This is not a post that will describe an intense day of backcountry skiing. Elk Mountain is a little backcountry.Although that might be #lifegoals - does anybody want to take me under their wing and teach me?
This is also not a post where you will read about an amazingly positive day on the mountain with no tears and no falling. Because, oh boy, did I fall. Sidenote: HOW do people just go skiing for whole days and not fall once? Will I ever get there? What does that feel like?
This will however, be a post where I (spoiler alert) FINALLY SKIED A BLACK DIAMOND.
I felt un.stoppable. when we showed up at Elk Mountain ready to ski. Today was going to be the day. For sure. “Heck," I thought, "I might as well just do a black diamond before I get too tired.” But I resisted. I hopped on the lift smiling like a crazy person and ready to get a warm up run in. I was thinking a nice green trail, but everybody was going for blue so why not?
LET ME STOP and point out that this is the EXACT MOMENT where I made a grave mistake. I let myself try to keep up with buds who are way more comfortable on the mountain and have skied/snowboarded approximately a billion more years than I have. And Paul, but he’s perfect and doesn’t mess up any athletic endeavor.
As we were zooming down the mountain I felt a bit funny, but it was fine. I fell once, but this particular trail and I have a running joke where I fall at the exact same spot every single time I do it. It’s fine. I laughed and picked myself up and started off again.
Only to fall again.
Suddenly I was laughing a lot less. And I felt the familiar sensation of a meltdown bubbling beneath the surface, as well as melting snow inside of all my jackets. I told myself I’d make it down the mountain, go in the lodge for a quick regroup and try the green I should have started on.
I fell about 30 seconds into that run.
I had never in my life felt fake, slushy snow like this before. I had no idea what my skis were doing, my body had no freaking clue how to balance or turn anymore. It was like I might as well have never been skiing. Nothing I told my body to do was transferring all the way to my legs. I was beyond frustrated, and with one final (neck-crunching) fall, I took my skis off and sat my butt right down on the mountain and cried and complained and cried and cursed and cried.
I’d like to note that I moved alllll the way to the side of the slope. I’m not an animal.
Bless Paul’s heart for sitting there and listening to me cry and watching me snot all over my (borrowed) gloves. My parents would not be proud of the mouth they raised on that mountain, but I got some commiserating from a group of girls who agreed that the snow sucked. It made me feel the tiniest better. And I did get down that mountain.
If I’ve learned anything through learning to ski, it’s that lunch heals everything. So you bet I was headed back towards my sandwich after that.
After lunch I brooded while all of my friends left me to go tackle the backside of the mountain. But I had learned my lesson earlier. I had my book and I was just going to relax. So much for a freaking black diamond today, right?
But then I started thinking about the $66 I spent on a lift ticket. And one grad school feeling that I can’t shake is that you better enjoy every penny you spend on yourself.
So I went off by myself to the shorter slopes. I took the lift by myself, bargaining and planning. “If I get this run down three times, I’ll move on to the next one. Then the next one. Then maybe I’ll be more comfortable with a blue today. Black diamond can happen any other time."
Magically, I took my time. My S turns were looking fabulous. I finally got a feel for the snow. I was smiling. I spent the rest of my time working up to some of my favorite blue runs and, get this, I didn’t fall ONE time. I was elated! I was so thoroughly enjoying solo skiing that I didn’t tell anybody I was back on the blues until it was snack time again. After a snack, I figured it was time to get a run or two in with Paul.
Back at the top of the mountain, Paul and I gave each other a look. You know the look. One of those mischievous, “Well…what if we did something crazy?” looks. I had already made that mistake once that day, so we hit a blue and had a blast flying down the mountain. After one more lift ride, we had decided it was time. Luckily, we had a blue warm up about a quarter of the way down the mountain. We stopped at the fork in the road and I peered over the edge of a black diamond.
Do you know how steep they look up top? DO YOU!?
Luckily, a family with a ten year old or so decided that was the right time to ski up to where we were. I asked the mom about the trail and she (and her son) said it had been their favorite all day. Best snow on the mountain, fewest people, and a really fun run. When I mentioned it was our first time on a black diamond, the whole family gave us their support and cheered us on.
And then we DID IT. I was talking to myself the whole time. My S turns were probably wider than a normal skier’s. I went so slow that I surprised myself by stopping many times to admire my handiwork. And Paul was doing awesome! My smile was growing wider and wider with each of my turns. And when one ski got stuck and sent me into a split, I laughed so hard as I went to retrieve my fallen ski that was back up the mountain.
A yard sale for the books, let me tell you!
Once recovered, I zoomed the rest of the way down full of adrenaline. I totally cried when I reached the bottom - but this time of pure happiness. Who would have thought I could have turned that day around from five-alarm meltdown to achieving a HUGE goal of mine!? I high fived Paul, hugged the crap out of him, and ignored the shuttle back to the lodge. We went up the lift one more time for the last run of the day.
And we didn’t fall once.
Some logistics if you, too, want to conquer Elk Mountain.
Distance from Philadelphia: 2.5ish hours (It’s also less than 3 hours from NYC!) Cheapest lift tickets are $31, but that's for the night skiing during the week only. They increase from there! Definitely one of the most fun mountains in Eastern PA though.
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