Archived Story

French frying my way to gold

Published 2:07pm Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I’ll never be an Olympic downhill skier.

The reasons are numerous, and obvious.

But as I watched the likes of Julia Mancuso and Bode Miller fly down the mountain at Sochi, I couldn’t help but flash back to my first — and last — experience on a pair of skis.

It was 2009 and my wife and I were on vacation with her parents in Massanutten, Va.

While far from an accomplished skier, my wife had been on a few church ski trips and could navigate her way down the mountain — slow and steady.

My wife is kind and patient, and she tried to tell me everything I would need to know to make it safely down the mountain.

I like action, and I’ve never really been a big fan of lessons or instructions. I tend to believe I can figure it out on my own. So, after a few minutes, I told her that we should just give it a try.

We hiked up the mountain a ways and strapped on our skis. I told her to go ahead and I’d follow her down.

That lasted just a few seconds.

She had told me that to control my speed I needed to turn my skis in, making a “pizza slice.” To go faster, I would need to straighten them out like “French fries.”

What I soon learned is that possibly due to extremely weak ankles, I did not posses the ability to pizza slice. So I French fried my way past her at near Olympic speeds. As I zoomed by I could see the shock and fear in her eyes.

I shot straight down the mountain until I finally hit a small bump, flew up in the air just a bit and crashed hard. My skis and poles went in at least three different directions while I tumbled down the mountain.

Not yet ready to admit defeat, I gathered my scattered gear and we climbed back up the mountain for a second run.

Remember, I told you my wife is patient.

I clicked into my skis and used my poles to shove off. Then for some reason that I still can’t explain to this day, I continued to use my poles to build speed knowing full well that I didn’t know how to control my speed, turn or stop.

Once again I blazed my way down the mountain screaming for anyone in my path to save themselves by getting out of my way. I narrowly missed a small child, who was a much better skier than myself and about 10 others who were hanging out near the bottom of the mountain.

This time I managed to miss the bumps and made it all the way to the end of the run. I still hadn’t mastered the art of stopping, so I flung myself on the ground.

Again, my skis went one direction, and I went the other.

And just as quick as I went down the hill, my skiing career was over.

I may never know what it’s like to win a gold medal, but in a race straight downhill, I just might give Bode Miller a run for his money.

However, it’s unlikely that I’d survive to enjoy the victory.

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