I stood poised on the edge of the icy slope, my ski tips jutting out over the headwall. The wind came speeding up the hill with the force of a freight train and almost knocked me down. Leaning into it, I shouted my defiance to the skies. I would not be held back! With a powerful push, I started over the hill and down the black diamond ski slope. The incline was steep and the barreling wind had blown the fresh snow into large chunks, so that I skied from thick powder onto icy stretches with every swish of my blades. I felt off-balance from the start. As I made my way down the hill in twists and turns, I could feel the wind tugging relentlessly at my body. Wind, gravity, my wiry frame… and an icy patch. I tilted suddenly on my skies, unable to stop my sideways momentum. As my speed carried me closer to the edge of the slope, I knew I wasn’t in control of my skis any longer. Sit down, Rose! My thoughts were crystal clear and adrenaline rushed through my veins. You need to stop yourself. I let myself fall to the side closest to the steeply canted slope. The thump rattled my already-frail bones as I landed on my bottom. For a second, I thought a clump of snow had obscured my vision on the left side of my goggles. I reached up to brush it away but pulled my glove back without any improvement. As I sat there on the side of the slope and blinked a few times, I realized what had happened. My left contact had been knocked out in my fall!
This wasn’t good. I could actually see my contact, resting right below my lower lashes on the top of my cheekbone, but I had no idea how I was going to get it back into my eye! The wind was merciless as it screamed up the slope and around me. I could feel it buffeting my good, warm Columbia snow jacket even as I sat. And not only did I have the gale-force winds to deal with, my fingers were freezing cold. I told myself to relax. I could do this. I had to do this. After 15 years, putting in a contact was second nature to me… when I was standing in a bathroom with no breeze and warm, functioning fingers, that is! I took off my gloves and sat on them so they wouldn’t blow away. My fingers were cramped and red. In a swift motion, I pulled my goggles up and plucked my contact from my cheek. For one split second, I had it… and then the wind snatched it away. ”NOOOOO!!!!!!” I cried out in anguish as my contact blew away into the sky. ”Come back, please!!! Nooooo!”
After a few long moments of “Oh my gosh what the heck do I do now? No seriously what do I do?”, I realized there was no other choice. I had to ski the rest of this icy, patchy, powdery black diamond slope with no depth perception.
My sight has been awful for years. I’ve had glasses since fourth grade and contacts since high school. I am -6.00 in both eyes. I blame (from least to most) my father’s bad eyesight genes, my distaste for carrots as a child, and years spent reading books by flashlight, by dim light, by flashing-by-streetlamps-in-a-car light… Point is, I can’t see without help. And my help had just been snatched away by the Mistral of Montage Mountain. I saw (from my good eye) my brother hopping into view at the bottom of the slope. He looked up at me and gestured, obviously wondering if I was okay. Well, I thought, what else is there to do? I waved halfheartedly back at him and stood up, making sure my skis were sideways on the slope and the edges dug in. The last thing I needed was to fall over again and lose my other contact. I tugged my gloves back on and formed my plan. Luckily, I was closer to the bottom of the run than the top, but I still had a good two drops left before the end. My eyes kept trying to focus and it was already annoying me. I put a hand over my left eye, which helped, and then I laughed dryly. I couldn’t ski down a black diamond with one hand over my eye. But I had to.
I pushed off and immediately realized this wasn’t going to be easy. The snow lay in clumps but my lack of perception left me unsure as to their exact size and shape. I made it halfway down the first hill and then fell with a thud as my ski tips hit a particularly deep patch of powder. I couldn’t see the ground well enough to adjust my balance, and it was incredibly frustrating. I picked myself up, brushed off the snow, and started again. This time I made it down to the bottom of the steep slope. Now there was only the gentler last incline before the blessed relief of the chairlift. This last hill was surprisingly easy to navigate. The shallow drop allowed me to ski with less tight maneuvering and I found myself at the bottom without falling again. I turned around to stare at my nemesis looming behind me. The black diamond’s slope carved a sharp white line against the trees. Like an echo of the beginning of my run, I shouted my defiance to the skies. ”You tried but you COULD NOT STOP ME!!!”
Then I explained my ignominious situation to my brother and Jill, and went to sit in the lodge, drink a soothing hot cocoa, and obsessively refresh Twitter for the last hour of our lift tickets.