customers to patients right after, for cardiac stress tests! I’m joking, of course, although not about the health effect profile of these delectables),
and even the slopes that I DID actually succeed to ski down on, fully intact.
This is the part where Rocky theme #song starts to play. Softly, at first, but gradually turned up. You may not visually be privy to this, but I'm pumping my fist into the air as I type this, metaphorically standing up & dusting… Click To Tweet
And Guess What?
The go-getter in me will not only push aside what happened (albeit after writing a quasi-deprecating blog post about it), but also prepare to take on yet another ski slope in the matter of just a few short weeks. Aspen, here we come!
And I’m going to kill it.
Who knows, maybe I’ll even keep up with my crew!