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.
Seventh Place: Paul W. Getchell
1960, just seven, I pulled my sled across the yard to the old Ham Farm. Dr. and Mrs. Hovey lived there with seven boys, more or less. It was a place where kids were usually left alone to amuse themselves. None of the boys were around, but I found a cast-off wooden stave lying in the yard; solid wood, flat, turned up tip. It didn’t take long to find another. The skis reached the middle snap of my Mighty Mack and had toe straps, a maple finish, no label. Those skis had it all over any attraction the old place held for me, including the pet raccoons inside the house, and a crockery urn in the pantry that held some mysterious, pickled creature from the boys’ natural history museum.
The farmhouse was built into a hillside and the take-off for my adventure was right beside a bay window, where I could see Dr. Hovey in his upholstered chair. He was reading and didn’t notice me as I jammed my rubber boots into the straps and shuffled off between him and a huge honeysuckle bush. I couldn’t get away fast enough to whatever might happen, hopefully unseen by those inside.
I passed an apple tree, crossed a little patch of open ground covered with apples, then the hill got steeper. The first floor windows moved high above me and I slid perilously close to the granite wall of the walk-in cellar. I knew that wall. They had a ping pong table inside and our game was to carom the balls off the granite, sending them flying out the door. Today the wall terrified me as the little skis shot me deeper into the shadow of the immense house.
I knew I could outrun the hill and cross the dirt lane that ran behind the house, maybe flying into the open barn that held the sheep. I’d been there before too. I loved to pet the sheep, even though my mother said they’d give me ringworm, and I’d eat their molasses feed by the handful.
I never made it to the barn, or my grain snack. A little retaining wall at the edge of the lane was my undoing. Like our ping pong balls, the hill launched me and I landed on my backside on a mix of gravel, snow and gooseshit. One ski was off, my boot and sock gone. I rubbed my skinny wrists, already numb with cold, and looked up to see Mrs. Hovey high above me, working the pulley of her clothesline. My mother used to say her wash might stay on the line a week or more, but on this day, Mrs. Hovey brought in her wash, and she and I were the only ones to know about my first time on skis.