I once got into a heated debate with some patroller guy friends who said they preferred to date women who didn’t ski so that they could ride with their buddies instead. “That’s ridiculous,” I told them. “I would never date someone who wasn’t a skier.”
Until I did. The first time Nick and I skied together he borrowed gear from a ski-rep friend named Zach, and when Zach adjusted his binding and asked what his DIN was, Nick’s face went empty. The silence stretched on until I jumped in. “Ten,” I told Zach. “Wait, no, maybe eight.”
It was like dating someone from a different country. Someone who didn’t speak my language, who wore weird shoes and danced a little funny. I didn’t realize how ingrained skiing was for me until I had to patiently explain wind crust. And how to get on a T-bar.
The markers are immediately evident. You can instantly tell from the way someone carries his skis from the car if he’s a skier or not.
It wasn’t that Nick was bad, exactly; he was just out of his comfort zone, hesitant and gawky. But we went for it: We rode the train from Seattle to Montana for a ski vacation.
I borrowed skis for him and stuck them in my ski bag. “You know I’m really bad,” he said, again, for what felt like the millionth time as the sun started to come up over northern Idaho.
“I’m sure you’re better than you think,” I said. But I already started to feel something turning in my stomach when I thought about spending the weekend side slipping down greens and picking up poles after a yard sale.
When we wedged into the lift line at Whitefish behind a pair of guys standing comfortably on fat skis, confidently laughing and chatting, something in my chest sank. I was dating a dork! I couldn’t help myself: I was checking those dudes out. I was a superficial, judgy person, a talent whore, and I didn’t like how it made me think about Nick differently.
It’s a strange feeling when you look at someone who is, objectively, way too good-looking for you wedge-turning his way down a blue and think, “I’m not sure if I’m attracted to you anymore.” Even more troubling, I wasn’t sure whether I was more disappointed in him or in myself.
When you’ve always associated being good at skiing with being good at life, it’s hard to split the two. Aside from a period when I changed it up and got involved with a snowboarder, I’ve always dated hardcore skiers: patrollers and guides, a Vail corporate wonk.
They’ve always been better than me, faster and stronger and more willing to send it. That seemed like a requirement. My female ski friends have similar histories. In our list of boyfriend-boxes to check, “good skier” sat next to “employed,” or maybe slightly above it.
Part of that is because skiing will always be part of my life. I’m 30. And I want bobble-headed babies with Edgie Wedgies on their ski tips. I want to take my kids on hut trips, to have family ski days, to pile into the car and head to the hills. So a skiing husband seems to be a key part of the plan.
But, to paraphrase Jane Austen, who knew a bit about these kinds of things, a lady’s imagination is very rapid, and it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. Plus, in scoping future baby-daddies, things other than skiing are important too. Like being a good listener. And laughing at really bad puns. And that whole gainful employment thing.
You can integrate a foreigner into your culture if he’s willing—even if he shows up with gaper gap. In the T-bar line, I gave Nick rapid-fire instructions about how to hold on (not too tight, but, like, tight enough) and what to do if he fell (get out of my way). I was still talking as we slid out onto the yellow line—“Grab the bar and slide it under your butt, but don’t sit on it, hold on, don’t push me...”—until he shut me up.
“Relax,” he told me. “I can do this."