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Carol Perkins: Want to hit the slopes?

There is no longer a Ski Butler, but I never go up 1-71 that I don't see the sign and say, "Want to hit the slopes?" Then we retell the story once again, this time after a lapse of five years.
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By Carol Perkins

"We need to try something new each year."

I revealed my plan to my husband Guy. "We're forty-five. If we try a new adventure each year until we're sixty, think of everything we can do. We can go skiing, white water rafting, horseback riding, and maybe take a ride in a hot air balloon.

He didn't see anything wrong with what we were doing now.

The high school students where I taught and a few other teachers had planned a midnight trip to Ski Butler, a resort of man-made snow not too far from Louisville. I told him about the trip and how I thought we should go and ask our good friend to go with us.

"We've never been on a pair of skis," he declared, emphasizing the word never. "People get killed who know what they're doing."

"I know, but how hard can it be? I see little kids skiing on TV."

Deep down, he had actually been thinking that skiing might be fun. Our friend reluctantly agreed to go, so the first thing we did on the way to the lodge was shop for the appropriate attire. We certainly wanted to hit the slopes stylishly, so we bought warm-up suits, earmuffs, and gloves (not exactly Aspen trendsetters).

As we drove up the mountainside that night, the lodge was exactly as I had pictured nestled among pines with a stone chimney soaring from among them. Once inside, the roaring fire convinced me we had made the right decision. I could smell the hot chocolate.

"Do you think that woman sitting alone at the table with her arm in a sling is a bad omen?" my friend Judy whispered as we walked by her, zeroing in on the ski rental area.

A Troy Donahue-looking college kid led us into a locker room with skis lining the walls. They were so beautiful that I held my breath. Then he ruined the moment when he asked what we weighed. I didn't see the significance of that question. He said, "The length of the skis is based on weight. According to what you weigh," he said looking directly at me, "you would need racing skis, but I think these will do." With a smirk, I took the skis. I wanted to crack him over the head with one of them but Guy gave me a look.

Then he fitted us in ski boots. I had no clue they would feel like they were filled with cement. I'm sure the Mafia (I've seen movies!) put ski boots on some of their victims before dumping them into the Hudson Bay.

We three stepped apprehensively out the back door of the resort and into the brisk night air, wearing our boots and carrying our skis. A co-worker volunteered to give us a few necessary instructions. "One thing to remember is that when you fall, you can't get back up unless you pop your skis from the ski boot. Then when you're up, you can put the boot back in the ski. However, don't let that ski get away from you or it will get to the bottom without you." She demonstrated effortlessly the popping of the skis. We pretended to understand.

You know how you take off your tennis shoes without untying them by placing the right shoe behind the left shoe and giving it a "pop"? That was the idea. With my skis resting over one shoulder, I made mental notes: fall down, pop skis, get up, pop skis back on, don't let skis get away. Hmmm, the getting up was going to be the problem since on any given day I had to crawl to the edge of the couch to raise myself up off the floor.

One look down the Bunny Slope and I knew we were in trouble. It made a 45 degree turn around a clump of trees, so we didn't know what we were facing on the other side. "Judy, we can't ski down that slope. If we get started, we might end up on 1-71." We hadn't learned the art of stopping at that point. Something about turning the body to the side.

"We can walk down the first slope until we can see in front of us." That was a good idea.

Where was Guy? As soon as he lined up his skis and tilted them downward, he was gone with nothing but the wind behind him.

Let me describe this man-made snow. First of all, we saw no snow. The night lights were shinning on nothing but ice. The man-made snow had obviously thawed and iced over. The slope looked like a two lane highway with soft edges that drivers avoided because they were treacherous. We walked down the slope in the slushy ditch that lined it.

When we finally reached the clearing, Judy held my arms for balance while I popped my skis into my boots and then I did the same for her. We turned in the direction of down and waited nervously for the adventure to begin, but our skis just skimmed the ice and eyeballed the slush. We were both on our backs with our skis crisscrossing each other in mid-air within seconds. "You be still and let me get mine untangled from yours and then we'll figure this out," she suggested.

For the first hour, the routine went something like this. We would fall. Judy would pop her skis, raise herself up by using her poles, and then pull me up and help me into my skis. We would slide another two or three inches and edge right back toward the mud. Down in the slush we'd go By then, we looked like mud wrestlers After two hours, we had traveled about ten feet.

Suddenly, we heard the sound of an engine. Someone had surely spotted us and was coming to our rescue. We flagged down the emergency ski mobile, "Ladies, I wish I could help but someone has broken his leg and I have to attend to him."

"Could you come back for us?" I pleaded as he raced out of sight. Was it Guy? Is that why I hadn't seen him all night? Later, we learned it was a student.

With mud hanging on her like icing on a cake, Judy managed to pull herself up with her skis on this time, which was not an easy task. Just about the time she leaned over to help me up once again, something like a miracle occurred. She started sliding down the mountain, backward, with her skis perfectly straight and her body bent over just enough to make her go fast.

I will never forget the look of sheer terror on her face the farther and farther away from me she sped. All I could hear was "I'MMMMM SORRRRY!" echoing across the empty space as she skied out of sight.

She knew I'd never get up without her help. I was terrified, given the rate of speed she was traveling backward, that she would hit something at the bottom of the mountain and die.

Tez Butler, an avid skier and fellow teacher, was riding the ski lift up the mountain just as Judy was going down. "Way to go, Judy!" he yelled. She didn't dare look up.

All of a sudden, I was alone. No one was on the mountain but me. I didn't see one person for at least another hour. The longer I was there, the more agitated I became. Finally I was just plan mad. Where was Guy? Why didn't someone see me and save me? Coyotes could eat me before morning. I'd read the short story "The Interlopers" and knew what could happen.

I tried everything to get on my feet, but it was impossible. I rolled over on my stomach and attempted to push myself up with those poles. They were useless, so I'd beat them on the ice in a fit of anger. I had wallowed in the mud to the point that my eyes were the only thing clear, but by now they were blazing with fire. "If I ever get off this mountain....."

I spotted the nearest tree, but how could I crawl to it and latch my arms around it to pull myself up with those skis dangling behind me? If I could get them off, I would walk back up to the ski lodge in the heavy ski boots, but I just couldn't budge them. I thought of positioning myself like a sled, tilting the skis horizontally in front of me like a snow plow, and sliding down the mountain on my bottom, but I feared the friction would burn through my clothes and take the skin off to the bone.

Suddenly, a bright face came down the mountain and stopped. "Ms. Perkins, do you need some help?" It was the bus driver.

"Paul, please help me get out of here!" I was so relieved to see a familiar face.

"Ok, let's take it slow." He was standing on the ice covered mountain trying to help me up and balance himself without hurting his bad leg. Not knowing he had a bad leg, I grabbed it to pull myself up. Before I put him back in the hospital, Guy appeared. The two of them heaved me to an upright position and straightway, my skis flew out from under me and away I went like a rock in a sling shot. Surely, I was headed toward my death!

The closer I got to the bottom, the more I feared I would kill someone else instead of myself. "GET OUT OF THE WAY!" I screamed. It took a minute or two, but when the other skiers saw me, they scattered. I hit a huge mound of snow, (used to stop run-a-way skiers) face first and was glad to do it.

Before too long, Guy was down the mountain and ready to ride the ski lift back up to the lodge with me. He did not want to tell me that the lift did not stop to let skiers off. He had had a previous encounter where he took off his skis, placed them across his chest, and almost choked himself trying to get off.

"Get ready, now, because you are going to have to jump off," he said the closer we rose to the top.

"I'm going to do what?"

"Jump off. Put your skis in front of you and ease off like you're going for another round."

"I can't jump off. I can barely walk off. I'll just keep riding this until they stop and let me off."

"They are not going to stop and let you off," he insisted.

When it was our turn to jump, the lift stopped. Another miracle. Guy was flabbergasted. Evidently, the guy operating the lift had been watching me all night. I leaned out of the lift, fell to the ground on all fours with my skis wrapped around me, and eased out of the way.

Once inside, I asked Guy in my irritated tone,"Where were you all that time?"

"Oh, I went over to the the advanced slope. I saw you over there, but I thought you wouldn't get hurt if you couldn't get up."

I wanted to hurt him.

My plan for adventure ended with the skiing episode. There was absolutely nothing funny about any of it until we drove away from that lodge. Later (with much repeating) it has become one of our best memories.

Even though this happened several years ago, if I am watching The Weather Channel and the ski report for various areas comes on, I'll call Judy and tell her the slopes are powdery and we need to leave early the next day. She will call the next week and tell Guy that we need to hit the slopes in New Mexico because new snow has recently blanketed the state.

There is no longer a Ski Butler, but I never go up 1-71 that I don't see the sign and say, "Want to hit the slopes?" Then we retell the story once again.

Carol Perkins, the writer of this popular CM Column, is an author, owner and operator of Main Street Screenprinting, 601 S. Main Street, Edmonton, KY, Phones 270-432-3152 and 270-670-4913 and is co-host of Susan (Susan Shirley Chambers) & Carol (Carol Sullivan Perkins) on 99.1 The Hoss, regularly live at 10amCT, each Tuesday. Watch CM Events for topics/guests on the show.

This story was posted on 2014-12-28 03:37:43
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