We've all had our little jokes about how risk-averse Americans are. I've joined in myself, ridiculing labels on paint cans that warn "Do not ingest" and labels on beach balls cautioning "Not intended as a flotation device." But I've just been snow skiing for the first time and can now report that it is only the lawyers and their tremulous clients who are shaking in their boots. Ordinary folks are out there cheerfully taking their lives in their hands for entertainment.
Under normal conditions, I will go pretty far out of my way to avoid steep slippery hills. But since the other members of my clan were game for it, I went along. Jonathan, who had been skiing before, elected to try to snowboard. A snowboard, for those of you who have not been initiated, is a killing machine. It is chosen mostly by people between the ages of 12 and 20. The object seems to be to come as close as possible to skiers without crashing into them and then pivot loudly and dramatically with as much flying snow as possible, often accompanied by a rebel yell. Did I say without crashing into the skiers? Let's just say this goal is often more honored in the breach than the observance. Snowboarders, you see, are not looking forward when they barrel down the slope. They're looking to the side or even backward. And pity the poor beginner making her "pizza" on the same slope.
That was me. They call it making a pizza now -- as in a pizza slice. They used to call it a snowplow. Anyway, it involves pointing the tips of your skis together as you slide down the hill. In theory, this causes you to stop.
I found this ski resort to be quite heedless of my safety. We took the beginners' lesson, a civilized affair inside a fenced enclosure. We learned the basics of pizza-making on a slope no steeper than the White House driveway. There were exhortations about bending your knees and pitching your body forward. Fine. I aced the beginners' lesson. The instructor then led us out to the actual slope and invited us to ski on down to the bottom. The aforementioned snowboarders were whizzing by, along with tiny little kids not old enough to refrain from sticking their fingers in light sockets, who swoosh by on miniature little skis and use no poles. I couldn't tell if their parents were with them or not, they went by too fast.