Why? How was this going to end? A broken arm or maybe a broken leg? My mind flooded with memories of people wiping out. Whether that be serious or maybe a little blip. Tumbles downhills, colliding into one and other, even body’s bending in ways which, well, shouldn’t bend. Not only had I heard of it, but my two eyes had also seen it before, clear as day. Not once, not twice, but millions. Black diamonds were no joke, at least not to me. Though skiing was meant for pleasure, in which I believed as well, many had used it for adrenaline. And it was that… that I did not enjoy.
My ski instructor, Rob, had taught me to always be careful when getting near a black diamond trail. At best to even stay away, considering I was only six at the time (one year ago). I was on a ski trip in Colorado. The mountains were so tall, appearing as if they were nearly touching the sun, if not, going past it. One may see the lush snow-covered mountains at first glance, and assume that with miles of snow covering any given spot, skiing here would be as easy as counting to three. Wrong.
No blizzard was coming through, no rainstorm, thunderstorm, hailstorm… only the sun. Clouds could be counted on fingertips, and the weather was ideal for skiing. Not freezing, not hot, a needle in a haystack for such a busy skiing state like Colorado. I wasn’t the biggest fan of skiing (Not much of a fan at all), but I wanted to prove to my mom that I could pick it up just as fast as she did. She was a big skier. Ten-time gold medalist, two-time world champion, one time X game-winner… at least in my head. She could do it all, in her twenty years of skiing she could do everything I had dreamed of impressing her with. It was this thought, this idea, this motive that made me want to ski.
I could do it too.
As we approached the ski lift, I pulled off my goggles, which at the time had fogged up so much, concealing my view, they practically made me as blind as a bat. Running my glove through the lens’s, I stopped.
“Hey Mom, can we go easy again?” She looked at me, clearly, she wanted to switch it up from the constant greens.
“Of course, but I want to try a new trail. Maybe challenge us a bit, huh kiddo?” I nodded. Showing my displeasure in her statement, but covering it in a blanket of shruggy movements. The chairlift caught my behind. It panted up the mountain, it seemed out of shape. Maybe all the people that used it wore it out. The chairlift ride wasn’t awkward, but rather voice depleted as my thoughts were trapped in my head, not daring to come out. Greens? Please? I don’t want to try blues, let alone a black. But I knew if I had pleaded my case, the tone would have dropped. A big sign at the top of the chairlift had signaled my eternity long ride was over. Crested Butte Mountain Resort, stay safe! A little weird I thought, why stay safe? Was it that dangerous? I knew I was getting in my head too much.
“Ready my boy?” My mom then nudged me with her “Expedition Series 2” ski poles that she had been bragging about to me ever since I entered the world. The cold breeze ran through my hair, causing it to twirl like a violent tornado for a good couple of seconds. I quickly lead us to the green, not allowing her opinion to sway my decision. She said something, but I was too focused to hear it. I figured if I went she would have to follow, so I did just that.
A breeze, hardly a challenge. I moved my skis left then right, over and over again. Once I finished the trail, I realized what I put myself into. During my decision to head to the green trail, I hadn’t realized that it spit us out into a blue or black option. I grunted, half nerves, half frustration in my own arrogance.
My mom caught up to me, “Hey dude, I was trying to tell you that it would lead us to some hard trails, but I guess you didn’t hear me.”
“Sorry, the helmet’s a little tight around my ears.” Although I knew darn well my helmet had nothing to do with it. It was me not caring about her, and being selfish. Now I paid the price.
The pre-labeled difficulty associated with any trail other than a green was stamped into my head for a while. Now I just had to remove it.
“Mom, please, can we just go back up and take a green, it’s too early for the black diamond, I’m only a beginner.”
She laughed. I understood how unrealistic it sounded to take off our skis, walk up the mountain, find another green trail, and ski down it. Plus, it was my fault I found myself here anyway. “How do you plan on getting better?”
It was a good question. I guess I never really thought about it like that before. How did I? I was so focused on taking greens I never realized that some point I would need to take a black. I wanted to impress her anyway, this would be the best time to show her that I can do anything she can, if not better. I built up the courage to tell her I would.
“Ok, we will do it. I’m not going to fall, and I’m going to make it down perfectly (I lied),” I said confidently. But almost instantly regretting it, due to the fact that I had just now stacked ten tons of pressure on my back.
“Sweet, let’s do this!” Her words seemed so excited, which I had planned mine on being, but mine didn’t make me excited. Nope. They made me nervous, the last thing you want to be when facing a challenge.
Fwoosh! Skiers flew by me, and raced down the black. I felt uneased at how fast they were going, I knew I would be taking hours zig-zagging left and right till the end. The trail taunted me, laughed at me, invited me. My mom lead the way, wanting me to follow her. So I did.
I did my strategy, left and right and left and right and left and right. Slowly but surely. I WAS DOING IT! I WAS REALLY DOING IT! Skiers flew by me at speeds a million times my own, but I was too focused on my own success to care.
“Mom!! Look! Look at me! I’m doing so good. I-” Just as if on cue, with my mom’s head looking right at me, I wiped out and face planted right into the mounds of snow, tumbling for about ten seconds. I was devastated, the one time she looked was the one time I messed up. How far did one have to go to impress the other?
“Alex, are you okay? How did that happen?” I tumbled so far down that I had caught up to her on my journey. I must’ve looked like a snowball rolling down the hill with all the snow I collected on my fall.
“I-. I-. I don’t know, I guess I just lost my balance. I was doing so good I just, I don’t know.” I pushed myself up, the blood from a little cut on my wrist now soaked into the surrounding snow spreading like an overtold rumor. My wipeout brought me to the bottom of the trail. Oh god Alex, why? Now you will always remember the first time you tried a black diamond, and not in a good way.
As I skied the remaining bit I reminded myself how disappointed I was, over and over. One job, that’s it, show my mom that I was a good skier. Now I did just the opposite.
I reached the bottom, with my mom right beside me. She came over and hugged me, rubbing my back to display her comfort.
“Hey, I saw you before that whole incident. You were killing it!”
It was those words that taught me that I didn’t always have to impress her. She was my mom, supportive and uplifting. No matter what I did she would give me credits for the positive. After getting down on myself for not proving to her I was a good skier, those words may have shown me otherwise. This was my first black diamond. Not as I was hoping. Not as I had planned. But what I had needed.