Monday, February 28th, 2005

Winter sports

Filed under: random — alison @ 09:48

Since arriving in Canada, Mark has been on an aggressive campaign to introduce me to winter sports. Last year he bought me snowshoes, but finding somewhere you’re allowed to walk for which snowshoes are required is not always easy. This Christmas I got skis, so we’ve been doing lots of that.

Mark is a much more experienced and adventurous skier than I am but he’s usually very patient with me. We go doggy-style: I chug along, and he runs back-and-forth ahead of me. When he isn’t patient, he’s cross because my learning style isn’t what he wishes it were or because I’m refusing to try new things. Which means that we go skiing on days when I’m feeling good, but other days when I’m feeling tired and cross I balk and refuse: we go for a walk instead, and then Poupoune can come too.

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day. We packed up our skis to check out Oka where neither of us had ever been in the winter. Arrived at a giant parking lot. I needed to pee and Mark wanted a trail map, so we went into the service centre where I immediately got the willies from the sporty affluent white breeder crowd and became resentful. We hurried out to the ski trail which was nice and easy. Wide, flat and impeccably groomed. Wheelchair accessible, even. Literally. And crowded with sporty affluent white breeders of all descriptions. I rushed along to distance myself from all the people – I like going to the country to get away from people, not to gather in herds – but of course there were more people up ahead and all that happened was that I was rushing too much to pay attention to the landscape.

So I concentrated on composing an e-mail to you all about what a terrible time I was having, and about the grim looks on the faces of the sporty affluent white breeders. Fathers who had worked in an office all week and wanted nothing more than to be adventuring on a remote ski hill with a guy friend or a lover, but instead were following their undisciplined little whiners around with snot rags because that’s what good fathers do. Mothers who just wanted to be alone for once were pretending to be interested in going out for a family ski in hopes that their children would learn to like exercise and be better people than they were. Kids who were not really sure what was going on except that the activity was organised for their benefit and that they had better appreciate it or die trying.

“Mark,” I called, “We’re going to take the shortest possible trail and head home as soon as we can. I hate it I hate it I hate it. We don’t have to turn around, but let’s not prolong the misery.”

(Ooops, thought Mark.) Pause. Careful, upbeat reply, “Alison, this part of the trail is crowded because it’s the common access to five trails. It will be better when the trail splits into five.”

I stopped and took off my skis at the first intersection, which happened to be in the middle of a beautiful swamp, sat on a picnic bench and had something to eat and drink. Why am I so crabby? I asked. Why do I hate these sporty breeders so much? A trio passed by, the boyfriend challenging the girlfriend’s nine-year-old daughter to a race, the girlfriend following behind chanting “Pousse avec les bras! Pousse!”

“Anything to motivate her,” commented Mark. “But why,” I asked. Mark looked puzzled. Then patient. “They are doing what I’m doing. They’re teaching her technique and improving her fitness so that eventually they can take her interesting places they want to go.”

But why? Why isn’t the pleasure of being outside enough? Why can’t they stop and discuss the vegetation, try to figure out how they know they are in a swamp even though it’s covered with snow, how they know it was made by beavers even though they can’t see any beavers? If they aren’t enjoying themselves now, then why do they even want to bother teaching the girl to ski? Why would the girl want to learn to ski if skiing is only going to be about not being good enough? Because wherever they go, they are going to be better skiers than she is.

And Mark, if you aren’t having fun going out with me, if you are only tolerating me now, and taking me skiing on the most horrible trails in the most boring places you can think of in the hopes that next year you will be able to take me adventure skiing on remote slopes, we might as well go home right now because there’s no point.

I put my skis back on and we continued. Mark was right: the crowd thinned out. He asked me which trail I wanted to take, and I told him to choose: “I’m feeling crabby today and I want to be able to blame you if I don’t enjoy myself.” He picked a trail with an “intermediate” as opposed to “easy” rating, and while it was still extremely easy at least the landscape was more interesting. (The “intermediate” trail was easier than the “easy” trails he’d been on with his friend Paul the day before, in a different park.)

There were even some hills for me to practice going down. Mark coached me, then I told him to go down and keep on going and not look back. I skied down the hills without falling and was very pleased with myself. Mark was able to control himself and wait for me without going back to rescue me.

When we got back to the picnic bench in the swamp we took the snowshoe trail back to the service centre instead of heading back the way we had come. There were really no people there. At one point we saw ski tracks heading off into the woods, not following a trail at all. On a whim we followed the tracks, which took us to another trail. Still no people. We headed down to the beach, where I took some pictures of Mark skiing on the lake. Another picnic stop, Mark sitting on a tree stump and me stretching out on the snow, in the sun. Mark’s friend Paul is a good, fast, fit skier and they have a lot of fun together, but he won’t leave a ski trail. Too much work for not enough speed.

It was getting late, so we skied back towards the service centre across the lake; we didn’t go inside, just kept on going to the parking lot.

In the end I think we had a pretty good time.

[originally transmitted by e-mail February 28, 2005]

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