Alex’s “little sister” was the undesirable name that hovered over me, one of life’s pecking orders, but with all the advantages that a little sister reaps from having an older brother. In retrospect—Alex saw it as a great advantage in having an agreeable sister whose spontaneity and zest for living were equally matched, but with a less than “Take a look at me now!” presence.
This one particular year, we headed to Mammoth ski resort for a family vacation. Just barely eighteen, the image of me on the slopes flashed into an episode of Three’s Company. I prayed for the best.
Unpacking at the cabin felt relaxing instead of the dreaded chore. Alex noticed the pair of jeans I had on were his. “Just borrowing them,” I confessed.
He chuckled, “Make sure I get them back.” And then added, “Are you ready?”
“Already?” feeling rushed. “We have to eat something first.”
Alex is no friend to patience or to his first name. He prefers using his middle. We left, as the remaining daylight pulled us in.
At the Bunny Slope, Alex helped with my ski-bindings.
“To slow or stop, you want to snow plow” He said.
In trying, I couldn’t have been more of a klutz.
After a few exhausting hours of persistent training and downhill plowing, I knew tomorrow would bring a more rigorous day of excitement and adventure.
Rising to the smell of hot chocolate, bacon and eggs suited the occasion. I figured, since I learned quickly, skiing down a real trail would test my confidence. After swallowing my last bite, I studied the colored trail map:
Black Diamonds - Advanced ski trails.
Blue Square - Intermediate ski trails.
Green Circle - Beginner ski trails.
With a mental note, I crossed out beginners slope and went straight for intermediate and maybe advanced.
“Let’s go” my brother signaled. He went on giving direction “I’m going to head up to this trail, and you can practice going down that trail.”
Alex watched me off onto the chair lift having full confidence that I would do fine.
I practiced diligently with turns and learning the mountain terrain. Finally, Alex met me at the bottom, and we rode up together to a trail, I haven’t yet hit.
Skiing off the chair, I thought this was our stop.
“Wait,” he says. “We’re going on the Gondola.”
“OK,” I was for it.
Riding up, I noticed there were fewer and fewer people getting on.
“What trail are we to go down?” I asked suspiciously.
Alex said, “We’re going to the top.”
The sign read, Black Diamond. Alex and I ski off, and it’s just the two of us on top of an 11,000 ft. mountain looking down. There appeared to be a hundred moguls to ski over.
“My Lord,” I cried out. Visions of a broken leg, ambulance, and transport vehicle snuck in. My confidence diminished.
Alex gives me a slight, meet you down there gesture, and races downhill.
The one time I ever felt completely isolated: This is it!
To my surprise, my nervous state played Julie Andrews singing Sound Of Music on the Swiss Alps.
I skied around the first bump then the second, and third in turtle speed.
Next I hit another.
I just glided over the fifth bump.
Then a short burst of gravitation pulled me to the next.
“Alright,” I thought. I’m getting the hang of it.
I proceeded onward with my goggles, polls, and legs intact.
I missed a mogul and went off track, gaining speed, I hit the moguls like bike jumps catching air and couldn’t stop.
Bump after bump I hit, skiing onto a plateau and snow plowed falling backward in a sitting position.
What a relief! And there were people. I found civilization.
I started off again with greater expectations, until I skied over an icy patch.
Not enough pressure to stop. I lost control and tumbled onto the snow face down.
Sliding uncontrollably, I tried to breathe through the snow packs hitting my face.
Ice-cold, I felt when my jacket filled with snow.
Last thing I saw was the mountain shrinking uphill.
In my last attempt, my boots caught traction and stopped me.
My gear decorated the snow over 100 ft.
In my moment of recovery, Alex blocked the sun. “What did you expect?”
In a flash, I said “To live to tell about it.”
In Memory Of My Brother, 2007
A Man who truly lived
Your Little Sis
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