Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Time on Skis

As a kid born and raised in Florida, I spent most "winters" playing soccer in shorts and a short-sleeve t-shirt and rarely ever complaining of cold temperatures.  When someone mentions skiing, my first thought is water skiing.  Aside from a few east-coast winter vacations that included an inch or two of snow, my experience with the white stuff is incredibly limited.  The most snow I've ever seen has been from a distance on the mountains in the Grand Tetons during a summer vacation and a snow covered field while on a spring break trip to Austria in college.

This week I've been in Park City, Utah for an orthopaedic sports medicine conference - which obviously necessitated a first-time experience on the ski slopes.  Realizing that this would be a new adventure, I signed up for a "never-ever" afternoon ski course at Park City Mountain Ski Resort.  My afternoon began with the task of obtaining all of my ski equipment.  After making my way through the rental line, I was armed with ski boots, skis, poles, and a helmet.  

Here are a few of the thoughts that were running through my head while awaiting my lesson:
  • Ski boots are incredibly uncomfortable.  At first I thought that they simply didn't fit well, but I was quickly reassured by the "ski-boot fitter" that there is no such thing as a comfortable boot.
  • Everyone else walking around the resort carries their skis confidently and looks the part of a skier.  I'm struggling to coordinate carrying my skis, poles, and helmet all while stumbling around in the above mentioned giant pieces of plastic attached to my feet.
  • There are three men in my "never-ever" group.  One is wearing cargo jeans, another is in skinny jeans and a calvin klein leather jacket, and the other has sweat pants and a long-sleeve t-shirt on.  One point for me - styling in North Face ski pants and heavy jacket.

The lesson began by teaching us how to step into our skis and gradually progressed to slow forward movements and then triangulating our skis to come to a stop.  Eventually we graduated from the lesson area and made our way to the first-time lift.  So far, so good - no falls and I was was gradually gaining confidence.  The ride up the lift granted some incredible views of the snow-covered peaks while also giving me the opportunity to chat-it up with Mr. Skinny Jeans (who is quick to tell me he's gay and recently broke onto the stand-up comedy scene in LA).  Hmm . . . so much for meeting Mr. Perfect in Park City.  Anyway, I successfully made the leap off the lift without making a complete fool of myself.  Quite the opposite for the two newbies behind me who both did a butt plant.  After 20 minutes of standing around waiting for them to adjust themselves and recover from the spill, we finally made our way down the hill.  I was quickly gaining confidence and was ready for our next trip up the lift.  Unfortunately, I was in for a bit of a surprise on the second run.

After exiting the lift, I was feeling nauseated.  I tried to ignore it and  hoped it would go away just as quickly as it appeared.  However, by the time I got to the bottom of the run my vision started getting black and I quickly made my way to the side and sat down in the snow.  After a few minutes I stood up, yet the world started spinning and the nausea persisted.  The ski instructor called the ski patrol, and next thing I knew I was in the back of the snowmobile and heading towards the base clinic with the diagnosis of acute mountain sickness - aka altitude sickness.  Within five minutes of receiving oxygen by face mask, I was feeling much better.  I hung out for thirty minutes of oxygen and then was released with strict instructions to drink lots of water and descend in altitude if my symptoms recurred.

So with that, I gathered my equipment, returned them to the lodge, and called my first ski adventure quits.  To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and would have never guessed that altitude alone would cut my day on the slopes short.  I haven't had any more feelings of blacking out, but a dull headache and heavier breathing with my usual exercise certainly is a reminder of the elevation difference.

I'll definitely plan another ski trip in the future, although perhaps I'll spend a day or two acclimating to the altitude prior to hitting the slopes.  As I was leaving, I passed this cute little guy.  He's the most recent addition to the ski patrol and appears to be soaking up his introduction to the media and guests quite well.

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