by Jules Older, originally published February 15, 2017 in sfgate.com
HE’S A COLLEGE FOOTBALL STAR, quick, agile and strong. Smart too, with great balance — NBA material.
His ‘friends’ took him skiing. His first time on boards, on snow, on a mountain. They took him to the top. And left him.
He eventually made it down, fueled by two thoughts:
1. I need new friends
2. I’ll never ski again.
And he didn’t. He missed out on the greatest sport on earth because his ‘friends’ did him wrong.
Don’t be those guys. Yes, introduce new folks to skiing and snowboarding and any other snow-sliding sport you love. But do it right. You wouldn’t teach a friend to swim by throwing her into deep water, would you? Would you? Don’t invite a pal to ski by taking him to the top.
Here’s what to do instead.
Start low on the hill, not on Purgatory Peak. Start gentle, not steep; on green, not black. Rent her short skis, not full size. Stick with him the whole way down — the pleasures of helping a friend learn something new trump the impatience of a couple of slow runs on easy slopes. Oh, and a good lesson by a professional instructor wouldn’t be the worst plan in the world.
The goal of snow-sliding is … Anyone? Anyone? Right, the goal of snow-sliding is ecstatic delight. Terror, anger, frustration — these emotions don’t bode well for ecstasy or delight. Friends don’t let friends shed tears when they could be whooping in newfound joy.
THAT’S MY ADVICE for friends of beginners. Here’s my advice for newbies: You, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness, your own satisfaction, your own safety. Don’t let peer pressure or concern about disappointing your pals or fear that someone might call you a wuss override that.
Here’s an example from someone who’s the opposite of a quick, agile and strong star athlete. Here’s an example from me.
I’m skiing Chamonix, the European pinnacle of high-adrenaline, high-risk skiing. I’m the only native English speaker in a group of Quebecers, all of us skiing together for the week. The week’s highlight is a guided tour of Chamonix. I don’t like our guide.
No, I don’t trust our guide. He spends evenings drinking and smoking in the bar. His face is sunburned, and I’m willing to bet it’s because sunscreen is for wimps. When he leads our gang, he shows zero concern when our slowest member falls behind. When I confront him about that, he says, “Not my problem.”
Thanks to his bad timing, we miss the gondola from mid-mountain to the top, and we’re running behind schedule. It’s getting dark, the wind is picking up, the snow is turning to ice.
Finally, the gondola arrives. I say, loud and clear, “I’m not going.” In Quebec French, one other guy says the same. The rest of the group rides up; the two of us ski down.
He speaks no English; my French is not much better. We laugh and laugh and laugh all the way to the base.
I’m a clinical psychologist. He’s a sergeant with the Montreal police. We both know — and act on — the fact that we, and only we, are responsible for our own safety.
Whether you’re a newbie or a cliff hucker, a green runner or a downhill racer, the same rule applies. Take care of yourself, and if that tees off your friends … that’s right — get new friends.
And maybe read new ebooks. Two from Jules Older are SKIING THE EDGE and his travel-disaster tales, DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE.