Your Ski Trip – Or An Olympic Event?

by | Jan 22, 2006 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Having just returned from a family ski trip, I would like to share the following tip: When skiing down a mountain, never leave anything important near the top, such as a pole or a loved one.

I learned this firsthand while skiing with my two young nephews, Jesse and Gabriel. They are decent little skiers, considering they live on the rock of Gibraltar, off the coast of Spain, where the closest they come to winter is putting ice in their Coca-Cola.

Anyhow, Gabriel, the younger one, is 12, still got the high voice, still waiting for his growth spurt. He is, in general, the cautious one. (His brother, who is 15, would strap onto a plane wing and call himself an astronaut.)

And there we were, in the Colorado Rockies, on a pretty steep slope. Slopes there are color coded, from easiest to hardest: “green” (you may live), “blue” (you’ll limp), blue-black (“may we see your HMO card?”) and “black diamond” (“pine box or oak?”).

And we were on a blue-black.

Now, in general, I let the kids go ahead of me, then I ski down to them. But for some reason, this time, I skied ahead, enjoying the scenery. Then I stopped.

And I looked back up the mountain.

And there was Gabriel, a little speck.

And down he went.

An uphill climb

So I stood there, leaning on my poles, waiting for Gabriel to rise. But he didn’t. And I waited. And I mumbled to myself, “La-dee-dah, get up, Gabe. Come on. Uh … GET UP!”

And after about 15 freezing minutes, I had one of those skiing epiphanies.

He wasn’t getting up.

Which meant I had to.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever tried to walk up a ski slope. It’s damn hard. First I tried that sideways climb with my skis on. I took 4,000 steps, and when I lifted my head, I had ascended six inches.

So I took my skis off, pushed them down to Jesse, who had that pained look on his face, a look I imagine Cain gave Abel, and I said, “Watch my skis.”

And he said, “Where are you going?”

I imagine he was asking himself why we really needed a little brother anyhow, couldn’t we just move on with our lives as a slightly smaller family?

I, however, felt indebted to return to my sister both of the children I had borrowed that morning.

So up I went.

Coming to the rescue

Did I mention the altitude? This was about 10,000 feet, meaning I was gasping after five steps. Did I mention I wore a ski mask, ski hat and goggles, so every breath I took came back on me in a wet, snotty mess?

Did I mention that ski boots weigh like a million pounds, and that the incline was so steep, I only could dig my toes into the snow, not my heels?

Did I mention I was not happy?

I had to stop every minute or so, just to see if I had passed out. I was sweating and freezing at the same time. I don’t know how long I climbed, but I did ask myself, several times, why my sister hadn’t become a nun.

Finally, just a few steps before reaching my sweet little nephew, the ski patrol arrived with its sled.

And here I came, The Abominable Snow Uncle, collapsing to the ground. And the medics stared at me. And I could only wheeze, “He … hee … my neph … neph … neph …”

And Gabriel, in his high voice, calmly said, “That’s my uncle Mitch.”

In the end, he was fine, nothing broken. And the ski patrol took him down. And I was left behind, on the slope, with no skis. So I slid back to my other nephew – on my butt.

The morals of the story are: 1) There’s a reason why they call it “downhill” skiing. 2) Next time, Jamaica.

Also, sisters should not have children.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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