Jun 5, 2008


ALYESKA, Alaska – Half a lifetime ago, I was a golden-haired backcountry guide. As long as the mountain didn't fall on me – a la avalanche – I happily fell down the mountain. Black Diamond? Cascade concrete? Complete lack of alpine chops? Not a prob! I knew no fear and bruises healed fast. I was impervious. Anointed even.

Fast-forward 12 years to Colorado: Faded to "dishwater blonde" – at best – I am back in the snowboard yoke, after a lot of euro-museums and overlong pasta-e-vino lunches in the piazza... Crashing end over end, I at last conclusively bruise my tailbone and have to hitch out with the ski patrol.

My then-boyfriend complicates things by accusing, "you thought that patrol guy was cute."

Yeah. I Wiley-Coyote-ed down the Rocky Mountain hard-pack just to meet the ranger. Because nothing screams "sexy" to die-hard skiers more than the inability to gimp off the hill. You got me there, tiger. Busted.

I bite into the pain, master it through the resort lobby, resulting in a super-stilted pimp-roll, if it's possible to stilt such a thing further. The guide – a youngish bloke – shouldn't suffer for my sins, even if he ditched me to play on the half-pipe. To his credit, the dude runs up with my host: "I'm so sorry I lost you!"

"Had a great time," I lie. "But I need to rest now, the altitude's harsh."

Three years later, I dare to strap on a board again in Alaska.

The bunny slope unmans me.

I may just be done.

Even if skiers can see orca pods from the lift's peak here, I may just be done. Snowboarding requires a fluidity, a Gumbiness gone by. No amount of yoga's bringing this back.

I'm limber and strong enough, but the simple fact is this: I don't want to fall down mountains anymore.

Will the whole world go this way, I worry? Just shrink in scope, until I sit in the garden and watch the hummingbirds?

Or do I just walk away from an unsuitable sport, an older, wiser woman? One who knows when to rest on an E3 (5.10-11) climbing route? One learning her poise underwater, that ballet of buoyancy? One taking up her parents' mantle of long-distance hiking, while dabbling in outdoor absurdities from extreme croquet to seaweed foraging?

I dunno. Truly. Du-nowt-no. But give my ego something to cling to ... Because my body ain't adhering to the mountain in any stylish fashion, eh?


  1. Well, I'm not going to lie to you: at our age, hurtling down mountains will never be the pain-free thrill that it was in the "Gumby-ed" days of yesteryear.

    But look on the bright side: those generous senior citizen discounts are just around the corner!

  2. Road Rallies, or anysort of road trip in a convertable while wearing a headscarf. That's what you should do.

  3. DB: Me and my dentures can hardly wait. Now go chew some al dente pasta, you whippersnapper!

    Louche: I believe I have a leopard-print headscarf of Italian vintage somewhere. Please invest in skinny ties forthwith, else we can't dolce vita the Greaseball...