Unsponsored Content: Skiing & 'The Lion King'

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Unsponsored Content: Skiing & 'The Lion King'

Collin Wheeler

The very first time I skiied I was about four years old. I remember my dad and grandpa schlepping me into the rental room at Alpine Valley. Standing at the counter I couldn’t see more that the wood desk in front of me, yellow walls, and feeling cold, really cold.

Next thing I know I’m sitting on a toboggan roped to the back of a 4 wheeler. Dad and Grandpa said they were going to go ski “the big hills” and that they’d pick me up here when my lesson was done. I sat on the sled with 8 other kids as we were brought around to the bunny hill.

I don’t remember much about the lesson itself, other than crying and hearing “Pizza & French Fry." A lot...of each. Nothing sticks out like a thought I had, that I would never see my dad again. However irrational that is, it somehow made sense in my 4 year old brain as I was holding on to the rope tow for dear life enticing yet another crying breakdown.

Assumingly, the hours past, and my father did in fact find me, with enough time to take one run together before we left. I guess that my biggest takeaway from these memories is that I will be the one that teaches my children to ski…

That was the first experience I had skiing, and it would be the only one I had for a number of years. Granted, I did beg dad to take me skiing, but lack of snow for a few years never really let that happen.

In 2000 we took a family trip to Vail, Co. If anyone can pinpoint a single, life changing experience, this would be mine. I use the term family very loosely because my mom’s boss, took us on one of his medical conferences.

Again, dad signed me up for a lesson, actually it was a 2 day lesson. Great, what repressed memories would come rushing out? Again, I was schlepped into the rental room, geared up. And again, I was terrified. Until we were all grouped together and we met our instructor, a total Brad (His name probably wasn’t actually Brad). Brad loaded us up to the midway station and we played the usual name games, showed us how to Pizza/French Fry, and made us ski down to him, one at a time. I didn’t go first, I didn’t go last. I was somewhere in the middle. I remember making my way towards Brad and my body somehow remembered how to Pizza and French Fry. It had been about four years but my 8 year old body somehow retained the basic skills to slide down a hill at a very slow rate.

The lesson ended and I met up with my dad. We were able to take one run together before things shut down for the day. That evening we left our hotel and did the thing every tourist family does apres ski, walk around and look at the “neat shops”. This would also be the very first time I walked into a ski shop.

Dad and I walked into the dark room. There was a small TV behind the counter playing clip after clip of skiers and snowboarders jumping of cliffs and skiing through deep powder all while funky music plays in the background. Dad and I walked through the shop for a bit, checking out the cool skis and things I never knew existed. Neither one of us had goggles when we arrived, so he bought us each a pair of blue Smith goggles with persimmon lenses. I was stoked.

Day 2 of lessons went by about as quick as day one. We went through the fun zone, I did my first safety grab off a little roller, and for the first time, I remember falling in love with skiing and the snow. This is the same feeling I chase every time I step into my skis, to this day.

The next day, dad and I set off to ski on our own. This was an absolute disaster. I’m not sure why, or how, but skiing just the two of us triggered something in me to emotionally shut down. There was one run that overlooked what seemed to be a never ending valley, that I took one look at and the tears started. While my dad was already half way down the run. I finally was able to reach him, still panicked, and he attempted to talk me down. From there we headed to the halfway house and took a break.

Dad asked me if I wanted to ski the rest of the way down, or if I wanted to take the gondola. I told him that I wanted to ski down and we began to reassemble our gear. I don’t remember much after this, except having a mental breakdown somewhere near a “Simba” trail sign...and for some reason, 18 years later, I can’t watch The Lion King without flashbacks of an emotional breakdown as an 8 year old.

I also witnessed my first rail jam in Vail. Skiers and snowboarders were hitting what was probably an 8 set down rail. The winner of the rail jam was awarded with a brand new hot tub. This absolutely blew my mind. All these grungy looking people had to do was ride down a rail and the person that did it the best got a free hot tub. "What the hell is going on?"

The next morning we packed up our bags and headed back to Michigan. And for some reason, even though I cried, I panicked, and I was cold, all I wanted was to go skiing again.

View more at CollinWheeler.com

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