After much deliberating, discussion and delight, The Ski Journal, in conjunction with Warren Miller, is proud to announce the top ten entries for our ‘First Time Ever on Skis’ contest. With hundreds of submissions ranging from 2010 to the 1940’s, from Norway to Dubai to Norcal, featuring tragedy and triumph, family, friends and strangers, uphill and downhill, poems, prose and even a few run-on sentences, suffice to say that they all brought smiles to our faces—and brought back our own personal memories of the purity of our first time sliding on snow.
Alas, there can only be one winner—on February 2, we began counting down the top ten entries, culminating with Mr. Miller’s favorite essay on Friday, February 11th. A special thanks to Mr. Warren Miller and contest sponsors K2, Orage, Smith Optics, and media partner Newschoolers.com. And you, the reader, who took the time to relive your first time with us—we hope your stories were as enjoyable to write as they were to read.
Fifth Place: You Never Forget Your First Time.
By Kim Kircher.
Big, fat flakes the size of dinner plates hit my red parka and melted, seeping into my shoulders. In the trek from our Chevy Blazer, where I’d carried my skis like cord wood up the sloping hill to the ski school hut, I hadn’t had a chance to catch any on my tongue. Dad had promised me that catching snowflakes was the best part of skiing. He’d told me they tasted like freedom.
Mom fiddled with my jacket, zipping it within a millimeter of my chin.
“Just look at my little skiers,” she said. “Pretty soon Dad won’t even be able to keep up with you.” It would be another few years, when my sister and I turned eight and nine, that Mom would start teaching skiing, taking to the sport like a religious zealot. For now, on this first day in early December, her job was to get us ready. Dad was already on the slopes, his students following him like an articulated toy snake, their arms held up to catch the joy.
We wore matching Powder Pigs hats, our names embroidered in red yarn on the forehead. Our jackets held the ski school patch–the blue pig, its skis crossed in a wedge, its pig-arms held high for balance. Earlier, I had run my finger along the stitching, imagining the freedom of the slopes–the wind in my hair, the speed under my skis. I’d turn around race gates, be the envy of the chairlift onlookers, replay my exploits over mugs of steaming hot chocolate in the lodge.
Mom had explained the rope tow, covering our gloves with a leather cuff. “So the rope won’t burn through your glove.” Excited, I anticipated the speed required to burn through a glove.
But after only a preliminary clomping on the fast-accumulating snow, the instructor ushered us towards the lift. Mom hadn’t prepared me for the chairlift. In fact, she’d told me not to worry about it. I definitely wouldn’t ride it today. Chairlifts were for experts.
Without ski poles, my sister and I made exaggerated motions with our arms to propel ourselves towards the wooden “stand here” slat. The lift operator brushed the snow from the seat with a broom. I jumped on, hooking the bar with my elbow and scooched onto the seat, the tips of my skis sticking straight up.
I was riding a real chairlift. My first day and I was already an expert. At that moment, before I even took my first turn, before I made my first wedge or struggled to get my bibs off in time before wetting my pants, I knew this sport was mine.
The wind whipped the snowflakes into my face, and I stuck out my tongue into the Star Wars-like warp speed, and my mouth filled with the crunchy metallic taste of snowflakes. My first snowflakes as a real skier. Dad was right. They did taste like freedom.