My First Ski Trip 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The Harz Mountains were located not far to the south of Schöningen, where I lived in the Army in Germany. They were not tall mountains like in southern Germany, but they had some ski resorts.

Our group from the maintenance shop was at dinner in Braunschweig. We would occasionally gather for a meal at a large Chinese restaurant in the middle of town.

“I have to leave early tonight,” Burger said. “Milstid and I are going skiing in the morning.”

“Skiing,” I said. “Where do you find enough snow to ski around here this time of the year.”

“They have one hill open this weekend at the Harz mountains,” Burger said. “It’s artificial snow, but it’s good to practice on before we get some real snow next month.”

“You ought to come along, Larsen,” Milstid said. 

“I have never been on a pair of skis,” I said. “Besides, I don’t have any equipment.”

“There’s a ski shop right across the street,” Burger said. “They could get you outfitted in no time.”

I took another drink from my liter mug of beer and gave it some thought. Money was no object to us. Wobeck, our outstation, had been on TDY pay for the entire year, and we lived like kings. I carried five hundred dollars in my pocket all the time.

“Come on, let’s run over there right now and make sure they can get you bindings installed tonight,” Milstid said.

I downed the remainder of my liter of beer and stood up, signaling I was ready. I had no idea what this ski adventure would involve.

A small group of us crossed the busy street and entered the shop. The sales lady spoke a little English, and Milstid and I spoke a little German. Beurger’s German was pretty good.

“This guy is going skiing in the morning if you can get him outfitted this evening,” Burger said in German.

“What do you need?” the sales lady asked.

“Everything,” Burger said. “Skis, bindings, poles, boots, ski pants, jacket, gloves, and hat.

“That is a lot of stuff. How are you going to pay for it?” she asked.

“Deutsche Marks,” Burger said. He turned to me and asked. “Do you have enough marks on you?”

“How much are we going to spend?” I asked. 

The sales lady answered without needing a translation. “This stuff will cost between one thousand and fifteen hundred marks.”

“I think I have two thousand marks in my pocket,” I said. “I was hoping to have some left for tomorrow.”

“He is just beginning,” Burger said. “He wants a good set of skis but doesn’t need the best skis on the rack. Are you going to be able to mount the bindings tonight? If not, there is no reason for us to buy anything.”

“Let me check with the guys in the back,” the lady said as she scurried off to the shop in the back.

“She was probably pricing things thinking she could sell you the best skis,” Burger said. “We will be under a thousand marks if we go down a notch on the skis.”

The lady came back, looking a little rushed.  

“Yes, they can do the bindings, but let’s pick out the skis, boots, and bindings first, so they can get started,” she said.

With Burger’s help, they picked out things and fitted my ski boots quickly. The guy from the back shop came out and ensured everything was ready.

“It won’t take long,” he said.

While the bindings were being screwed on the skis, we picked out all the other stuff. I thought I was set with pants, a jacket, gloves, and a hat. 

“You need heavy socks for those boots, or your feet will freeze,” the lady said.

“And you better buy a pair of good long johns,” Milstid said. “Otherwise, you will wear those Army ones, and they itch when you get sweaty.”

The bill was just short of twelve hundred marks when everything was totaled up. At four marks to the dollar, just under three hundred dollars. Almost pocket change to me in those days.

We loaded everything in the car, stopped at the bar several doors down the street, visited with the Norwegian twins, and had another beer. 

“Now we need to get home and adjust those bindings,” Milstid said. “And then we need to get some sleep. Burger is serious about his skiing, and he plans to leave before seven.”

We got back to Schöningen, and Milstid laid the skis out in the middle of his apartment, put the boots in the bindings, and started adjusting. Then he had me put the boots on and stand up on the skis.

So, here I am, standing, clamped into a pair of skis in a small apartment.

“Now fall over,” Milstid instructed.

“Fall over. What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.

“Just fall, forward would be best,” Milstid said. “I need to see if these bindings are adjusted right.”

“If they aren’t, I will probably break my leg,” I said.

“No, not here, but on the ski slope, maybe,” Milstid said.

I fell forward, catching myself with my hands before my nose hit the ends of the skis. The bindings popped at the right time.

“Good, we are ready to go,” Milstid said. “We will be by your place at seven.”

When we arrived at the ski area, there was no snow in the parking lot.

“It is not looking so good for snow,” I said.

“They have been making snow on one slope,” Burger said, pointing up the hill to where a group of people was waiting for the rope tow.

We loaded up, and I threw my skis over my shoulder like I knew what I was doing, and we headed out.

“I guess we want you to start with the snow plow,” Milstid said. “If you get that down, we will give you some other moves.”

We got to the slope. It didn’t look like snow to me. It looked like ice. They had a couple of a row of irrigation sprinklers on each side of this short slope with a big bend in the middle, and the entire area was covered in ice. It was a little crunchy under your feet, but it was ice.

We put our skis on. I slipped a little but didn’t fall. 

“Okay, this is how you snow plow,” Milstid says as he positions his skis with the points touching. “You do this to turn right and this to turn left.”

“Now we are going up to the top of the slope on this rope tow,” Burger said. “The only thing you need to remember, once you grab that rope, don’t let go. It doesn’t matter what happens. Just don’t let go!”

The line was moving pretty well now, and I could walk on my skis with the help of my poles. I watched the people ahead of me. They would grab the rope, flex their knees and take off up the hill. Looked like a piece of cake.

Pretty soon, it was my turn to grab the rope. I grabbed it with both hands, and my ski poles dangled from my wrists. The rope immediately pulled me off my feet. 

“Don’t let go. It doesn’t matter what happens,” Burger’s last words rang in my ears. “Just don’t let go!”

I hung on. I struggled to get a better grip, almost stabbing myself with a ski pole. My skis bounded along as I tried to get my feet under me. I finally got my left arm over the rope. I could hear the muffled laughter coming from the group behind me. With my arm over the rope, I made one pull to right myself. I planted my left ski under me, stood up, and placed the right ski beside the left. It looked like I knew just what I was doing. 

A roar came up behind me as everyone was amazed that I had regained my feet halfway up the tow. Everyone was clapping and laughing at the same time.

When I reached the top of the tow, I pushed myself off with my ski poles, brushed myself off, and waited for Milstid and Burger.

They both arrived with broad smiles. Milstid repeated his demonstration of the snow plow, and then off they went down the slope like old pros. 

I inched myself over to the edge of the slope. I could see some people struggling on the hill, but most people were handling the ice just fine. 

This slope was steep at the start and leveled out some as it made a wide sweeping turn to the left. I took a deep breath and pushed off with my poles. I covered the steep area much faster than expected. I positioned my skis in the snow plow, easily turned to the right, and quickly came to the ice’s edge. Milstid hadn’t said anything about stopping. I bounced over the edge of the ice and came to a stop on the grass.

I got turned around just in time to see Milstid and Burger zoom past on their second trip down the hill. I walked back onto the ice. I made another loop, skiing out onto the slope and making a right turn back to the edge. I tried harder to stop this time and promptly fell on my butt. But I did come to a stop.

It soon became apparent that I could turn to the right just fine, but I had trouble turning to the left. I waited for an opening in the traffic and skied across the slope to the left side, making some progress at getting down the hill. One more time, crossing the slope to the right side. From here, the hill was much gentler, and I could go in a straight line all the way to the bottom.

I waited for Burger and Milstid.

“Hey, Guys,” I said. “I need a little more instruction.”

They spent a few minutes and made sure I had both turns down and could stop. Then I followed them to the rope tow.

“I think I have this thing figured out,” I said. “It won’t take me by surprise again.”

I grabbed the rope and sailed to the top without incident. The person ahead of me on the rope tow was a kid about eight years old. We came off the tow and slid toward the edge of the slope. I stopped beside him. He looked at me and smiled, probably recognizing me from my earlier performance on the rope. 

The kid pushed off and went down the slope almost as well as Burger and Milstid. I took a breath and followed. I was going very fast and made it all the way to the sweeping left turn. I was still going straight and ended up in a pile in the grass on the right side of the slope. 

“Last time I will follow a kid,” I thought to myself.

I improved on each trip down the hill. By the end of the day, I was bruised and tired, but I could almost make the left turn in the slope and was a master at the rope tow. Things got better when we got to some real snow, but I don’t think I was ever as good as that eight-year-old kid.

Photo by Paul H on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

2 thoughts on “My First Ski Trip 

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