My uncle Billy is the quintessential Boy Scout. He’s adept at many outdoor activities, hiking, camping, sailing and skiing included. Since I didn’t grow up doing these things, his enthusiasm for all things outdoors and fun fueled my own. He was always the ringleader on our outings, more than willing to get involved with our harebrained schemes.
Aunt Glennis and Uncle Billy moved from Jamaica to Wenatchee, Washington when I was thirteen. Uncle B immediately learned to ski and soon asked us to come up and play in the snow with him.
The spring break of my freshman year in college, Lindsay and I flew up to Washington to take him up on that offer. The rest of the family was coming later in the week, but we had a couple of days alone with Uncle B on the slopes.
The first day Billy took us snowshoeing, a new and fascinating endeavor. We left Wenatchee’s relatively dry slopes and drove up Highway 2 towards Blewett Pass and the Okanagon-Wenatchee National forest. For the next few hours we waded and tumbled through deep snow. I eventually got the hang of picking up my feet and swinging them out slightly so the oversized shoes wouldn’t collide and pitch me into the snow. Soon enough, I realized I was dripping sweat.
We took frequent breaks to munch on homemade trail mix Aunt G sent with us. Uncle Billy had gotten an ice ax for Christmas and he was constantly on the lookout for a place to test it out. He found a small overhang where he could drive the ax into the wall of ice and hang from it. Lindsay and I laughed at his enthusiasm and the fact that he was dangling only six inches off the ground.
The next few days we spent at Mission Ridge, Wenatchee’s small ski resort. Mission Ridge was the perfect size for us, though. It had enough blues and greens and easy blacks to keep us busy.
The first morning of skiing dawned cold and grey. The snow report showed the slopes as icy, but Uncle B wanted to try it anyway, and since we were limited on days, Lindsay and I quickly agreed. We shivered in our boots as we rode Lift #2 all the way to the top and the Bomber Bowl. It’d been a year since we’d learned to ski on a senior spring break trip to Taos. Lindsay and I discussed how much we actually remembered. “It’s like riding a bicycle,” Uncle B assured us. “It’ll come back to you quickly.”
I felt nervous as the lift approached the top of the mountain. “Here we go,” I muttered to Lindsay. Our skis hit the frozen ground and we slid forward, immediately tumbling into each other and falling over. We untangled skis and poles and managed to scramble away as Uncle B joined us. He laughed at our exit off the lift, but then examined the snow under our skis. “It’s slick out here,” he observed. “Go slow. We’ll see how this goes.”
We started down a fairly wide blue slope and I focused on shifting into hockey turns, following Uncle B’s lead. Lindsay skied behind me. It felt more like skiing on an angled ice rink than snow skiing and I realized how much concentration and effort it would take to stay up on my skis on the ice. The run took a turn as it wrapped around the mountain. I tried to hug the left side of the run, close to the shoulder, and give the evergreens that dropped off the other side of the run a wide berth. Then I heard a shout behind me.
I turned in time to see Lindsay slide past on her back. Her feet slipped out from under her on the last turn, but the run was so slick and steep, instead of stopping, she was sliding down the mountain. Behind her ski goggles, I could see the panic on her face. She lost both poles and I slowed and managed to grab them.
Uncle Billy realized what was happening and skied next to Lindsay, encouraging her to dig her skis into the snow. She popped one ski off trying to stop. Billy and I skied behind her as she continued to slide down the mountain, coming close to the edge several times. As the slope began to level out, Lindsay was able to dig in her last ski and stop the slide. She gulped mountain air while we returned lost ski poles.
“That was some yard sale,” Uncle B said, his favorite expression for scattering your gear across the mountain.
Uncle Billy asked if we wanted to call it a day, but after a brief recovery period, Lindsay agreed to stay and we skied that ice the rest of the day. It was spring break, after all, and we had to take advantage of the short time we had on the slopes, and with our uncle. After all, we didn’t want to miss any other adventures.