Brilliant Skiing Ruined by Caustic Comment

So my 12-year-old son and I are on the Marmot chair lift. Not really chatting a lot because my son has reached that pivotal age at which boys figure out that adults are really, really boring.

We are crossing a couloir, which is a deep, snow-filled gully ripe for skiers way braver than I who are eager to take on its 170-degree walls, half-exposed rocks, wayward trees, and natural ramps and jumps. Two relatively tepid and timid snowboarders are making their way down when one aborts a jump by trying to veer off its summit, but ends up in a heap astride its peak—becoming a “Walrus” (a term we use to describe a snowboarder “at rest”).

Our chair passes over them as his companion says something along the lines of “are you OK?” but we can’t make out the muffled reply. The downed walrus seems a bit shaken, but starts shuffling himself off the small peak when we look up the mountain slope to see a skier racing down in a high-speed slalom toward the couloir.

Not even the hint of a pause—and trust me, I would stop at the edge and give long thought before making a descent—and the skier makes 20 feet of ever-so-graceful air before flawlessly dropping into the gully.

His skiing is beautiful and leaves me breathless, and my son and I both pivot in the chair to watch as he speeds underneath us and towards…

…the jump where the still-on-his-knees walrus has half-way scuttled off the bump, but stalled not knowing whether to go right or left because the brilliant skier is heading towards him at light speed. There is enough room for the skier to make the jump but he aborts by skirting the walrus on the other side. And then we hear it:

“Get out of the way, Dickhead!” says the skier, in a loud, nasally voice of spoiled contempt.

The skier is instantly no longer brilliant, no longer among the finest artistry in motion on that mountain.

My son looks at me, mouth wide open, with an expression best described as, well, a “12-year-old’s aghast,” though by no means feigned.

“Dad,” he sputters. “What a— He was… Dad, he was the ‘Dickhead,” he stammers referring to the hotshot skier.

Normally, I might have been inclined to rebuke my son about the use of such inappropriate language, but given that he may have learned it from me to begin with, and I totally agreed with him at that moment, I refrain (though I do have to chastise him later when he re-tells the story to his aunt and calls the Hotshot a “douce bag”).

“I hope he breaks his leg,” my son then adds.

And at this point I’m struggling, because I’m kind of wrestling with similar thoughts. But I pull back and give my son the twin spiels about how two wrongs don’t make a right, and that wishing such thoughts about bad people only brings us down to their level. And I probably did so with a similar lame level of eloquence as displayed here.

I also had to give Hotshot a bit of leeway because A) some skiers despise Walruses; B) Hotshot may not have realized that Walrus had wiped out; and, C) Walruses often flop down right where they shouldn’t.

Anyhow, while I’m not sure whether my words had an impact, that moment has stayed with my son, as it has with me…still dwelling on it two days later.

On several occasions while paused during a descent or waiting in a lift line, my son has nudged me in the ribs to ask, “is that him?”

“Who,” I reply.

“You know, the…’Jerk'” (though he sometimes tests me with the other term).

And I look, spot the indicated target, and determine that it isn’t him (who had been quite distinctive with incredible skiing finesse, red hair {Yeah, Hotshots don’t need helmets}, red bandana and an olive, check-patterned parka).

As for myself, I think I’m dwelling on it because of the utter lack of civility. There was just no cause at all for the Hotshot’s comment. The jump was nothing in the grand scheme of this mountain’s challenges, and puppychow in relation to the air the Hotshot had just caught moments before. Hotshot had the space to take the jump, and plenty of room on the other side of Walrus. And, for all Hotshot knew, Walrus could have been injured.

I don’t know, what had been a brilliant moment turned ugly in an instant with a simple, undeserved utterance. That lack of civility, that stupid caustic comment, was just so unnecessary.

And perhaps such a bellwether of the lack of American grace in the 21st Century….

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