Jeff Pearlman

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Sloped

Photo on 2010-01-20 at 14.18 #2

I was raised buy two terrific, attentive, wonderful parents.

However, I blame them for a couple of things. My mom used to plop me down on a bathroom sink, bribe me with a piece of orange Trident gum and cut my hair, which resulted in a bowl-shaped mop-top and some ruthless schoolyard mockings. My dad didn’t let me use the car to drive my junior prom date home. I inherited their collective coordination (minimal), as well as some unfortunate Varicose leg veins (thick and blue). Because of my mother, I instinctively bypass Gap, American Eagle, Banana Republic for Ross Dress for Less and Marshall’s. Because of my father, I dance like a one-legged emu.

The worst thing my parents did, however, was never taking me skiing as a kid.

Boy, have I learned this the hard way.

This past weekend the wife, my lovely sister in law and I packed up my two kids and my two nephews and headed off for Jiminy Peak, a ski resort located in Hancock, Mass. We arrived on Sunday, and as the others headed off for the slopes, I stayed and watched my 3-year-old son, Emmett. It was pretty boring—minimal entertainment, overpriced grub ($3.95 for a friggin’ chocolate pudding!?), not much to see. That night, the wife asked if I wanted to take a ski lesson on Monday. I had skied once in my life, six or seven years ago. I debated (warm vs. snow; falling vs. not falling) before deciding to go for it. The thinking dates back to my skydiving experience from last April—when in doubt, force yourself to do the adventurous.

I did the adventurous.

And now, two days removed, I can barely move.

Damn, skiing is hard. Especially if you’re 37, and self-aware enough to know falling hurts. The lesson began softly enough—this is a ski; this is how you put on a ski; let’s try sliding back and forth on a flat piece of land. But then we started going down the hill. And I started falling. And falling. And falling. And falling. I fell on my ass and my elbows, my hands and my head. I fell and fell and fell and fell, and even when I didn’t fall I was pretty sure I would fall eventually.

By the time the lesson ended, I tried going down the smallest hill on my own. I fell, but fell less often. I used the ol’ “Snowplow” technique, placing my skis in a V-shape, shuffling down at my own pace. Then—whoosh! My 6-year-old daughter, skiing for the second time in her life, flew by. “Hey Dad!” she screamed happily. I was thrilled by her success, but tormented by my ineptitude. I’d show them! My wife (an excellent skier) took me to a longer slope, way up the mountain. I looked down. “Uh, this doesn’t seem so easy,” I said.

“You’ll be fine,” she said.

Gulp.

I started slowly. And fell. And fell. And fell. My wife told me to calm down and relax—”You’re not having fun!” How the hell is falling fun? But I tried. I smiled. Got up. Fell again. Then, the nightmare. A line of young kids skiing down the hill, right toward me. I lost control, flopped on my face. Hard. A little boy from up the block, James, comes flying by. “Hey Jeff,” he says, casual as can be. His parents—good friends of ours—start cracking up hysterically. I am livid. LIVID. What the f••• is so funny?

I putz my way down the slope, finally get there, oh, 10 minutes later. I continue to seethe for the rest of the day, burdened by my ineptitude and sickened at being the butt of someone else’s joke.

Only later, sipping a hot chocolate by the fire, do I realize the truth—I would have laughed at the scene, too.

Skiing—friggin’ skiing. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

I can’t wait to try again.

  • Rudy

    I can hear the calls from the cheap seats now —

    “Another sportswriter with no athletic ability”

  • Adam

    Jeff, skip the skiing and go straight to snowboarding. It will be a very painful two days from falling, but by the end of day 2 (ie the second weekend you go since you will probably not be able to go back to back days due to the pain from day one) you will get it, and by end of day 3 you’ll practically be an intermediate. Trust me on this, snowboarding is the way to go.

  • Daniel

    My parents had plenty of flaws in addition to skipping the skiing. But now, I like skiing. I’ve done it twice. Once, at Killington, with my waaaa-I-was-forced-to-go-to-skiing-lessons-in-high-school-and-now-I’m-really-good-for-someone-who-skis-once-every-10-years wife and a bunch of other we-can-do-anything friends. I took a lesson then did the bunny trail with the elementary school kids all day. Not easy. Didn’t feel confident. Then was lured to the cafe at the peak by my friends (and a grilled cheese and cold beer that were also calling my name). Then had to get down. It was steep. I’d go five feet, then stop. Five more, then stop. The sun set. The air grew colder. The snow was icing over. The mountain was empty. I kicked off my skis and decided to walk down the mountain. That’s when ski patrol arrived and insisted on cruising me down. They were good enough to drop me off right in front of the giant window at the all-cool-people-drink-here lodge, where everyone inside got to ski the uninjured, clearly more than five years old lame-ass dismount the snow mobile. The second time was better.

  • Matt

    100% agreed with Adam.

    I’ll also add to skip the bunny hills when learning to snowboard. The guy who taught me did so by bringing me up to the highest point on the mountain, showed me the very basics and then told me to get down on my own.

    I fell a dozen times, minimum. I was using every four letter word in the book when I took a nasty spill. It took me at least an hour and I felt demolished.

    But by the second time at the top of the hill I actually had it down. Snowboarding isn’t tough to pick up. It’s painful but a day of sucking it up and you won’t embarrass yourself the next time out.

    But yea, the following morning you’ll be cursing muscles you never knew existed.

  • jb

    To the people recommending snowboarding over skiing: If a person is having a lot of trouble skiing, then snowboarding will be an absolute nightmare. It’s a million times harder, especially at first.

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life