Shorty on the ski slopes
Until the age of 15 I was a head shorter than all my friends. I just hated not looking my age. It led to all sorts of gross injustices, like forever being told I’m ‘cute’, even by girls younger than me! Oh, the silent fuming!
The most memorable occasion when my height did me in was on my first skiing trip. We were in Chamonix in the French Alps and I was nine. I’d never seen snow before, I was young and fearless (occasional crashes into snow banks didn’t deter me at all), and I had the uncomplicated mind of youth, so everything was just high happiness and fun.
The only concern I had was the chairlift. You see, the darn seats were level with my lower back, and I couldn’t hoist myself up without help. Usually I had a grown-up all to myself, but one day I was cruising the slopes with another little girl and there was just my father’s friend, Thomas, supervising us. When we reached the bottom of the slope, Thomas said he needed to help the more inexperienced girl onto the chairlift, but he’d hold my sticks – I need only focus on jumping up onto the seat. Fair enough.
When the seat came I tried to get on, but I didn’t quite make it. I was half on, half off. The chair naturally kept moving and I instinctively turned to hug the side bar. Soon we were gaining height, I had slid fully off the chair, and my legs were dangling in the air. It was one of those situations where you realise you made a bad decision, but, for better or worse, the decision has been made and backing out becomes ever more impossible with every passing second. It was cling tighter or fall.
I don’t remember what Thomas was doing at this point – probably bidding adieu to his friendship with my parents. When I was 3 metres off the ground the lift operator spotted me, hit the stop button, and came to rescue me. (Yes, I know, rescued by a Frenchman and too young to appreciate it! C’est la vie.)
It was all rather sobering. I could’ve been hurt! I was hugged by many, we all nodded gravely about how much worse things could have been, and then, like a goldfish, I saw a fresh slope and off I zoomed.
At the incorrigible age of 12 I was taken to Pila in Italy. I was still markedly short, and chairlifts remained a bit of a task, but with sobriety and diligence (only in this regard), I managed to not fall off any this time. Instead I courted disaster on the slopes. One day, for instance, I decided to ramp an A-frame, snow-covered shelter whose roof was level with the side of the piste. I remember I hit it with more speed than intended, but am informed by my family that I would’ve made the jump if I hadn’t freaked out mid-air and straightened up, which is what I did and so I wiped out gloriously. But no harm, no foul, and we carried on. I departed from that holiday believing myself to be queen of the slopes!
When I was 17 I went skiing again, happy that I finally had a derrière well able to reach the chairlift seat. The scene was set for awesomeness in every way, but on Day 2 I fell and fractured my ankle. I spent 5 days in a French hospital, and then flew home with my foot in a cast, no longer sure how I felt about skiing.
It was 6 long years before I again strapped on ski boots. I was hesitant to the say the least, but the memories of those first magical skiing holidays were strong and I was determined to slap fear in the face. I stayed with the easier slopes, conquering my nerves one snow-plowed corner at a time. Self-high five! I was back on the slopes, tasting the falling snowflakes and feeling the mountain wind on my face … Is there anything better? And if you were to say I looked cute in my dungarees, with my dark shades and ponytail – well, [blush], thank you! I am all for that now!!
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