Conquering My Fears on the Slopes

October 18, 2008
By Sam DeLise, Easton, CT

The day started off great. It was a clear sunny day at Snowbird, a ski resort in Utah. The weather was perfect for skiing. At least that’s what I thought. I was so excited to finally go skiing out West. After eating breakfast we went to the tram which would take us directly to Snowbird. The tram ride was about half an hour. The entire time, we were travelling up a winding path on the mountain, which was enormous and white as paper. When we finally arrived at the ski lodge we emptied the tram and stared blankly at the mountain. I had never seen something that enormous. It looked like a huge marshmallow, covered with tiny, moving ants. To top it off, I couldn’t even see the summit from where I was standing. All of a sudden, one of the “ants” fell head over heels down the slope, and I realized this wasn’t just a family day trip to our local Connecticut ski area; this was a serious resort. The moment I saw how dangerous this enormous mountain could be, I knew something was going to go wrong.

My dad and I aren’t the best skiers, but we came to Utah instead of visiting colleges with my mom and my sisters. Since Utah slopes are a lot different than Connecticut slopes, we stayed on the green trails, which are the easiest.

We had been skiing for over three hours and were starting to get the hang of Utah skiing. We boarded a new chairlift, which took us three quarters of the way to the summit. After hopping off the lift, we skied over to the trail map. My dad decided to choose a more advanced trail called Lower Bassakwards. It was a blue trail, which is mainly for intermediate skiers. I went ahead and started down the trail. I was feeling good so I picked up more speed, which wasn’t the best decision. In my head I thought, what could possibly go wrong? I rounded a curve which I thought ended in a straightaway, but it actually kept turning. Instead of finishing the turn, I accidently continued straight ahead. Little did I know that I led us right onto a double black diamond, the most expert trail, with so many moguls you couldn’t see any smooth snow. To make it even worse, the slope was at a 115 degree angle.

I flew off Lower Bassakwards and started to ski down the double black diamond trail, which looked to me like a 90 degree drop. Without knowing how to ski the bumps, I was quickly thrown in the air by a mogul. I spun like a Frisbee being tossed around. Through my snow-blurred goggles, I had no idea what was going on. Yet in less than a second I hit the ground hard with a loud thud. As soon as I landed, I slid down the slope until I was stopped by another mogul. My mouth filled with snow and the metallic taste of blood. My legs and arms ached and were buried. My bindings released, and my skies flew off, landing twenty feet below me. I could barely move. I was terrified, thinking I was paralyzed.

In the distance I heard someone shout down to me. It was my dad. I could barely make out what he was saying but I heard, “You all right, Sam. Are you hurt?” I tried to yell back but I didn’t have the strength. Then his face appeared at the top of the slope. I wanted to stand up and rush towards him but my muscles wouldn’t let me. Then he spoke again and this time I heard exactly what he said. “Are you all right?” he questioned again. I shook my head no. As I shook my head against the snowy ground I felt a huge scrape on my face. My dad took off his skies and slid down the trail to where I was lying. He helped me stand up even though I felt weak. I was relieved that I could stand and move my limbs. Even though I felt a little better because now my dad was with me, each step I took hurt as bad as breaking a bone. My dad collected my skies and we both climbed up the slope carefully.

A few people asked if I was all right and if I needed help. I refused because luckily I hadn’t broken any bones or had a concussion, plus my dad was there to help me.

Now that all the commotion was over there was another problem. We were still half way up the mountain. My choices were to ski down the rest of the mountain or have the ski patrol bring me down on the snow stretcher.

After sitting for five minutes, I felt stronger and decided to ski down. I knew it would be a challenge but I wanted to show my dad I was tough, and I didn’t want to make a scene by having the ski patrol bring me down. We ended up taking the easiest route down. We took almost twenty minutes to reach the bottom. As soon as we got to the lodge, we sat down and my dad got me a chili dog, which tasted disgusting but I ate it anyway. My dad and I sat there for an hour before attempting the slopes again. The rest of the day we skied the easier trails. I wasn’t going to let a bad fall ruin our vacation.

We spent the next several days at Solitude, a much easier mountain and better suited to our skiing abilities. Of all the ski resorts I’ve been to, this is my all-time favorite. The best part was that I conquered my fears and went on another trail full of moguls, called North Star. I was so excited to try it out because during those days in Utah I gained confidence, and felt I had become a better skier. The snow on North Star was powdery and soft, so even if I fell it wouldn’t hurt. I showed my dad the trail, and to my surprise his face turned ghost white and he backed out. Instead he went on a different trail, called South Star, and said he would meet me at the bottom. So this was the perfect time to conquer my fears, both skiing on moguls and skiing alone. I shredded the moguls so fast I felt like a professional. When I reached the bottom I was so excited to tell my dad about it. After a bad start in the West, it was a great way to finish!

This winter I hope we can go to Utah to ski again, but with our entire family. Also, we can skip Snowbird - at least until we are expert skiers!

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