Making a Skier: A True Story

Making a Skier: A True Story

I wanted to try something new for this post.

Less education and research….

More stream of conscious.

And that means comic relief, for you too.

I’m just going to talk. Big shocker, I know.

I have one friend in particular who is laughing right at this moment thinking, “I always told you, Sis, that you got the gift of gab”. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard him say that… I’d be in the Forbes Magazine Top 100.

So, I was talking to my dad this morning, and we were reminiscing about our epic ski trip this year, and I mentioned that we almost made a pretty clean getaway except for me getting bonked in the head with a lift chair that one time, and we got to laughing about all the mishaps we’ve had along the years. And let me tell you, there have been plenty. I told him he may want to make himself scarce after I publish this, because my mom is going to relive it all over again, and I’m just not sure how that’s gonna work out for him. If it’s anything like the first time(s), that would be, not spectacular. But we’re older and wiser now and we will not make these mistakes again. Right?


I knocked on wood, don’t worry. I even did it a fourth time for extra luck 😉

So as usual, I’ll start at the beginning.

A long, long time ago, at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina, my parents drove me up from Georgia for our first ski trip. I remember these trips because my dad had a whole case of cassette tapes that he had made (this was before the days of CDs) and everytime I hear one of the songs from the tape, or any of our other go-to’s, I remember our drives. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. “Let it Roll” by Little Feat. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd where I’d sing “Sweet Home North Carolina”! This particular trip, I got enrolled in Sugar Bear Ski School, strapped on my ski bibs (all the rage back then) and we headed to the mountain for my first lesson.

Ski School
Sugar Bear Ski School, circa 1991

Some observations about this picture:

This was a clearly at a point in my life where I hadn’t gotten around to correcting people when they spell my name as “Kelly”. Wearing some kind of a bib-vest saying like “we not only need to be able to tell who is a student at the ski school, but we really don’t want you spilling hot chocolate down your front side either, because then we’d have to tote your messy ass around all day. Here’s a bib, kid.”

Do they still wear things like that these days???

Second, does anyone see the guy right behind me who is totally 100% faceplanted in the snow? This isn’t even on a slope really. He must have been having some kinda day.

Then there’s the guy wayyyyy behind me, in a blue jacket on the other side of the slope. He looks like he’s dancing and practicing for his upcoming audition for the The Sound of Music.

“The hiiiiiillllsssss are aliiiiiive…..”

Don’t lie, you can picture it.


We can’t recall if it was this year or the next, but two separate things happened.

You know how ski lifts are supposed to swing around and hit you in the back of the knees, forcing you into a sitting motion so really anybody should be able to ride a ski lift with minimal problems? I’m talking about loading the lift only, getting off, I understand, is a different story for many of us. I’ll come back to this later.

Well, what happens when you’re six years old and just literally too short for the above mentioned system to work properly?

I’ll tell you what happens. At least in my case.

The chair came around and hit me in the butt. It didn’t propel me forward like you might be thinking, but it threw me all out of whack because I was in no way prepared for this. I just remember clinging to the bar as my feet started dangling below me and my dad saying “just let go!” We were hardly off the ground and I had little distance to go to make a clean landing. Thinking back through all of this, why the hell they didn’t just, ya know, STOP THE LIFT, really is beyond me. But my dad knew he couldn’t ride the lift all the way up and leave me down there, so he jumped off of it too.

He wasn’t SUPER high up either, but it was higher than I was, and not to mention he still had sticks strapped to his feet. But luckily, we both made it out okay.

This time.


The next year we went, it was really, really cold for North Carolina. Back then, if I remember correctly, I was wearing hand-me-down long johns, shirts and hats and sometimes an improper fit lends to cool breezes in places that they just don’t belong. But a “genius” idea struck me when we had stopped for our mid-morning hot chocolate break and I was too frozen to think clearly, or at least that’s the excuse I’m going to use.

I went to the bathroom before we went back out to the slopes, and when I was washing my hands, I felt a real “Eureka!” moment. I decided to take matters into my own hands, literally, and put my gloves under the faucet in the steaming hot water. That oughtta warm them up for sure, I thought!


It was good logic, I guess, but it lacked the piece of the puzzle where freezing temperatures do what they always do, and… they freeze stuff. Naturally.

I think I was having a proud moment like, “Daddy, I warmed my gloves up!” He took one look, and then we promptly made our way to the ski shop to buy some more.

Oh keep going. The next year’s trip was even more of a doozy. 


The year I was eight, we battled some demons.

It was another cold day when we arrived at the mountain in NC this time, and I’m not sure we realized the extent of the road ice situation. We were staying in a condo that was up near the end of a meandering road that wound up the side of the mountain past plenty of other condos. We made it a good portion of the way in the truck, crawling up the hill, until the tires would just not go forward any longer. There was ice all over the road, and the tires were spinning, and my dad quickly realized that the only way up was to first go down. So we had to back down this windy road at a snail’s pace in reverse all the way to the bottom. On an icy mountain road in winter weather. But we made it, and once we got the chains, we were golden.

For a little while.

I still have no recollection of the event itself. It knocked me out cold for some time.

Apparently, on that fateful day, my dad was skiing behind me and I had just taken a little tumble. Probably my skis got crossed in my well-practiced pizza pie formation. I guess we’ll never know. He watched me as I got up, brushed myself back off, collected my yard sale, and strapped back in. Just as I started moving forward again, a man recklessly flew around the corner, wasn’t able to avoid me, and he took me out. My dad describes it as “a crumple” as I fell over, unconscious. I don’t even think the asshole stopped.

I remember coming to once or twice and I could tell that I was strapped into a sled, but I couldn’t make sense of where I was or what was going on. I remember telling my mom, “I just know I was shaking.”

“Oh, honey!” She said, “were you scared?”

“Nope, it was just bumpy,” I replied.

Of course I was being taken down the mountain on a ski patrol sled so they could check me out. I remember waking up once in the ski shack, but don’t remember anything else until I woke up on the couch hours later in our condo. My dad told me I had been run into and that I had a concussion, or a bruise on my brain. He told me that I’d have to get lots of rest for the remainder of our trip. It was hard for me to understand this, and why I couldn’t keep skiing, but I could tell the law had been laid.

We played a lot of Parcheesi the rest of the day which was fine by me. Since I had to stay pretty still, I watched TV for much of the time too. I’m not sure if my dad was on the phone or cooking or what, but I remember there was this really comfortable reclining chair that was kind of cornered to the TV. I wanted to both watch TV and to be a slob in this chair, so I got up to turn the TV in my direction so I could see it better. As I turned around and walked back to the chair, there was a huge THUD behind me and my dad came running in.

The damn TV had fallen off the shelf and literally broken in half. Its large ass had just separated from its front, baring its insides.

My dad got that snapped back together well enough before we left, but I can’t recall if it ever worked after that.


When I was 11, we planned a nice Northeastern ski adventure for our winter trip. We have plenty of family up that way so we flew up to Massachusetts to stay at my grandmother’s house, where we met my uncle Chris before heading to Killington, Vermont.

Killington is a rather large resort made up of six mountains. I found the 1996 trail map:


The only trail I distinctly remember from here was one called Mouse Trap that was steep and filled with moguls.

And for anyone who doesn’t know, moguls and I DO NOT get along.

I remember going down on my butt on that one. Perhaps it was the one?

The one where I was tired of moguls and falling and my dad whipped out the map to find me a quick alternate path down. I could take a green that would hit a blue that would take us down to the exact same spot. That was the plan.

But it didn’t quite happen that way, of course.

I headed down my green slope, but the blue I needed to go down was closed that day. So I kept going straight.

You know what happens when you do that? On a long traversing bunny slope at a large resort?

You end up on a different mountain entirely.

But of course I had no idea I was on a separate mountain. I was just happy I made it down on my feet instead of my butt this time. I stood at the bottom of the lift for what must have been thirty minutes before a man asked me if I was lost. I must have forgotten my stranger-danger training at that point because I said yes. Then he dropped me off with some woman, then she dropped me with another man who bought me and another lost kid some fruit roll ups and hot chocolate at a cafe. He sat us at a table, and then good news! The other kids parents had been located. So they left me there.

Which is where I sat staring out of a window for who knows how long before my uncle came up and kissed me on the cheek in clear relief that they had found me! And I think my dad probably took his first full exhale in hours.

Also on this trip, we had some friends from Georgia who happened to be skiing Killington, too. We hung out at their condo for a little bit and then we went to a fancy dinner at a restaurant called the Wobbly Barn.

I didn’t go out of my comfort zone when ordering at a restaurant, like most kids of a mere 11 years old, so I got a nice steak with a baked potato. When it was brought to the table, there was a cup of something that was the right color, but chunky looking, where I expected there to be smooth butter. I questioned its appearance to the group, and before anyone could say anything, our friend said, “ehhhh it’s Wobbly Barn butter! Just try it.”

So I did also what kids do, and I slathered my potato with my “butter”, sour cream and salt. Just the way I like it. 

I took a bite.

And my sinuses exploded. My eyes watered. I might have sneezed a few times.

And everyone laughed, waiting for me to speak.

As it turns out, that “Wobbly Barn butter” as they called it?

It was horseradish.

Horseradish, that stuff that, like wasabi, contains mustard oil which stimulates the nasal passages at an alarming rate. Basically, it feels like you put your nose over a torch and lit it, just to see what it smells like when you eat it slathered on a potato like butter. It’s something I’ll never, ever forget.

Fun times.


Breckenridge, Colorado, 2006

In 2006, I made my first trip to Colorado by driving out from Virginia to Breckenridge along with Sammy’s family where we planned to do three days of skiing. They have this lift type thing there that I could probably just whisper the name of, and it would make Sammy’s heart rate and anxiety skyrocket.

The T-Bar. 


This thing is a simple little upside-down T of a “ski lift” where a person sits on either side and you’re kind of sitting, kind of standing while you glide and get pulled up the hill. I mean if you got mad skills, that is. Because we certainly couldn’t figure out how to ride it with two. Some of us couldn’t ride it with one.

It was our first attempt at ever riding a bowl, and we were all excited. And nervous. But confident.

And we got right on the T-Bar together.

And then we promptly fell right off the T-Bar.

You really should know it’s bad news when it’s got its own slope for people to ride back down after they didn’t quite make it up the first (or second, or third) time. We took the slope back down and decided this time to split up and ride the T-Bar one at a time. Some freaking how I made it up to the top. I waited.

And I waited and waited. I took pictures with my cool disposable camera. And I waited some more. Before I finally decided that Sammy wasn’t coming. So I went down a bowl by myself, wussed out midway and took a side slope which ended up being much worse. A hairy, icy, mogul-y, rocky monster that I went down on my butt.

I have no clue how I ended up finding Sammy again really, but I was yelling “what the hell happened to you, man?” As it turns out, he made a few more attempts at the T-Bar, making it a little bit further up each time until the one attempt he decided would be his last took him right into a small pine tree.

And he fell off the T-Bar for the final time. And that was that.

We live here now, and we haven’t been on it since.

Just sayin’.


For many years there, things went well. When we moved to Virginia in 1998, we began skiing Snowshoe, West Virginia. Here’s a picture that must be from high school which I can tell because of the jacket I was wearing (which I got at American Eagle and therefore couldn’t have been in any way appropriate for really skiing):


Knee pop!

I also think my dad has been wearing that jacket since the night his parents first took him home from the hospital after being born.

For real.

In 2014-ish, we made a trip to Snowshoe. In more recent years, I’ve picked up my speed and skill, but dodging certain things at relatively high speeds isn’t always a piece of cake.

I was coming down a slope called Grabhammer, and as I came over a slight bump, I saw a girl a little ways down who had fallen and hadn’t moved. I tried to turn myself to avoid her but instead I ended up skidding down with my skis sideways, complete absence of any turning action, and I ran right into her. In the process, I guess I planted a pole in the ground which hit me square in the bladder as I then flipped over her in the air. I was stunned, but mostly the shot to my bladder had me feeling like I had peed all over my ski pants. Like, I just knew it. Someone shouted from the lift asking if they should get ski patrol and we all said “yes!” in unison. The girl’s boyfriend was with her though, and he said she was okay, just a busted lip. As Sammy later said, “there’s blood on the Grabhammer!” But when I heard she was okay, I figured I had to take care of my pee pants situation, STAT.

I was fresh out of fucks to give right at that moment about anybody looking at me after what had just transpired out in the open, so I took off my skis and headed to the woods where my plan was just to unbutton my pants and check myself. AFTER I wrecked myself.

But, a couple steps into the soft snow that’s off the side of the slope put me charging a boot close to three feet down into the snow and suddenly I was pretty much thigh deep. I remember saying “I gotta get out of here” and I skied down to the lodge to check my pee pants.

Which weren’t pee pants at all! I was dry!

A narrow escape.

But I am quite certain I bruised my bladder for reasons that don’t need to be stated on the Internet. At least not here.

And I hope the other girl was okay in the end, too.


Arapahoe Basin, Colorado 2016
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado 2016

I’m almost scared to say that things have gone well for our first season living in and skiing Colorado. We skied in one season about as much as I’ve been over the past 10 years. I call that a victory. The only thing was when I was coming off of a lift, and you know how the “lifties” or lift attendants are scraping snow off of the load/unload landings sometimes? So they push it all over to the side where it piles up and becomes ice?

Yeah. I was coming off the lift and the tip of my ski just skewed a littttttttttle too far left. And implanted in the ice bank. And I fell off the lift. Then I turned around to try and unhook myself and also to check if the lift attendants were gonna, ya know, STOP THE LIFT (why does it seem like they stop it all the time but not at the right times for me?) when the chair swung around and knocked me in the head.

But at least in 2016, I’m smart enough to wear a helmet. Maybe next year I’ll get knee pads.

Or maybe better-suited, a cup.


Top of Shay's Revenge, Snowshoe, WV circa 2009
Top of Shay’s Revenge, Snowshoe, WV circa 2009
Top of Lower Shay's Revenge, Snowshoe, WV circa 2009
Top of Lower Shay’s Revenge, Snowshoe, WV circa 2009
Arbuckle's. How I miss you.
Arbuckle’s. How I miss you. Snowshoe, WV circa 2009
That damn T-Bar!! We all have our tourist sweatshirts. Breckenridge, CO 2006
That damn T-Bar!! We ALL have our sweet tourist sweatshirts on. Breckenridge, CO 2006

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One thought on “Making a Skier: A True Story

  1. Deborah Sweeney

    Yikes, I laughed out loud and also felt like crying! You forgot two things:
    When you had the concussion, dad took you straight back to the condo and called me in Georgia where I was working. I was all upset when he said “now don’t worry, but…” and told me what happened. I said, “What did the doctor say?” And he said, Um…what doctor? And I said-screamed-Get my baby to the hospital….now!”

    The other thing is when Uncle Chris found you drinking hot chocolate with the stranger in Kilington when you got lost. So I remember being at my mom’s in Mass when you called to tell me the story, and I said “put your father on the phone.” It is always business when I call him ‘your father.” Anyway, I yelled at him for letting a kid take a trail all by herself, and then I said, “put my brother Chris on the phone” and then I told Chris, who was about 21 years old that he was now in charge of you NOT your father!!!

    And now, now I have to worry since you live in a place where you can ski all the time, not once or twice a year! Oh the woes of motherhood!

    Funny blog–loved it.

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