On a recent chairlift ride, my family conversationally wondered how the ski trails got their names.
My daughter, who usually has an answer, claimed to have one here as well. She explained that many trail names are inspired by local characters, local history, or local industries.
I did not ask aloud what that must indicate about the trail known as “Widowmaker.”
My husband learned to ski last year. He grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to the continental United States for college. He was only inspired to ski after spending four Maine winters in our small house with our small children.
He has been a very good sport about adopting this very un-Caribbean activity. He owns the stock-piling of hand-warmers and toe-warmers, and he wears large goggles over his glasses without complaint. I admire his adaptability; I don’t like going to beaches because I consider them too sandy.
He has made a quick study of skiing. I have only seen him slide down one trail on his bottom, his skis in his hands. Even that maneuver was graceful enough to overshadow his accusation that I must have been trying to kill him. (I wasn’t.)
Nonetheless, learning to ski as an adult involves a level of self-awareness that doesn’t exist when you learn to ski as a child. My husband knows what makes his knees ache, he knows the appropriate distance he should keep from trees, and he knows the proper speed he should stick to when careening downhill. My son, by comparison, thinks poles were invented solely to facilitate skiing in a tuck position.
At the top of every trail, my husband asks for a forecast of the terrain ahead. He looks for reassurance that there is a comfortable width for turning, that bumps are unlikely, and that the snow seems dependably dispersed. Based on the answers, he utters a condemnation or a simple “OK.”
At the bottom of every trail, he announces whether he will ever return to that trail, and under what conditions. He tallies the number of times he has fallen by the end of the run. Should that number exceed two, he announces that his day of skiing is over.
So, when my daughter gave her explanation for the origin of ski trail names, my husband bought a ski mountain (in his imagination) and then named every trail on that mountain. The names are inspired by his own experience as a skier. In no particular order:
This Seemed Like a Good Idea at The Top, Son of a Nutcracker, Recalculating, Epic Failure, Unmitigated Disaster, Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-My-God, I’ll Regret This in The Morning, Mother of God, Meet Your Maker, Say Your Prayers, Too Late to Turn Around, I’ve Got This, Here Goes Nothing, I’ve Had Better Ideas, What Was I Thinking?, Act Your Age, Where’s The Off-Ramp, Get Me Out of Here, Wait for Me at The Bottom, You First, and Count Your Blessings.
On his ski mountain, every chairlift moves slowly during pick-up and drop-off, and is encased in a protective shield. The trees are wrapped in layers of rubber padding. There is always enough snow, but never too much snow.
The trail names might dissuade skiers from enjoying themselves, but the other amenities would seem to offer a more positive experience.
Alas, that mountain magic will indefinitely remain a figment of a Puerto Rican Mainer’s imagination.
By the way, I would name the trails he tackles differently. My top contenders include Most Improved, Setting A Good Example, and Look How Nicely Our Family of Four Fits on A Quad Chairlift.
And one more: I’ll Never Be Able to Learn How to Surf.