First Time Skiing
Watch Albert flying down the mountain at lightning speed.
The first time I went skiing was something like 14 years ago.  I was nothing like I am today because I basically SUCKED!  Albert and I both went up there for the first time because we always wanted to go skiing and never had.  We were so unprepared for what we would encounter.   We didn't have any lessons and had no idea about any skill or technique.  It was a long way from becoming a level 7 skier.
 
At the recommendation of another friend, I went and picked up our rental gear at a sporting goods store on Geary Street in San Francisco.  I would never do that again as I came to realize it would be much easier to rent gear with a higher cost at the resort and not have to carry up a bunch of equipment when we had no idea what to do with it.  Keep in mind that in 1989 I didn't own a 4-wheel drive vehicle yet so there was more of an inconvenience.  Obviously to those who have gone skiing with me before, owning my own equipment and loading it in the back of the Cherokee is not an issue today.  Besides, my equipment goes home with me and I don't have to take another trip back to the store as we did with those rentals.  But anyway, here I was at the sporting goods store and I had no idea what it was I needed to get.  I just imagined skis.  In my amateur status I had no idea about the bindings they would put on the skis to fit my boot size or the ski bib that I would need to wear under my jacket.   Heck, why did we need bibs, we weren't babies.  To make things more complicated it didn't really occur at the time that I would be picking up rental boots for Albert without him being there to try it on so I suppose we were fortunate that he didn't get a pair of boots that were too small. 
 
Despite being very psyched about going up to the mountains, the two of us were certainly slow in getting up there.   Not only did I need to return my Subaru rental car to Budget in the morning, but we also ate a leisurely lunch before leaving after noon.   (We'll save the story of the Subaru for another time.  When my Chevy Nova which I drove at the time was in the shop, I rented the Subaru with a stick shift and went through a self taught lesson on how to drive a stick.   Of course my thinking then was if I could learn to drive a stick without lessons, I was certain to be able to figure out skiing without a lesson.)    So here we were leaving for the Sierras in the afternoon with our ski gear packed in the back of Al's Nova.   (What was it with the two of us owning Novas?)   The resorts were about three hours away and we were on our way.  It was almost 1:00pm. 
 
When we arrived in the mountains and hit snow, it was way past three pm.  I had coupons, I believe from Taco Hell, for a place I didn't know too well at the time called Sugar Bowl.  Following the directions, we got off at the Norden Exit.  We saw a local restaurant before continuing the short drive because at that point we both needed the restroom.   Even as we neared the resort, we were still easily distracted.   I don't recall if this was Albert's first time seeing snow, but nonetheless we both started picking up snow and making snowballs with our bare hands.  Things got cold and numb in just a short time.  That thrill of throwing snowballs ended rather quickly. Back in the car we went and Albert was still excited about the snow.  Again, I can't remember if this was Al's first time in the snow.  While behind the wheel of his Nova, he saw a snow bank and decided it would be fun to smash it with his car.  One problem, that stuff is months of piled up snow that has frozen hard overtime.   One big THUD and lets just say Chevy used to make those old cars like steel tanks.   No noticeable damage.
 
So after several delays, we finally arrived at Sugar Bowl and parked the car.   Those familiar with the resort, note that this was before they ever added the newer main lodge on Mt. Judah so the only way to Sugar Bowl was the Gondola entrance.  As some people were returning to their cars, here we were trying to figure out how to put on our gear.  Watching the example of those returning, we were eventually able to figure it out.  That was the first time we actually put on those ski boots and as it is for all first time skiers, they feel like you're walking in gravity boots.  We slowly made our way to the Gondola and saw a mass of people returning from the gondola.  We weren't quite certain on where we were suppose to pay for the ride.  Finally I asked a lady returning where we were suppose to pay for the tickets.  Politely, without laughing in my face, she managed to explain to me that it was 4:30pm and the resort was closed.  DOH!!!!!  Somehow, Albert and I managed to piss away the day with our many distractions.  We finally arrived at Sugar Bowl and they were closed.  We were now to walk back to the car with our skis and gear looking much cleaner than everyone else's.   At that point, I was really tired of taking those slow steps down the stairs so here I thought I could short cut it by jumping the last three steps.  Those boots were feeling so heavy I couldn't catch my balance as I hit the ground and ended up making a loud crash on my back followed by the laughter of my good buddy Al.
 
After putting our gear away in the car, it occurred to me that I heard Boreal had night skiing.  We were determined not to make the drive a waste so onward East we went to make Boreal our first ski experience.  Our first time would be night skiing.  We made our way to Boreal and figured the night skiing prices weren't that bad.  For our first time out, it started snowing on us.  Fresh powder for our first time.  At night, there were only two runs operating.  The bunny slope and the other longer run.   In our limited ability of simply going in a straight line, our arrogance believed we were mastering the art of skiing.  Basically, this child's run was very flat and one couldn't pick up a lot of speed.   Remember, our only skill was a straight line.  We didn't know how to maneuver a turn and we had no clue what a wedge was.  While it is true we abandon the wedge in advanced skill levels, all beginners should know the basic wedge when starting because it is basically the easiest way to slow down.   We were very much at the beginner level and the lack of a wedge would hurt us. 
 
We figured the bunny run was easy so we were ready for the other run.  At this point it was snowing pretty hard at night.  We could only see about 10 or 15 feet in front of us in the snowfall.  While on the other ski lift, we realized that every time it looked as if the end of the lift was near, it was actually much longer than we thought.  We kept wondering when the damn lift would end because we knew we couldn't see the lodge anymore.  There was great anticipation for the lift to end because we knew when we finally reached the top we would have to maneuver the art of getting off the chairlift.  They don't stop or slow down the lifts at the advanced levels and we already managed to bump into each other on the bunny lift earlier when stepping off.  When we finally made it to the top, we looked down at what we perceived to be a long way down.  "You go first."  "No after you," we would keep repeating as we were both suddenly lacking that confidence we held on the bunny slope.  Finally, I decided to make a go at it and it didn't take long for me to lose control as it was no longer a straight flat run.  I went straight into a set of moguls and fell back on my butt.  I was resilient in my desire to not come to a stop so I kept pushing myself back up with the ski pole but couldn't manage to get myself all the way up so I would get half way up and slide right back down onto another mogul.  It was one bump after another and despite the distance between us, Albert could be heard laughing from above.   During our long way down, we would often be separated because we continued to fall down behind the other and often times we had to walk back up about 200 feet to recover our skis.  At one point, Albert seemed willing to give up the $300 deposit on his skis.  As I continued my straight line technique, I didn't know any other way to stop than to dive forward.   For those reading this who have never skied before, that's bad.  Every so often I would force a stop because without knowing the wedge, I was going down what felt like over 30mph in a straight line and I didn't want to crash into anything.  Do you ever get the feeling that the people above you on the ski lift are laughing at you?   Well, that's what they were doing to me.  Albert and I were separated for awhile but eventually we ended up back in the same place.   We did choose to head towards the less traveled area to spare our humiliation.  That basically meant we were skiing into icier ungroomed territory.   Albert feeling a bit of confidence return told me to follow his lead because he thought he suddenly figured it out.  "No way, you're about to hit that tree."   He SMACKED right into a tree.  No thanks, I'll go the other direction away from the trees.   Much like the Chevy Nova hitting the snow bank, no evident damage done to Albert.   When we finally made it back to the lodge, we were so relieved and happy to say we finally went skiing.  I must have fallen no more than 14 or 15 times.
 
That run which took us about two hours to get down, I can make it from top to bottom in less than five minutes today.  Boreal only has 500 feet of vertical.  That first outing was truly an embarrassment.  That's why I always recommend all newbies take lessons.  It's basic stuff but the skills will improve.  Screw the pride and learn how to do it right. 
 
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Tired and beat up, we were hungry for dinner.  It was only another 45 minutes to Reno so I suggested it to Albert and on we went.  At the time, I don't believe he had ever been to a casino before either.  I remember we ended up in downtown Reno and went through the casino with the old car museum before we ended up in a 50's style diner.  This was a different time for Reno.  It was before Las Vegas became the super Nevada destination it is today.  Downtown Reno wasn't the ghost town it resembles today.  I don't believe we played too much this time because our bodies were sore from the beating we took at Boreal.   But eating a late dinner in Reno only meant we added another few hours to our return home.  It was a tiring drive and both of us were beat.  We were fortunate that the snow let up and we didn't need to buy chains for the return drive on I-80.  I may have taken a turn at the wheel, but it wouldn't have been for more than an hour on the mountain.  I was tired.   So was Al, because at one point he knew he couldn't stay awake so he pulled over in a parking lot off the highway and both of us took our power nap.  In the late hours of past 2am, we were both rudely awaken as there was a knock on the passenger side window beside me.  FRIGGIN SECURITY GUARD.  Freaked me out as my heart beat a few steps faster.  If you ever get awaken by someone banging on the window in a deserted parking lot late at night, see how long it takes for your eyes to open up and see clearly.  It took a couple of seconds to figure out what was going on.  We were basically told we couldn't sleep there and we were sent on our way. 
 
One other thing I should mention is that we didn't have Starbucks in every city back in those days.  The only coffee available early in the morning was at any of the Denny's along the freeway.  I know we always hear about how people don't like the way Starbucks is Corporate America planting itself all over this country, but thinking back to a time when it wasn't available there is an appreciation for the almost consistency of a coffee product whenever one is traveling on the road.  Did I ever mention that I had to be at work by 9am on Saturday morning?  Those were the longest tours I ever had to give on the Zebra Zoo Train.  But all in all, it was a fun trip and I knew one day I would return to the mountains and figure out that skiing thing.  Lessons were suggested the next time up and what a difference it would make in the long run.

 

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