I stepped into the ski boots as the outfitter sized me up and made adjustments. Looking around the store, I saw women who looked my age and size and felt confident about trying to ski. Lessons were all booked up, but I knew Paul and Laurel would guide me. We all piled our skis into the rental car and headed to our accommodations with excitement.
In the morning, everyone was buzzing and ready to get their ski on. I was shaking and couldn’t stop talking, saying things like, “Boy, I’m so nervous,” “what’s the worst that could happen? If I can’t ski, we just take them back,” and so on. We dressed in stiff ski boots and layers of warm clothes and made our way out to the powder-covered green trail just behind our townhouse. As a stampede of skiers swished by, I stood looking down the hill and shook with fear. I moved my skis slowly across the slope while Laurel instructed me to pizza and dig in. She was firm but patient and gave me great advice, but my mind wouldn’t let me get past my fear. I needed a less steep hill to learn on, maybe a flat one. Ok, not a flat one but perhaps a tiny bump. I made it across the trail, and now she wanted me to go down. She and Paul called for me, nudging me gently to come on. I drifted back across the trail again towards them and fell into the drift on the side. Like a wounded soldier (who wasn’t wounded at all yet), I told them to please go on without me; I pleaded, “I’ll figure it out on my own.” Paul said, “no, we’re not doing that; besides, how are you going to get up?” He had a point. I popped my skis off and got up to try again. Laurel said, “we’re not leaving you on the slope alone; we don’t do that; now come on, you asked me to help you!” I stood there frozen in fear for a while and convinced her to go on with the family. Paul coaxed me to press on, and once again, I made it across the trail to the drift on the side and FELL OVER!!! I reached my hand up, thinking Paul could easily pull me out, and as he tugged at me, my right little finger and wrist popped. I yelled out in pain but had no idea I was injured. My fingers nestled in the glove were cold and remained that way through the day. I popped my skis off again to get up. Paul could see I was over it. Putting my skis on his shoulder, he skated off down the mountain, saying, “I’ll see you at the bottom.” I was perfectly fine with that, so I trudged down the slopes in my ski boots until I found a seat at the base, where I regrouped and tried to get my head around this skiing thing.
I watched the people on the bunny slopes (which were taken up by the ski school, so there was barely room to learn on your own) and committed to trying again. I walked my skis to the top of the slight slope and made perfect pizza and French fries. Digging my right foot inward, I turned left in a perfect circle, and then, digging my left foot in, I did a perfect circle right. I put my knees together and, in pizza position, came to a stop. I was getting there and had the skills I needed. I was still scared to go down bigger hills, though. There was either the bunny slope that I had mastered or the preview, and I would have to get on the lift to attempt that. I just wasn’t ready, and there was no in-between. I had been battling at it in my mind all day. I wanted to ski so bad and didn’t want to give up. As the sky grew dim and daylight disappeared, I took off my skis, grabbed a Bloody Mary at the bar, and decided to sleep on what I had accomplished and pray for a sign from God about whether I should press on with the skis or trade them in for snowshoes. As I slept, my hand began to throb. I rolled over, catching my small finger that had popped earlier in the day in the blankets. I woke with a shocking pain that shot to my wrist. Unsure whether my finger was sprained or broken, I dozed back off to sleep.
The morning sun shone through the window, illuminating the pines on the snowy hillside; they were dusted glittery white and stood majestically against the cold air. I made myself a cup of coffee, and as I went to grab the handle, that painful electric shock shot through the small finger on my right hand again. I now realized that I couldn’t bend it, and it hurt like hell. The painful finger was my sign from God. How could I hold a ski pole? Snowshoes it was. Paul and I went to the Ski Haus and made the switch, then headed back to the slopes at Christie. I had my shoes and poles still but didn’t need to grip them very tight as I was only walking. With my small right finger pointed straight, I squeezed my other four around the handle of the pole and made my way happily across the snow in my new cool shoes. I could go anywhere, and I did.
I ended up covering a total of 12 miles of the mountain range in those snowshoes. Word of advice, if you can’t ski and the rest of your group can, that’s ok. Don’t sit in the lodge drinking and sulking over your lack of ability! Slap on some snowshoes, take the gondola to the top of the mountain, and take in all the beauty that surrounds you. People stopped me as they skied by saying, “My wife and I have always wanted to snowshoe. How do you like it? How do you find the trails? How far have you gone? Where do I get them?” I suddenly felt like I belonged on that mountain as much as my skiing/snowboarding family members did. I was proud of myself for the steep inclines I had trekked, braving the solitude of the trails and just plain moving instead of caving in. If I had not gotten those shoes, I would have missed so much. I would have been bound to the lodges wishing I could climb into and shake up the snow globe world just beyond the window—what a fantastic adventure. And now I’m hooked on snowshoeing. If I ever get to go skiing again, I will rent skis once more and prebook a lesson. I will ski; I have not crossed that off my bucket list. I want to do it. I may not master it as Laurel or my hubby have, but I will at least gain enough skills to keep up with the pack on a slow run.
Our days were full-on in Steamboat. If we weren’t in the snow, we were walking in town. We rang in 2022 in front of the fire in our townhouse. We played card games, sticks, and seven hilarious rounds of Scategories. We grazed on laurel’s excellent seven-layer dip and drank fizzy water. As the burning wood popped in the fireplace, fireworks exploded with a colorful boom over the mountain visible just outside our window. This trip was perfect. We laughed and played, growing closer by the minute. We were the Bruntons and Satterfield’s, and as two families traveling together, we gelled so well we effortlessly became one. Our time together made for the best New Year I think I have ever had.
We had learned some things about dining in Steamboat Springs. When approaching a restaurant, always ask these three things: 1) Are you fully staffed? 2) Are you serving a full or limited menu? 3) Will WE be cooking our food? Here was our experience with dining out. Restaurant #1 didn’t get a drink of water for at least 15 minutes after being seated. Allan had a feeling we were doomed and said, “man, if I haven’t been approached with at least water in the first 5 minutes, I consider leaving.” We talked about it and considered it but, for some reason, decided to stay. We waited for an hour and a half for our food, and though Allan had the best General Tso chicken of his life, the rest of our meals sucked. We saw people come in the door waiting to be seated and gave them a wave of warning to leave and save themselves from the doom of limited staff and lousy cooking skills. Restaurant #2 We ordered Thai and arrived to pick it up an hour later. I sat inside in a line of 20 people or so long and watched two women work the entire restaurant while three chefs slaved away SLOWLY in the kitchen. Laurel joined me off and on inside as I sat there. More and more people packed the front foyer of the establishment looking for their orders placed and paid for online. We arrived there around 6:45 on our way home from food shopping. Time ticked on, and Laure took the food home for the guys to put away, and upon her return, I was still waiting. The Thai place closed at 9 pm, and being the second to last people sitting there at 9:05 pm, our brown paper bag of food was finally passed to us. I’m not sure about everyone else in our group, but I had waited too long to eat; I was no longer hungry. I drank a few sips and took a couple of bites of my Tom Kha soup, and headed to bed. Restaurant #3 we had a 7:45 pm reservation for this place. It was a western steakhouse. We were hungry and looking forward to a dining experience with superb service. Imagine our surprise when our slow talkin rough and tumble server (who appeared to work in a hardware store by day and waited tables by night) explained that we would be choosing our food from the VISUAL MENU out of the meat case. Ok, first off, aren’t all menus visual? Don’t you have to see the menu to read it? No, he wanted us to eye up our cut of meat, beef, fish, pork, etc., and it would be put on our plate and handed to us at the meat case by a man who has worked it for 26 years. We were all surprised that after 26 years, our butcher seemed to have difficulty understanding how to input our purchase/order on the POS system in front of him. He squinted and asked us repeatedly what we had asked for, making sure to get it right. We grabbed our meat and headed to the indoor barbecue grill. We followed directions on how long to cook our meat off a poster pinned to the wall. We chose seasonings and grabbed giant tongs to cook. THERE WAS NO OPTION FOR A CHEF TO COOK IT FOR US! What? Our group experienced various emotions, shock, anger, confusion, hunger, and delirious hysteria. We gave into this weird and unexpected experience and had fun with it. You couldn’t complain if you didn’t like the food because, well, you cooked it. The restaurant was packed. And we were entertained by those around us as we watched their faces while entering into the ruggedness of this entirely male-staffed western dining experience. We all went home full and confused but happy. Restaurant #4 Allan and I popped onto a patio by the slopes for a quick snack. As we were seated, the server said that only half the menu was available because they were understaffed. We are living in crazy times. Everyone was struggling at the height of ski season with skeleton crews and limited menus. Was this COVID induced? I saw an affirmation posted on Facebook that said, “the world is understaffed at the moment, so be kind to the ones who showed up.” It summed up perfectly what we experienced. We were in a luxury world with minimal instant gratification. Everyone we encountered fell into the pace of things as we did because if you didn’t want to wait, you should stay home and cook for yourself. Or wait, no, we WENT OUT and COOKED FOR OURSELVES. I don’t know, times are confusing, and we keep trying to
find normal, but it seems these minor changes to our expectations are now standard. I didn’t mind it, and it gave us a lot to talk about on our trip.
So despite my lack of skiing skills, the sprained little finger, the below zero temperatures, and near failed meals, we loved it. Because for me, it wasn’t about being the best on the slopes or having a 5-star dining experience; it was about our people. We made unforgettable memories together as friends/family. We watched our kids bond and bloom on the slopes and over a deck of cards. And we thanked God every chance we got for the many blessings he gives us every minute of every day. And that my friends was Steamboat.