The snow sucked on Monday, but that was no surprise. I’d already decided to practice the boarding skills I’d acquired during adult ski school on Friday. Really, bad conditions were my primary reason for picking up boarding; there’s only so much excitement to be gained from skiing the groomers after you’ve passed that level. Staying home, I decided, wasn’t an option. I needed the exercise, and I’d already paid for the pass, which was kind of like investing in a seasonal gym membership. Dammit, I was going to enjoy whatever Loveland Valley, the raw beginner area, had to offer.
I was doing pretty well at first. The only time I ate shit getting off the lift was when some idiot decided to put his ski back on right in the drop zone, and I didn’t have the dexterity to avoid him. Otherwise, I showed great improvement, in my humble estimation.
On my planned penultimate run, I determined that I would buckle down and try a toe-side turn. There was no reason not to, I thought; I was on the bunny slope and would be going slowly enough that I couldn’t possibly hurt myself. Besides, I’d done one on Friday, under my instructor’s guidance, and I hadn’t even fallen. Granted, he’d come down to catch me when I started to tip over, but still. I readied myself at the flatter section near the bottom and made my turn.
I thought I was going to fall forward. Instead, I somehow wound up careening backwards. My tailbone and right wrist exploded. I gathered myself and waited for the initial wave of pain to subside so I could get on with it. The pain in my ass did. The one in my wrist did not.
I sat there for a few minutes, head in my good hand. Nausea now joined pain.
There was no snap, I told myself sternly. You’re overreacting. It’s just sprained.
Still the pain wouldn’t leave. I scanned the run for a ski patroller.
Okay, this is truly ridiculous, my logical side barked. You’ve got two good feet. Sack up and walk down this slope.
I forced my left hand to unbuckle my bindings. To combat the dizziness overtaking me as I carried my board to the base, I examined the buildings for the first aid clinic.
No luck. The lady in the rental shop smiled brightly. “How are you today?” she asked.
I stammered out something involving the words “wrist” and “clinic.” The other tech must not have had confidence in my ability to avoid passing out on his floor, because he personally escorted me over there.
The patroller on duty removed my jacket and looked at my wrist. He shook his head. “Looks deformed,” he said.
I looked for the first time, confident that if the sight did make me toss my cookies, I’d at least be near a toilet. Nothing was poking through the skin, but there was a bit of swelling and a strange bump.
I held my cookies and got Ethan on the phone to let him know he’d get to drive back to Denver, and not to just any location, but to an emergency room. Then I called my dad, the MD.
He sounded so cheerful when he answered the phone, an unusual trait for someone stuck in snowy, dark northwestern Wyoming for a week. I hated opening up the conversation with, “I broke my wrist. Can you recommend a hospital?”
After a few cheery obscenities, he recommended Rose Medical. The patroller put my arm in a jury-rigged sling made of bubble wrap, cardboard, and gauze.
Ethan retrieved me. I screamed, yelled, and backseat-drove the whole way down to the hospital.
“Where’d you learn to park, New Mexico School for the Blind?” I grumbled after he spent ten minutes aligning the car with the painted lines. He chose to chalk it up to pain and accompanied me inside.
It took two hours before the x-rays could be uploaded and interpreted to mean I had a fractured radius. It took another half-hour before I was told to lie down in a bed so my bone could be reset. Once that happened, it only took two minutes for the doctor to come in, followed by a resident, a first-year med student, a nurse, and three MAs.
Before a live studio audience, the doctor explained what to look for as she injected my wrist with Lidocaine to numb it up.
“See that little flash there? That’s marrow. Usually that’s a bad sign, but in this case, we want to see that.” She then offered the med student the opportunity to try injecting a little deeper into the bone. I stared steadfastly at the ceiling and kept my mouth closed, afraid of puking on the hot first-year if I looked.
Then came the setting. Perhaps because I hadn’t shrieked in agony (the nurse later said that I was among their more stoic patients; I was glad he was impressed because he, too, was fine to behold), she offered the resident the first shot at setting it.
“First of how many?” I croaked.
The resident was unable to set it successfully. Fortunately, the doctor decided to give her a demonstration rather than another try. There was no pain since I couldn’t feel anything, but if she’d continued to narrate what needed to happen, I doubt I would have been able to retain my stomach contents any longer.
The crew of my own personal reality show left. I looked at Ethan.
“How nice! You got to be a teachable moment,” he crooned. I rolled my eyes.
“Whatever. Can you take a picture for my blog?”
Soon, armed with a Vicodin prescription and a soft cast, we left the hospital. I will undergo surgery to put a titanium plate in my wrist on Monday, which should hopefully restore me to full use of both hands after only a week of not being able to open bottles, wash my left arm, or pull back my hair by myself. Ethan, who has been my bitch for the past few days, looks forward to my sooner-than-expected recovery; we both thought I would be in a cast for weeks. We’re both happy that I’m ambidextrous. I’m sure one or both of us would have jumped off the top of the Cash Register building if I’d been unable to use my dominant hand.
I do kind of regret that I won’t be able to follow the Loveland ski patroller’s example. When I shakily asked if I’d still be able to ski with a bum wrist, he chuckled.
“I went up to Snowmass and broke my wrist in my second day,” he said. “But I paid for two weeks of lodging, and I wasn’t about to let that go to waste. So I taped a ski pole to my cast and kept going.”
Then again, I can’t get much over my cast. Long sleeves are out, and I don’t think I can ram it through the sleeve of my parka. So it’s just as well this ordeal will be over only a week after it started, even if I will have to undergo anesthesia. It’ll be great. I’ll spend the day yelling at Ethan to get me a freshly-killed unicorn sandwich. After what he’s had to put up with already, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch.
Ethan and I have a new hobby when we’re on the ski slopes. It’s not skiing, either. We’ll get on the chair, take a run, go back for another round, get to the top, and one of us will say, “I have to…well, you know.”
And the other will roll their eyes, knowing exactly what needs to be done. In fact, whoever hasn’t made the comment is already going about that particular business.
I’m referring, of course, to adjusting our ski boot buckles. Back in the old days of my no-nonsense Darth Vader boots, adjusting a buckle was easy. I either tamped it down or loosened it up by a notch and sucked it up after that.
But sometime in the past ten years, they’ve come out with these damnable microadjustable boot buckles. You can still adjust by simply taking one or all of your four (or three, depending on how much money you felt like shelling out to feel superior to other skiers) buckles to the next notch.
But you don’t have to. If the boot doesn’t feel like it needs to be tightened or loosened by a whole notch, you can simply screw or unscrew the buckle to tighten or loosen it by fractions of millimeters.
Ethan and I are now, therefore, on the never-ending quest to find the Perfect Boot Setting, the setting that will make our feet feel as though they were encased in velvet bedroom slippers while still providing adequate ankle support.
If we can just give that buckle over our arches one or two good twists to the right (I still have to hold my fingers up in the shape of a L to determine which way is righty-tighty and which way is lefty-loosy. This gets really confusing when I make both thumbs point to the right), we keep thinking, we’ll have it down cold.
This, of course, is bullcrap. Ski boots are never comfortable. They’re constantly either too tight or too loose, and no amount of tweaking will force them to be otherwise. Just as the same run can be in vastly different shape than it was five minutes ago, or the weather here in Colorado can go from sunny and seventy to a blizzard in ten minutes, there’s always going to be something different nagging your lower extremities than there was on the last run.
Alas, microadjustable buckles give you the illusion that you can make it right. It’s the latest in a sadistic move by ski boot manufacturers of the world. It might also be the cruelest, second only to coming up with the design for ski boots in the first place.
Ethan and I, like our fellow pow-hounds in search of the perfect patch of gnar, will doubtlessly continue to believe in the illusion. I will be taking my boots to the Loveland ski shop, in fact, to get them custom-fitted. Hope springs eternal.
And insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same act repeatedly and expecting different results each time. I’m sure that’s not related at all.
Today was opening day at Breckenridge, the one mountain on the Epic Local Pass that I have never visited before in my totaled nineteen years of living in Colorado.
Kind of like all the other ski areas Ethan and I have visited over the past few weeks, we figured there wouldn’t be much open, but it was worth checking out just the same. After all, we already have a pass. We wouldn’t be wasting money buying a ticket.
We might have wound up wasting money on parking, however. We finally arrived at the mountain only to discover that the only open skier parking lots were paid lots. Not only did I not have any cash, I also didn’t see the need to pay $10 for a full day when I would only be skiing for a few hours. In fact, I didn’t see the need to pay $10, period.
So I circled the block and duly noted the 3-hour parking limits. I tried the small strip mall across the street from the lot and noted the warnings that cars not belonging to shoppers would be towed. I also made note of the surveillance cameras they had to enforce the notion that they were Not Fucking Around.
Fortunately, there was a grocery store just beyond the strip mall, and the lot was blissfully surveillance-camera free. If you or your loved ones ever get mugged for your groceries at the Breckenridge City Market, it is not my fault.
Ethan and I put on our foot-shaped bowling balls–er, ski boots, grabbed our skis, and huffed and puffed our way to the gondola. Still, walking the extra two minutes was, we agreed, totally worth the ten smackers we’d saved.
We boarded the gondola and faced a ride so long and with so many stops for mid-point loading and unloading that I wondered if we’d wandered onto a Rocky Mountain set of No Exit, or perhaps Waiting for Godot.
I started grousing as we picked our way past boozing snow bunnies and bros on beer breaks just to get to the bathroom. “You know, Loveland doesn’t charge you for parking. They also don’t make you walk way too far–and any distance is too far in ski boots–through shops you can’t afford anyway just to get to the lift like Keystone does!”
Ethan nodded in agreement and ran the best he could in ski boots to reach the bathroom. I posted my plea for Loveland to hire me as their new PR person on Facebook with this, in my humble opinion, catchy motto: “Loveland: For when you just want to fucking ski.” Also apparently for when you just want to fucking split infinitives.
We got in five runs in a total of two and a half hours. No, the open runs were not that long nor that challenging, but the lift lines sure were. This, however, was not the fault of Breckenridge.
November is universally recognized as ski season in this state, and while people might have been wary of going to A Basin’s or Loveland’s opening days for fear of early-season rocks, Breck’s solid choice for an opening day drew expectedly large crowds, even for a Friday.
The discouragingly long lines did persuade us to hang up our skis after reaching our bare-minimum for calling a ski day such, however. We went in to the cafeteria to grab a snack and some drinks.
I mused that the chili sounded good. Ethan looked at the menu.
“Better be, at $9.75 a bowl.”
“Seriously?! I think we get a discount with our passes, but still!”
We passed on the chili and decided to get the moderately less price-gouged cheese fries. I got a drink and went up to the counter to pay.
“Just those?” the cashier asked. I nodded and took out my Epic pass.
“And I have this,” I proudly proclaimed.
She looked at it, puzzled. “So…you already have a Resort Charge on there?”
“A what? No. Does this get me any discounts?”
She shook her head and rang up the order. Eight-plus dollars for some cheese fries and a hot chocolate.
“No discount,” I groused to Ethan over what really should have been the best damn cheese fries of my life. “The Super-Pass Plus? You get discounts at Copper, Winter Park, AND Steamboat!”
“Yeah, same with Loveland.”
“This is bullshit,” I further declared. “I know all ski areas fuck you up the ass somewhat on food prices. But at least Loveland has the decency to use lube!”
He nodded in agreement. He also nodded in agreement when I asked if I could pitch that to them as another motto. I get the feeling he’d stopped listening by that point.
We finished our obviously gourmet snack and took the endless gondola back down to the parking lot. And even though my feet hurt in new and fascinating ways from my extra-long walk back to the grocery store, I still maintain that the saved ten bucks was totally worthwhile.
I’ll still make a profit even after I get the Krazy Glue to cement my pinky toes back on.
It had been a day of skiing, if not a particularly long nor hard one, and I wanted to take a shower.
I took off my glasses and turned on the faucet. I am quite literally legally blind without my glasses, so when I saw something brown shoot away from the drain, I squinted at it. I stuck my face into the tub to look, getting perhaps a foot away from it. Finally, I yelled at Ethan, “Hey, is this a thing a clump of hair, or does it have legs?”
He’d already taken off his glasses when he stood next to me and squinted. After a couple seconds with no more luck discerning its nature than I’d had, he went and put his glasses back on. Then he returned.
“Whoa! God damn!” he yelled. “That thing is huge!”
I left to get my glasses.
“What is that, a centipede?” he asked.
“I’m pretty sure that’s Cthulhu.” I stood up. “Well, I don’t think I really need to take a shower.”
Ethan chuckled. “Oh, Pewter,” he called.
“That thing could eat the cat!” I snarled.
“Fine. Get me a piece of paper or something,” he sighed.
“I’ll just get you half the roll of paper towels.”
“What? I don’t want to kill it!”
“It doesn’t deserve to live! It just flipped me off!”
But he got that quivering-lipped expression on his face, so I went to grab a piece of paper.
After a few cries of, “Damn! He’s fast!” Ethan succeeded in getting it on the paper, which he raised triumphantly. I stared at it suspiciously, then stared at his naked body.
“So what are you going to do with it now?” I wanted to know.
He looked down as if surprised to discover he had no clothes on. “Good question.” He thrust the piece of paper at me. “Here.”
“Get that thing away from me!” I shouted.
He grimaced and headed for the back door. “Let’s just hope none of the neighbors come home right now.”
He took the monster centipede down the back stairs. I heard an, “Oh, shit.”
“Yeah. I just lost him. Right near the door, too.” He scrambled around. Since I’d been all for putting the creature out of its misery, I let him figure out its whereabouts by himself. I’d just go read up on Wikipedia about hypothermia treatments.
I heard the back door open and quickly close. Ethan ran up the steps.
“Did you get him safely out in the cold, where he’ll likely freeze to death or wind up right back in our bathtub?”
He hopped quickly in the shower, rubbing his hands together. “Yup! I still say we should have gotten Pewter to go after it.”
“Pewter doesn’t go after bugs. Besides, it was so big, the cat could have turned it into his own personal pony.”
Ethan started giggling. “I’m just imagining Pewter with a little cowboy hat and spurs, riding a giant centipede.”
He kept giggling. I joined him. Soon, we were laughing with all the hysteria of two people who knew that there was a giant centipede lurking just outside our back door. Plotting.
Driving through Wyoming can be terrifying, even when the terror comes from factors not of your own doing. I’ve gone through a white-out blizzard, two zero-visibility rainstorms (in the same trip, mind you), and snowy mountain passes in June. The eight-and-a-half hour trip from Denver to Jackson is more fraught with peril than a trip on modern roads really ought to be, and yet, I’m sometimes grateful for the occasional surges of adrenaline. This is because the alternative is eight and a half hours of mind-numbing boredom.
Up until the last hour and a half or so of the trip, Wyoming is bleak. A traveler crosses the Continental Divide twice, but both times leave a weary mind thinking WYDOT is playing some kind of practical joke. As a native Coloradan, I’m well aware that this is what most people have in mind when they mentally picture the Great Divide, and southern Wyoming looks nothing like that.
So when my last drive up to Jackson passed fairly uneventfully, my mind began to wander. I’d seen the landscape so many times that even the more majestic, mountainous region where the Wind River range peters out and the Grand Tetons are about to begin failed to inspire me. Instead, I started looking at road signs. And thinking how poetic they could be. And sharing the resulting poems with poor Ethan, who knows it is in his best interests to keep the driver happy.
“You should write those down,” he murmured, perhaps with some air of sincerity.
So here y’all go. Blame Ethan if you don’t like them.
1. Winter Dangers
Roads may be icy
Bridges freeze before roadways
Slower speeds advised.
Cattle guards ahead
Deer crossing when lights flashing
No fishing off bridge.
No hunting allowed
KOA campground, next left
4. Mountains are fun!
No stopping, slide area
5. And, finally, some National Park haiku:
Do not feed wildlife
Bears are wild, do not approach
Leave bison alone.
Ponder on that while you endure your next long road trip.
This post has nothing to do with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which ends today. I completely support BCAM; my stepmother is a survivor. She, however, has gotten rather fed up with the awareness movement and turns away in disgust at those little pink ribbons.
In her honor, I will definitely say that breast cancer research and treatment might have come a long way, but there’s still much work left to be done. If you haven’t gotten tapped out already, here’s where you can help.
The rest of my somewhat irreverent post about pink has nothing at all to do with breast cancer or any other type of cancer or illness (although I feel compelled to mention that I have had Type I diabetes for years and am pretty well tired of it, so here’s that link, too). It has everything to do with my distaste for the color itself.
I am not a girly-girl. My boyfriend jokes that since I already have the Subaru, the flannel, and the key-ring beer opener, all I need is the girlfriend. I take out the trash after being asked at least ten times and see nothing wrong with socks on the coffee table. True to stereotype, I shun all that is floral or that ranges anywhere below a solid red on the shade scale.
This has been an issue in the past. Last Christmas, my boyfriend’s mother gave me a fleece vest as a gift. It has incredibly thick, soft fleece and fits right in with the rest of my no-nonsense cold-weather wear…or it would, if it weren’t garishly, eye-gougingly pink.
“I noticed you never seem to wear anything that color,” she explained when I forced myself not to shield my eyes. “I thought I’d expand your wardrobe a little.”
There would be a reason I don’t seem to wear anything that color, I thought about saying. I politely thanked her instead and made plans to toss it in the donations pile. There are too many people going without any no-nonsense cold-weather wear, pink or not, so I figure I can at least put my unwanted excess to some good.
But I had to face my aversion head-on when I needed to purchase new ski boots. It’s pretty difficult to find boots that are stiff enough to hold a skier upright when the slope is steep and the powder is deep and also wide enough to accommodate fat feet. Most boots with a generous width are designed for raw beginners or, at best, those just moving past the “Pizza, French Fries” stage of the game.
Fortunately, Nordica seized on an underserved market and decided to make boots that offer the perfect fit for those of us who almost don’t need skis to stay on top of the pow. After trying on a few different styles, I went with the Hot Rod 8.0W (yep, that’s W as in “wide load,” at least as far as feet go). It was the perfect intersection of fit, stiffness, and price.
Only problem: the ones they had in stock were pink. With little flowers on the outside.
I was so happy to find boots that didn’t cut off circulation but wouldn’t leave me flying out of them when I caught an edge, leaving me headfirst in a snowdrift with my socked feet vibrating out me behind me like a Warner Bros. cartoon character, that the color didn’t really sink in until I put them on at the slopes.
After all, these were new boots, and new boots are a literal pain. Walking in them hurt. Skiing in them hurt. On top of that, any confidence I had built up from last year in my no-nonsense, Darth Vader-esque solid black boots was gone, washed out the window using a mauve dye with a shiny pink metallic finish for the buckles.
However, after eight break-in sessions, my new boots and I have declared a peace treaty. Walking in ski boots still sucks–it always will–but I know what settings to put the buckles on for groomers, and last Wednesday gave me a pretty good idea where to clamp them down when conditions are steep and deep.
And, with the reacquisition of the knowledge that I am a sexy, sexy beast on skis, a shining example to all who bow down before me when they catch an edge, intentionally or not, I have also come to accept (if not embrace) the color of my boots.
No more will I ski up to a lift that services advanced and expert runs only and be greeted by, “Hey, man. [Pause, double-take] Oh, shit! You’re not a man!” No more will I have to reassure myself that those runs still are, by and large, a sausagefest, and that I look like an androgynous marshmallow under my heavy ski gear regardless. Nope, now I can take to the chutes and bowls and listen to guys’ genitals withering up and dropping off in envy as I whiz past in my gloriously pink Hot Rods.
Of course, the genital withering took place whenever I skied past in my Darth Vader boots. I’m just that awesome, no matter what colors I’m sporting.