Going Downhill Fast

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Today’s topic, as promised last week, is earthquake safety. Before I get to that, though, there is something I think you should know about snow-skiing: it makes you stupid.

I have scientific research to back up this claim, but quite frankly, you probably wouldn’t understand it, since I made it up. So instead, I’ll give you the non-scientific evidence.

I went skiing for the first time last winter for two reasons:

1) I was invited. I will do almost anything if I am invited.

2) It looked like so much fun. On those commercials for ski places, they always show action shots of large, rugged men falling off cliffs and skidding along the snow on their bellies like some kind of deranged otter, and I thought that sliding around on packed ice with eight-foot long skis and sharp-ended poles with which to poke out the eyes of innocent bystanders would be an enjoyable experience. “Hey!” I could be heard telling people. “I’m going to go up in the mountains and try to lose the use of my major appendages!”

So I went, and I didn’t have an ounce of fun. It was too cold, I fell down a lot, and I really didn’t know how to ski, having refused to take the free lessons on the grounds that I was “Too Macho.” After about three hours, I quit for the day on the grounds that I was “Too Wet.”

Now, if I had any common sense, I would have never ever ever in a million years agreed to go skiing again. But that one time — those three short hours — affected my intelligence to such a degree that I soon found myself planning another ski trip with the very same people I had gone with the last time.

So I went again with the exact same people, except that my father tagged along, too. He had never skied in his life, but he was smart enough to take the lessons before he tried it. Unfortunately, the one thing they don’t teach you in skiing school is how to keep yourself from breaking the sound barrier as you go down the hill. So here was my father, who had never been on skis before, rocketing down the mountain, jumping off the “moguls” in his “fast” clothes, “spearing” little kids like “shish-ke-bobs” with his “poles” to get them out of his way.

The thing was — he wasn’t falling. My friends and I didn’t like this, so we called his name as he sped past us, disrupting his concentration and causing him to plunge headlong toward the bottom of the mountain. That was almost all the fun we had that day, making my father fall down.

I eventually got tired and went down to the lodge to rest for a while. From the deck, I had a clear view of the ski slopes, and it was at this point that I made my discovery. I was just sitting there, drinking my $1 can of soda and eating my $2.75 slice of pizza, when I decided that I would observe the skiers at the very top of the mountain.

The very top of the mountain is called the Insane Person’s Slope because 1) there are moguls all over the place, 2) it is very very steep, and 3) that is where the snow-making machines are, and if the wind blows just right, you’ll get caught in a snow flurry and you won’t be able to see that there are moguls all over the place and that the hill is very very steep. Despite all these adverse conditions, however, there were still quite a few people up there, most of them clinging to the lift machine and sobbing about how they didn’t want to go down after all.

But I began watching the ones who were brave and/or stupid enough to actually attempt to ski down the hill. What I noticed was that when they finally landed at the bottom of the mountain, the ones whose leg bones were not protruding from their flesh would get up and go do it again! I could not understand this.

After about an hour of observing, I made my startling discovery: The snow from the snow machines was going inside people’s ears, crystalizing in their heads, and preventing their brain cells from functioning properly. This is why, even though they had all ready nearly killed themselves, the skiers would go and try it again. The fake snow was killing their brain cells!

Then I realized — I was one of those people! I had gone skiing once before, hated it, and GONE AGAIN ANYWAY!! The fake snow had infected my brain, just as it was infecting these poor, unaware people’s brains! It was like being in that movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and suddenly discovering that you were one of the pod people! It was horrible.

So I’m going again this month.

Next week: earthquake safety.

Nowadays, I love skiing. I'm pretty good at it, and I go whenever I can. Unfortunately, it's very expensive, so I can't afford to go very often. Once my friend from Colorado came to visit, and we went skiing at nearby Sundance, and afterwards we went to eat at Denny's. While we were sitting there, my friend suggested that I quit my job, he would quit his, and he would move to Utah, into my apartment, so that we would go skiing every single day. I pointed out the folly of his plan, and that was the end of it. But sometimes, when work or school gets me feeling all burdened and weary, I start to think maybe my friend's idea wasn't so bad.

The trick I use in this column where I put quotation marks around words that don't need them is actually a Dave Barry technique, stolen directly from him. Just so you know.


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