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Facing facts about skiing

With the season winding down, I have a confession to make. I'm a hopeless skier.

In my life I've skied maybe a half-dozen times. We've taken our kids on several ski vacations, and I've approached each trip with enthusiasm. But I think it's finally time to admit that I am, at heart, a non-skier.

It's not easy being a non-skier in a ski-crazy part of the country. You can't switch on the radio without hearing about ski conditions (especially the enticingly balmy spring conditions) and snow-making. Every family I know, it seems, is spending half their disposable income on skis and boots and lift tickets and ski-lodge accommodations. All to indulge their passion for a sport that, in truth, scares me.

To ski, you have to buckle on those boots that make you lean forward in a position that is most unnatural, as if you're about to pitch nose-first into the snow. If you attempt to walk, you either trip over yourself or crash into an innocent bystander.

Ski buffs might say walking in skis is just a means to an end -- the slopes. But to get up a mountain you have to ride a chairlift, which terrifies me. There's something about having to stand facing forward, while a college kid yells at me to stick my rear end out and wait for a hard metal bench to scoop me off the ground. It's as if I'm a boulder and the lift is a bulldozer. There's something about the experience that does not fit with my definition of recreation.

Another confession: I'm afraid of heights. So I endure the ride with eyes clenched shut, my hands gripping the bar so tightly that by the time I reach my destination, a college kid at the top has to scream at me to jump off in time. My dismount is no more graceful than my mount. In my haste to get out of the path of the skier behind me, I've been known to land in a pile of snow with at least one ski hanging from its boot.

Once I've put myself back together, I ski cautiously down the mountain. The run is quite nice, especially compared with the trauma I suffered to get myself to this point. But my satisfaction is dampened by the fact that I know I have to trudge back to the lift.

I suppose I shouldn't even go near a ski area, but the fact is that I like the idea of skiing. I have this vision of me and my husband and our rosy-cheeked kids, all dressed in bright-colored hats and jackets. We're sitting around a table with our mugs of hot cocoa, looking for all the world like an advertisement for family health and harmony.

I guess that vision is not meant to be. Recently, I encouraged my husband and daughter to go skiing together (they like heights), while I took our young sons to visit my parents in New Jersey. It wasn't a picture-perfect family getaway, but at least it was grounded in reality.

Freelance writer Kathleen McKenna lives in Hingham.

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