Embrace the Bumps

Moguls are your friends.

The t-shirt on the guy in front of me read, “Moguls are your friends: they’re little bumps God put on the hill to remind you that you should be turning.” Yeah, right… actually, they’re little bumps that God put on the hill to make me cross my tips and kick my butt.

During my formative years of skiing, I mostly avoided moguls—especially those on a run named Belly Roll. It’s a double-black-diamond run with a sign at the top that reads “EXPERTS ONLY.” It’s steep, narrow, and long, and has a pitch close to 45 degrees. They never groom it and just let the moguls grow huge. It looked to me more like a stairway to hell than a ski run. As I found out several times, the sign wasn’t just a suggestion.

At least once each week I watched other skiers older and younger than me bob and weave, skid, and leap with confidence and flash down Belly Roll. They always had their knees and ankles perfectly together—something I hadn’t quite mastered.

The moguls were huge, each about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The tops were smooth and well-rounded. The troughs between them were deep and full of ice balls, sluff snow, and God knows what other evil things. I watched with envy when the good skiers would go straight down the fall-line, zipping between those Volkswagens in perfect rhythm, and resolved to check on my medical insurance, get my skis tuned up, and try it the next week. That’s when the real trouble began.

All week, I contemplated what I was about to do. I remembered not only the good skiers I had seen ski the run, but also the good skiers who had been devoured by it. When they fell, they usually didn’t stop till they reached the bottom. Hence the name, Belly Roll. I decided to try it anyway. Besides, I had lots of friends who worked at the hospital. The first few moguls were okay. I kept my skis together just like I had seen and been told. I hit each succeeding mogul harder and harder, and without turning picked up way too much speed. I felt something brush past my ear and realized that it was my knee. Either my knee or my ear was in the wrong place—as it turned out they both were. I had just enough time to think, “This is gonna be ugly,” before it was. I ended up at the bottom where there was a receiving line of skiers clapping, whistling, and laughing like cheerleaders as I hiked up the moguls to retrieve my gloves, poles, hat, and goggles.

The next time, not only did I lose my hat, goggles, poles, and gloves, but both skis released just as I went head-first over the tips doing about 90 miles per hour. Again a crowd whistled and cheered. I felt like I had been doing a three stooges routine with the mountain. About then, a 10 year-old ankle-biter in a racing bib and helmet showered me with snow in a hockey stop. I was still on the ground, so he looked down and said, “Mister, are you having a garage sale? You know, you don’t have to do a face plant to get on Facebook!” I wasn’t sure what the child abuse laws were at ski hills, but if I could have reached that little punk…

In the weeks that followed, I attacked Belly Roll time and again. Each time I summoned up more aggressiveness and courage, but week after week, I got used to being tossed on my face and my body slamming those monster moguls. Once I was even thrown totally off the main run and into the trees. Both skis released (again) and every orifice of my head was packed with snow. I had no idea where my ski poles were.

Spring was approaching and I had come to know the moguls very well—that is to say, the moguls got to know me very well. Nevertheless, I kept trying, and one day it happened. I relaxed and started looking at the second or third mogul ahead instead of looking at my ski tips; I let the moguls set the rhythm. No falls, no garage sales—I was in control and completely elated. At the bottom, I looked around to see if any of the previous cheerleaders, or the 10-year-old punk was watching, but no one was there. Still, the moguls seemed smaller somehow. So I just grinned, shook my head, and headed straight for the shop that sold “Moguls are Your Friends” t-shirts.