Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the lodge

"I"ll just sit in the lodge" used to conjure images of hot coffee next to a cozy fireplace with lots of mahagony.  The children, all bundled up, would eagerly scurry off to ski school while I would read peacefully by the toasty flames as the server warmed the magnificent contents of my large ceramic mug.  I would reserve time in the afternoon to peek at the mountain, proudly beam at the girls' progress and contently retreat back for the last few minutes of quiet, perhaps indulging in a warm winter cocktail before our congratulatory family afternoon reunion when we would swap antidotes from the day's adventures.    

The gondola ride takes seven minutes from Mammoth Village to the mountain and we debarked on Saturday morning at 9:16 while I scanned the landscape for my sanctuary; book, reading glasses and lip gloss tucked away in the bottom of the tote. A strikingly sunny white day, the only structure in sight looked more like my Texas public high school than anything Norman Rockwell would have recognized.   Adjusting expectations, I led the girls into Canyon Lodge, an enormous orange-trimmed imposingly grey rectangle.  After impressively and patiently finding our locker among throngs of Angelino families, many from Malibu and, despite a sudden onset of vertigo, I recognized some behind goggles and helmets while others waved, stating who they were and giving context to our acquaintance, e.g., "Hi.  It's Larry, our daughters played soccer together.  You know, the Purple People Eaters?"

Satisfied that the girls were in gear and ready to sign them over to sign them over to ski school, we were given dirty looks by young scruffy Ken who explained that even though the waitress at the Westin told me it was ok to arrive a little bit late to ski school that 35 minutes was not a little bit and maybe he could still get us in.  I apologized profusely and although Ken did not demonstrate much empathy to my single mom story, he walked us over and I handed my darlings off to teenagers on the mountain.

Time to assess and plan for the next 5 hours until pick up and a self-guided tour of the lodge led me past the lift line, up the stairs and to the...bar?  No dark wood nor chimneys, there was only a small bar with hard chairs and an industrial sized buffet with two giant rooms filled with long tables arranged in rows.  Holding to hope, I ascended to the fourth floor because surely I was missing the cozy spot only to discover a roof deck leading out to a smoking deck in 12 degrees Fahrenheit.   I needed a new plan and decided it was time to learn to ski.  

Returning to the locker room in order to regroup the gear which I had sprawled over the benches in an effort to launch the children, I noticed that I had lost my pants.  By this point, after spending over $200 on ski goggles, I felt like a human ATM, automatically dispensing cash whenever prompted.  BTW, I now see them on the web for $15.99 and am not sure where I went wrong.  There was one pair of ski pants in the shop that fit and that didn't hit over the belly button so I bought those for $159.00 and tried not to calculate the weekend expenses in my head.  I never did admit losing pants to the children and my socks cost $32.00.

Adult ski lessons began at 12:45 and after roaming the lodge, floor by floor in the hopes of something good for three hours, it was time for me to enter the "beginner corral." Arriving right on time and totally irritated by nervy stragglers appearing up until 20 minutes past class time, I learned about french friespizzas and the art of dislodging snow from the bottom of the boot.  Two hours later and I skied and I did not fall.  Yes, it was smaller than the bunny and after applying the lip gloss now stashed in my right pocket, I went up on a pulley with a disk between my legs and it was magnificent and I beamed as I snow plowed down the hill and the slight breeze felt better than the heat of a fire and my aching back did not wish for a comfy couch and I wrote my own story in sporty new yellow lensed eye wear on a glorious day outside.

Diane Prince Johnston
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