I like to think that I’m a pretty good judge of people. But I didn’t know what to make of the beautiful young woman in a leopard-print velour ski suit who got into the chairlift next to me.

I had even less of an idea about her companion, a forty-something year old man, pock-marked with a filthy (to be generous), unkempt beard, who smelled like the canned herring in the wine sauce my grandmother serves for Sunday brunch.

Riding up the mountain (while fervently hoping the wind wouldn’t change and blow the old-fish odor straight into my face), I reflected on this couple as well as many of the others I had seen since I arrived in Colorado a few days before.

Back in New England, where I’m from, most of the people you see on the ski slopes fall into two groups. The first is the family on a weekend outing. The second is the band of drunk high-school kids.

In Colorado, you get a little more variety. In addition to families and drunk kids, there are drunk kids with their families, drunk businessmen and businessmen with what look like their mistresses’ families. And then there’s people like the couple riding next to me on the chairlift, who don’t seem to fit into any definable category.

I fancy myself a pretty good skier, but by now I’ve come to realize that I only do so because it’s the only sport I’m not absolutely horrible at. I played three varsity sports in high school and was always the kid who won the Most Improved Player award – in other words, “the kid we couldn’t give any real award to” award.

My younger brother, on the other hand, a sophomore at the University of Colorado at Boulder, takes his skiing pretty seriously.

I don’t blame him, since he hits the mountain almost as often as I hit the “on” button on the TV remote. Where I skip classes to sleep in, he skips classes to wake up at 6 a.m. and hike through the freezing cold woods to the top of a hill, all in order to slide back down it.

On our first time up the mountain on Saturday, he convinced me to follow him on a 45-minute trek, carrying our skis, in ski boots, through the driving wind, to get to the summit of the mountain.

I should have known better. The last time my brother tried to convince me to do something stupid on skis, I ended up falling 20 feet off of a cliff, unable to walk for the next two months.

This time I was better off, finally arriving at the top, panting, among a group of about ten people who all seemed to be thinking the same thing I was. So there is a good reason for chairlifts.

After all that work, I ended up falling after about five feet, losing my ski in the process. I had to slide all the way back down on my ass to where we started hiking just to get it. Forty-five minutes up, two minutes down on my derriere, and I was once again with all the people who were smart enough not to have even thought about going any farther than the lift would take them, velour ski suits and all.

I sat in the waiting room by a gate in the Denver airport Monday night, waiting for my flight back to D.C. The NBA All-Star Game had taken place in Denver just the night before, and I sat there, watching some of the players walking about town on the news.

It was very obvious these men were athletes. Besides being about a foot taller than anyone else on the street, the way they carried themselves proved that they were a caste above.

Then I looked around at the other people in the airport waiting room, many of whom I had seen checking their ski bags at the front desk. There were a few kids my age behind me, talking about what city has the best weed. Then there were a couple of pot-bellied men in flannel pants and their even more pot-bellied wives in sweat-suits, smoking cigarettes by the trash can. A few of the first-class passengers waited in their chinchilla-lined parkas. My friends from the chairlift were among them.

I suppose I was a little disgusted – certainly, my brother would have been – comparing this hodgepodge of wannabe sportsmen to the clearly athletic basketball players.

But then I realized that I was one of them. We’re the type of people who can slide down a mountain, then pop into the lodge for a beer and feel like we’ve accomplished an athletic achievement. We’re the type of people TV producers have in mind when they decide to show bowling and professional bass fishing on national television.

I’m glad I finally came to terms with that. Now all I have to do is find myself a hot girl with a killer leopard-print ski suit.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.