“Do you know what that means?”
No answer, or at least none that was audible over the lip of the foreboding ski run known as “East Bowl Chutes.”
“It means MURDERING YOUR MOTHER!”
In 16 years of living in Alaska, I have assiduously avoided any ski run (or other mountain feature) with the word “chute” in the name. Do you know what a chute actually even is? I know you think you do, but let me tell you anyway.
A chute is “a vertical or inclined plane, channel, or passage through which objects are moved by means of gravity.” And that is exactly what I don’t need at my age: extra gravity.
Not post-ACL surgery, when I manage to rupture discs in my sleep. Not when each passing day brings my nipples that much closer to my belly button. Not when an encounter with gravity means a fight with Aetna, probably.
At 43, gravity is no one’s friend.
I prefer runs with names like “Fuzzy Duckling” and “Featherbed.” My 13 year-old daughter Paige, on the other hand, who’s been on skis since she could walk, is happy to bomb down “Insane Asylum,” “Satan’s Man Tits,” and “Jeffrey Dahmer’s Dinner.” These are not the names of actual runs at Eaglecrest, but they should be.
“It’s easier if you TURN, Mom,” Paige said as I side-stepped with trepidation down the precarious “chute.”
Alaska will kill you if it gets half the chance. This much I know. And while I’m happy to be on the front page of the ADN for suing the governor, I refuse to be a headline because of an avalanche, hypothermia, bear mauling, shelf ice melt event, or other wilderness mishap. No sir. I’m not trying to be that woman born in the Bronx only to die a cautionary tale for would-be Chris McCandless types.
No fucking thank you.
Paige, on the other hand, was born here, and it shows. I didn’t learn to ski until my muscle memory was well into dementia territory. Growing up, skiing was an expensive, obnoxious hobby for rich people. Here in Juneau—especially in a pandemic—it feels like one of few routes to sanity. But even I have my limits.
“It will be fun!” She said. “You can DO THIS, Mom,” she said, knowing that I’m all about leading by example and modeling the confronting of one’s fears for my children.
But not via THE GATES OF HELL.
“Wait. Do we have to go through the gates? I don’t go through the gates.”
The “gates”—with their little red ropes and disquieting warning signs—are what seem to separate the wheat from the chaff of skiers. Well, I’m perfectly happy to be the chaff (whatever that is),if it means I live to blog another day.
Spoiler: We went through the gates.
“Isn’t this FUN, MOMMY?!”
“You’re trying to kill me.”
“You just finished the hardest part!” A cool mom friend of mine encouraged me as she swooshed passed us gracefully, a plume of powder in her wake, braids bouncing under her helmet REI-catalogue style. (This particular mom, it should be noted, has also tried to Alaska-murder me on many occasions, so I greeted her reassurance with a healthy dose of skepticism).
Who even invented this ridiculous sport? Who thought it would be a good idea to strap gigantic boards to human feet, point them down a snowy mountain, and be like ... “GOOD LUCK!”
Anyway, I didn’t die, as evinced by the fact that I both took this picture and lived to blog about it. Paige’s next attempted matricide will have to wait for kayaking season.