In January of 1999, the entire Youth Group went to Paoli Peaks, which is a few hours away from Louisville. We stayed at the Paoli ski resort from about ten o’ clock at night until sometime before the butt-crack of dawn the following morning. This was the Youth Group’s first ski trip in Ray’s tenure as our youth minister, so he was pretty nervous.
This ski trip was also my first ski trip. I was excited to be going on this trip, until everyone met at the church parking lot.
“Have you ever been skiing before? Keith, a parent and former Sunday school teacher of mine, asked me.
“Nope,” I responded with a smile on my face.
Keith chuckled as he slapped his hand onto my shoulder. I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into, but I refused to believe it was all that bad. Keith was quite a joker, anyway.
After a few hours on the bus, we arrived at the ski resort in Paoli. After we checked in and were given instructions, it must’ve taken me another hour-and-a-half to get my gear and figure out how to put it on.
Finally, I went out to the top of the bunny hill and pushed off. I skied maybe one-third of the way down the bunny hill before I wiped out. I lay in the snow for a few seconds before I tried to get up. I had to eventually reach down and detach the skis from the ski boots, stand up and then reattach the skis to the ski boots.
After a couple more wipeouts, I made it to the bottom of the bunny hill. I figured I should keep practicing before I tried to continue skiing through the intermediate course.
As I stood in line to get onto the ski-lift after one of my practice runs, I heard, KLOMP! KLOMP! KLOMP! I looked down towards the front of the line to see a big guy tripping and falling while he was trying to get into the chair. I also saw some poor girl watching helplessly as two other guys were trying to help him into the chair.
After a few more trips (and fewer more wipe-outs) down the bunny hill, I decided that I was ready to continue skiing through the intermediate course. As soon as I got to the first steep slope, I nearly started to cry. I mean, the slope must’ve been at a thirty-five-degree angle. Another couple skied up behind me at the same time another guy whizzed by and skied down the slope like a pro.
The girl screamed, “Oh, my gosh!”
I mustered up all of the macho part of me that I could, and I told the couple, “I don’t know about you, but I’m skiing down on my butt!”
They both laughed.
After I slid to the bottom of the slope, I got into the back of the line for the ski-lift. As I waited, I glanced over to my right to see another teenage boy ski by at freeway speeds. BLAM! That kid skied right into the ski-lift house! Before he hit the house, it looked like he tried to make sure that he didn’t absorb the impact by turning and putting his shoulder into the wall. There was scattered laughter throughout the line, but I was one of the bystanders waiting for the guy on the snowmobile to come drag that poor kid’s limp body back up the hill. But if anyone in that line didn’t believe in God then, they should’ve after some guys helped the kid get it together and sent him on his way.
I rode the ski-lift further up the mountain. When I got off of the ski-lift, I could see the ski lodge, but I had no Idea how to reach it. All I saw was a large crowd of skiers and another slope heading back downhill. Little did I know it at the time, but that large crowd of skiers was blocking the view of the ski-lift that continued up the mountain to the next ski-lift that took skiers back to the beginning of the course and the ski lodge. So down the slope I skied.
To another steep slope I came. And, Boy, did it look familiar! But this time, I felt brave. This time, I was going to shock the world. I took a few deep breaths, and counted to three. I pushed off.
Well, here I was at the bottom of the slope. My skis were twisted and crossed and I felt like my right knee was going to break. I quickly started looking around for somebody and anybody.
I yelled, “Hey, man, will you help me get my skis off!”
An older kid heading toward the line for the ski-lift came over and used his ski pole to detach my skis from my ski boots. I thanked him and went searching the slope for my ski poles. The stinkin’ things were white, lucky me.
I finally got myself together and was waiting in line when I heard a familiar sound. KLOMP! KLOMP! KLOMP! I looked down towards the ski lift to see the same klutz and his poor girlfriend. There was a mix of complaints and laughter throughout the line. All I could do was wonder who to feel sorry for – Urkel, or the poor girl that came with him?
I continued to ski around the course. I continued to wonder to myself, “Why does everything look the same? and “How the heck do I get back to the ski lodge?”
I finally ran into Joe, another youth in our group and a friend of mine. I asked him about how I could get back to the ski lodge, and he said he would take me back.
That’s when we heard, KLOMP! KLOMP! KLOMP! The same dork and his poor girlfriend were trying to get into the ski chair. I pointed out to Joe that I’d seen these two twice already.
“That’s Emily and her boyfriend.”
I could only wonder how much longer we’d be seeing “Emily’s boyfriend”. That was what we called my now-best-friend, Mike, when he and Emily first started dating.
Joe and I got on the ski lift and rode to the top of the hill. That was when he skied over to the large crowd not far from where we got off. That’ when it dawned on me that those people weren’t just standing there to chit-chat. That was the line back to the lodge. Needless to say I skied the rest of the night feeling so stupid that I didn’t even know how I managed to get my skis on to ski in a circle for two or three hours.
We loaded the bus and rode home early on Saturday morning. As I sat in my seat with my head leaned against the glass, I occasionally opened my eyes to wee the edge of the road getting closer to the bus and then back away. It was like the bus was swerving a little, but I was too tired to get worried.
The following Sunday school, I learned that Ray, the driver of the church bus, was very drowsy. The bus had nearly sideswiped another vehicle. We could only thank God that we didn’t get into and accident.
Actually, after all of the mishaps that I, alone, experienced and witnessed that night, we should still be thanking God that there weren’t any accidents.