Monday, February 10, 2014

Careening Downhill at a High Rate of Speed

I think you have to learn to ski before you’re old enough to know better.  (Amy Iwata)

As noted, we’ve been watching the Olympics.  So far they’ve been pretty quiet as far as our interests go, but there have been highlights. I’ve managed to see one hockey game (the Japanese women almost pulled one out against a rather sloppy and undisciplined Swedish team who clearly felt entitled to a win and weren’t happy about having to work for it), so that was entertaining, and while I’ve seen more ice skating than is really good for anyone to watch over a short period, it has to be said that Kim and the girls enjoy it.  I’ve got the American women’s curling team all ready to go on the DVR, waiting for a quiet moment tonight – and don’t even get me started on the path my life has taken to get to the point where I put curling on the DVR – so that’s something to look forward to as well. 

Sometimes life just takes you in strange directions.

They haven’t gotten to the skiing yet, over in Russia.  Not really.  I don’t count the biathlon, since mostly that looks like basic training for the Finnish army, and the skiing marathon that they apparently ran over the weekend is just more basic training without the guns.  Eventually people will start careening down the mountain and then it will be different. 

They have shown us a considerable amount of snowboarding, though – lots of young men and women doing improbable things on what appear to be giant brightly-colored ice cream spoons while spinning rapidly through the air.  I’m not much on watching those events, but it turns out that Lauren is.

And therein hangs a tale.

Lauren decided Sunday that she was Inspired (tm) by all the various athletes skidding their way down the mountainside.  She wanted to give this stuff a try.  In particular, she wanted to learn how to ride a snowboard.  And for that alone the Olympics have probably been worth it.

You know what?  It turns out you can in fact do that here in Wisconsin.  We’ve got something that could be mistaken for a mountain if you don’t look too closely.  A very tall hill, at the bare minimum, anyway, something certainly big enough to provide exciting times for beginners while careening down its side.  We’ve got more snow than we know what to do with this winter.  We’ve certainly got the Arctic temperatures and the wind chill to provide the level of discomfort that people engaged in these sports demand as proof that they’re Living Well – yesterday started out at about -10F and got all the way up to +9, which is clearly Not Summer.  All that and the place is not all that far away, either – closer than my twice-weekly commute to Not Quite So Far Away Campus last semester, in fact.

So we all bundled up and headed off.

Now, it must be said that my role in all this was simply to observe, photograph, and handle such base camp logistics as staking out a table in the lodge where we could eat dinner.  I tend to side with Benson (remember that show?), whose response to an invitation to go skiing was, “You want me to strap two boards to my feet, get jerked up a mountain on a wire and come down at sixty miles per hour with no brakes?  With any luck I’d hit a tree.” 

Yeah, I was old enough to know better long before any opportunity to start skiing arose.  We’ve long discussed a ski trip among the cousins of my generation and it has been explicitly agreed that I and my sister-in-law would be allowed to bring books and drink hot cocoa in the lodge while everyone else did their Alpine thing.  That I could handle.

Kim, however, likes this stuff.  Lauren, as noted, was eager to get going.  And Tabitha, to her credit, was willing to learn. 

As it turned out, Tabitha chose to learn the more traditional downhill skiing.  Lauren stuck to her initial plan of snowboarding.  Eventually Kim decided to join Tabitha on skis as well.

Fortunately, the folks there were happy to rent us both types of slidey boards, and they even offered 90-minute basic instructional classes right there – no reservation necessary.

And then they were off.

It turns out that snowboarding is a whole lot trickier than skiing, for the simple reason that you’ve only got one board and no poles and your odds of remaining vertical are therefore somewhat reduced.  But Lauren gave it a whole day’s try and was supremely happy about the experience.  Tabitha, for her part, enjoyed her skiing to the point where she told us that if she ever tried to decline an invitation to do it again we should not pay her any mind at all.

There were some tired, happy people around here last night, and some sore ones this morning, but the general consensus is that it was something that will likely happen again.  You have to start this stuff before you’re old enough to know better, otherwise it doesn’t work.  I believe we may have succeeded.


Beatrice Desper said...

Remember me, the swimming nut? I married the guy who does no sports. Like Winston Churchill, he says. The poor guy has a two day work and sports seminar in the Alps this week. He'll be sipping hot chocolate, too.
I'm with you on the Olympics.

David said...

I knew there was a reason I liked him. :) Hot chocolate for the win!