By Erin Maduck
I sat in the corner and trembled; departure time was drawing near. The sound of zippers being zipped on fluorescent Sun Ice winter coats rudely interrupted my thoughts, and I could no longer stand the constant clashing of ski boots and poles. Looking down at my faded and embarrassingly mismatched ensemble, I realized that the truth could not be suppressed any longer. I would never be one of them.
Although I have lived in Calgary for five years now, there is still one thing that stalls my complete assimilation into Cowtown culture. I have fully discovered the C-train system, adjusted to the excessive number of terrible drivers, and much to my shame, even purchased a cowboy hat. However, the day that I adopt and master a winter sporting skill has yet to arrive. My fault, you assume? No, full-blooded Calgarians, it is yours. The ski hill is your territory. As a result, you will use almost any twisted tactic to keep amateurs from crashing the scene.
When I was in junior high school, I went on all of those once-a-year ski excursions to Canada Olympic Park. While the majority of the kids would proudly strut to the chair lift with their own equipment, I would put my head down and creep into the rental shop. Once I got my second-rate, sweaty rental skis from the rude rental shop guy, I would awkwardly trudge up to my ski racer friends to hang out before the mandatory lessons. Not only would they look at me and scoff, they would also completely ignore my presence. That day I did not run with the cool kids. That day I was a geek.
Sometimes my parents would oblige a friend of the family to take me skiing, and those experiences were even worse. “You can only go on a green run?” Yeah, that’s right, asshole, I can only go on a green run. At this point they would ignore my skill level and attempt a run that I would have to sidestep down in order to stay alive.
My favourite part of any ski day was lunchtime, because I could hang out in the ski lodge without my inexperience in exhibition. That was, of course, until I remembered that the air of skier elitism was even worse inside. All of the ski families would have their own little peer groups in the lodge, each with a separate cooler full of skier nourishment. My eyes would burn from the glare of the many overstuffed ski jackets, and all of the obnoxious laughter in the room would devour me whole. Conversations centred upon powder, jumps, moguls, and the fall that little Timmy took on the double black diamond at the top. And just when I decided that although the ski lodge was unbearable, it was still more bearable than the hill, my group would cheerfully decide that it was time to hit the afternoon slopes. Outside I would go, to the only run that I could handle: the “Peter Cotton Tail.”
After several truly negative ski experiences, I decided that if I was going to be a beginner, I might as well be a beginner at a relatively new sport. I mindlessly followed the trend and chose to learn how to snowboard. But no sooner had I strapped on the board when I realized that snowboarders have an attitude problem just a severe as that of skiers. The only difference, however, is that their arrogant qualities are right out in the open.
Seasoned snowboarders believe that they have their own patent on the sport, and condemn any beginner who wants to try it out. The first couple times I got off the chair lift (a very scary task, I might add), snow was methodically sprayed my direction by every boarder who passed. If that wasn’t detrimental enough to my self-esteem, once I fought my way down the hill I would be heckled by snowboarders who were 30 feet above me on the lift. They would laugh, point, and yell out profanities, stupidly assuming that I actually wanted to fit into their pot-smoking stereotype.
However, after a day of this crap, my paranoia would force me to leave the mountain earlier than originally planned. And what do you know, I left the mountain for two years. The grungy cop snowboarders had successfully completed their missions. As the millennium draws to a close, snowboarders play a growing role on the mountain. This evolving trend is very lucky for Calgarian skiers-they have the opportunity to shift the public’s attention away from their own snobby stereotype. But beneath all of that tacky, colourful and ridiculously expensive gear, skiers are not nice people. Beneath the oversized cargo pants, snowboarders are not either.
Calgarians who have been skiing or snowboarding since they were five years old are very ignorant to the rest of us who never had the opportunity to dominate the mountain. The really weird part is that they actually encourage us to come and learn, and then leave us at the top of the hill only minutes after arrival. What is that all about? It is time for Calgary snow people to quit being so selfish and take one or two days out of their ski season to teach Edmontonians like me. It is time for Calgary snow gods and goddesses to share the wealth. We do not want to take over. We are just sick and tired of being shunned.
But before we make any progress, I have something to confess. Last winter I silently prayed that it would never snow, just so you people wouldn’t have even one opportunity to whip out your super ski and snowboard gear. Ha!