Thursday, December 21, 2006

High On a Mountain Top

I am a bit disappointed by Austria. I did not expect to travel halfway across the world to an exotic foreign country and find that it looks just like Utah. In fact, as far as I can tell, Austria is a sort of bizarro-Deseret: the mountains looming over the city are the same shape but a little taller, a little more looming; the houses look like Park City, in that wooden, boxy, chimneyed, houses-drawn-by-kindergarten-children Alpine style, but a little more authentic; and the people are tall, blond, and healthy, precisely like Utahns, but a little more German-speaking.

It is, however, quite a bit colder here. My poor family and I, unprepared by our respective Ind* countries for this sort of weather, look a bit pathetic, having scrapped together whatever cold-weather gear we could find. Before leaving Jakarta, I stopped in at Plaza Indonesia, the city's ritziest mall, and purchased some expensive sweaters from chichi European stores like Mango and Zara, but they're not thick enough on their own, which means I hit the streets of Innsbruck every morning wearing three pairs of pants, four sweaters, and a pained expression that says, "I can't feel my fingers or toes." Luckily, for the ski slopes themselves we rented or purchased warm clothes, so I was always perfectly warm on the top of the mountain, wearing overly thick ski pants, an incredibly high-tech coat, and a pained expression that says, “I paid $30 for my socks.” Oh, right, and a fuzzy black hat, which, with my short hair, makes me look more like a cancer patient than a Swedish ski bunny.

Not that, while facing down the mountain, fashion is my top concern. I've done a fair amount of skiing in my life but yet, alas, I still vacillate between "nearly intermediate" and "rank beginner." When the terrain is smooth, snowy, and not steep, I can swish and swoosh like someone who knows what they're doing. The minute the terrain falls apart, though, so does my technique. On the steeper hills, I am not above pizza-wedging, stair-stepping, or even butt-sliding my way down. (Ask me about the time I took out an entire mogul field with my stair-stepping technique.) The main problem with my skiing, as far as I can tell, is that I have absolutely no need for speed; quite the reverse, in fact: I wind down the mountain as slowly as I possibly can, muttering "Up! Down! Butt! Knees! Up! Down!" under my breath. I look and sound like an idiot, it’s true, but I’m used to that. At least I don’t fall very often.

The last time I took a bad fall in Utah, many years ago, my Butt and Knees having failed to go properly Up and Down, I lay in the snow for a few minutes, snatching, like an Italian soccer player, a few moments of rest. As I stared up at the sky, an old couple on the lift over me shouted down, full of tender concern, "We're praying for you!" Yesterday, after taking my skis off and sliding down an entire mountain slope on my backside, finding that the least frightening and most effective way to the bottom, a young girl skiing by made the mistake of looking back at me and my mom, working her way down the mountain the same way. She paused for a split second, as if considering what to do, and then literally fell over laughing. I guess I'm not in Zion anymore after all.


bawb said...

That was hilarious. Especially the old people.

Nocturne said...

I can't blame the kid for laughing. That said, I've slid down my share of mountains on my rump. Sounds like you are having fun. I'm jealous.

kaneeneenie said...

i'm at work right now...trying not to erupt into laughter. i bet that girl will tell your story for years to come. at least you didn't break your leg skiing like a certain famous austrian in california. hasta la vista.