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HIGH LIFE: A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : It's All Downhill From Here : Woodbridge Senior Gets More Than Ski Lessons His First Time Out on Utah Slopes


Swish . . . swish . . . swish. . . . That was going to be the sound of my skis splicing the snow after only one day of lessons. However, my confidence that I was going to be a star on the slopes derived from the fact that I had never skied before.

I recently skied for the first time in Brianhead, Utah, on a church-related outing. The only beginner in an experienced group, I quickly learned a few rules of survival.

Rule No. 1: Never let people (especially 10-year-old boys) know that you get nervous on the ski lift.

I clumsily inched my way forward so that the tips of my skis touched the red line. The ski lift quickly swooped in from behind, knocking the backs of my legs so that I sat down abruptly. The chair swayed forward and backward while I clutched the side railing.

"Where are the seat belts?" I wondered nervously. I glanced over at the two younger boys sharing the lift with me and foresaw the possible consequences if they knew my fears. I quaked at the thought of what two feisty (also experienced) boys would do for entertainment if the lift stopped. I imagined that during those instances of still suspension, 50 feet in the air, I would be holding the rail, screaming, begging them to stop, while they mercilessly laughed and rocked the chair lift back and forth.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 25, 1993 Orange County Edition View Part E Page 3 Column 5 View Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Student misidentified--Nguyen Ho, author of a skiing article in last week's High Life, was incorrectly identified in a headline and photo caption. She is a student at Woodbridge High School in Irvine.

Rule No. 2: Powder is not necessarily desirable.

I was under the impression that the deeper the powder, the better. I thought that the light snow would automatically fly up in an impressive wave on either side of me. Besides, it would cushion any falls. I learned otherwise.

Snow-plowing down the slopes, I noticed a less-skied trail that must have had three feet of powder. "Awesome!" I thought. "If I ski through it, I can brag later about how great the powder was on the trip."

I made a sharp turn onto the path, but to my dismay, I immediately lost control and flew headfirst into the snow. My skis popped off and I was buried. I struggled in vain to recover before anyone could see me, but the powder was soft and I sank into it at each step.

Other skiers swished by, briskly. I avoided eye contact. My attempt at a little professionalism had failed.

Rule No. 3: Just because you master the bunny-hills doesn't mean you're ready to challenge the younger kids on the steeper slopes.

I spent my first day at Brianhead on the bunny-hills. It wasn't long before I was able to look like a pro on them, as I skied confidently down with the wind brushing back my hair.

"If this is all skiing is, I'm ready for the Olympics," I thought.

That evening I challenged my best friend's 10-year-old brother, Blake, to a race. The next day, however, when I experienced what a real slope was, I learned that there was more to skiing than snow-plowing in a smooth, near-horizontal stretch of snow.

Blake and I had made a $1 bet, but I quietly pretended to forget that I had ever challenged him. From then on, I was more humble about my skiing abilities.

Rule No. 4: If you want to look professional, dress down.

It was rumored at Brianhead that skiers who are excessively flashy in their ski attire are compensating for their lack of ability. If you look like a slob, people believe that you're on the slopes to ski and nothing else. I was glad that I didn't look very stunning.

Rule No. 5: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

At one point, a member of our group led the way off the trail and into the trees. Ignorantly, I followed the group, believing that they were sensitive to my lack of experience and would never leave me alone in a situation I couldn't handle. I was wrong.

On the other side of the trees was what seemed to me a cliff. Everyone skied down, howling in exuberance as I cried for help. No one gave me a second thought. I stood in an awkward snow plow stance, refusing to move until my best friend's mother, Kathy, finally rescued me and guided me patiently down.

"I am so mad," I mumbled as we side-stepped our way down, but really I was thinking a lot more. I honestly felt betrayed, and my trust had faded.

When we rejoined the group at the ski lift, they all joked and laughed about it. It was no use getting mad; they didn't care.

Rule No. 6: Flamboyant skiing is half talk.

Sometimes you can get away with a violent crash or brusque fall by acting as if it's the ultimate high: to catch an edge, lose control and wipe other skiers out as you skid down the hill. Another option to cushion the embarrassment is to just laugh.

Certain sports lend themselves to rugged individualism and self-reliance. Skiing is one of them. You do what it takes to stay standing, and you don't expect anyone to stop when you fall. I guess these are lessons for life: Don't give up, and don't expect anyone to do it for you.

Nguyen Ho is a senior at Woodbridge High School in Irvine.

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