Kirsten Benites

Paper 4

English 101

March 27, 2000


I was definitely uncomfortable. How long was she going to gush on like this? They were just mountains for crying out loud!

I had just picked my friend up from the airport and we were driving back to my house. She had come to visit over spring break for a couple of days, and now she would not shut up about the mountains we were now driving through and those she had seen from the airplane. I suppose I can see where she is coming from, she did grow up in the Midwest. Still, she’s been to Colorado, it not as if she’s never seen mountains or snow.

“...and I am so grateful. I mean this is really a once in a lifetime experience.”

Once in a lifetime experience? We’re just skiing. It’s not like we’re touring Europe or anything. I’ve been doing it since I could walk.

And so the week begun.

Unpacking later that evening at home, I discovered that while she had brought a pair of actual shoes, rather than the sandals she usually wore, she was rather lacking in basic apparel.

“You don't have any long underwear? No Hot Chillys?”

“Hot Chillys?”

“They’re a brand of long underwear for skiing and stuff.”


“Ok, well then. Gloves?”


“Wool socks?”



“Uh. Uh.”

Well, this is a promising start. I find it slightly bizarre that anyone could not own a pair of basic, fleece-lined gloves. My family must own fifteen pairs in various sizes and for varying weather conditions. No hat? Come on.

Finally we got her outfitted in some of my extra ski clothes and we went to sleep in order to get an early start tomorrow and beat some of the hordes of tourists.

Next morning we were out bright and early on the slopes. Well, ok, not so early. First we had to stand in several interminable lines in order to get her fitted with boots, skis and poles. Then we stood in another line to get a pass, and yet another line to get on a gondola which would take us up to mid-mountain. I already had my boots, pole and a season pass, plus a pair of demos reserved, so at least we didn’t have any more hassles there.

Once on the mountain, I dropped her off at her lesson and went off to ski a little on my own. The snow was a little soft, but had that sugary texture that is kind of fun to ski on. I don’t do back country stuff myself, but the avalanche danger was really low and you could see tracks all over Rifle Peak in the background.

When I picked her up after her lesson , we had lunch and somehow the subject came around to avalanches, hypothermia and getting lost in the snow.

“When you get lost, all you have to do is hug-a-tree,” I said smiling.


“Yeah, it’s one of those things you get taught when you’re in kindergarten. You know; stop, drop, and roll; never take things from strangers and hug-a-tree. If you get lost, you are supposed to sty where you are, so you find a tree and get down in the snow well that forms around the base. It protects you from the wind and gives you a little bit of insulation.”

After lunch we went back outside to ski. She was a beginner and so we stuck to the bunny slopes. I skied behind her, at what seemed a snail’s pace, helping her up when she fell, and trying lamely to instruct her. I found it hard to know exactly how to help her. I had never really tried to teach anyone before. Everyone i knew grew up skiing just like me. I knew she was struggling and could see that something was wrong but I didn’t know what. I’m not the world’s best skier myself, a little too tentative and not quite daring enough, but I found these movements, that to her were utterly alien, to be natural and comfortable for me. I did what I could, but I’m afraid I wasn’t that helpful.

And that is how the next two days went; me attempting to explain the basics of skiing while she took rolls and rolls of pictures, Lake Tahoe, the mountains, my house with its icicles and snow-covered roof. According to her it looked like a gingerbread house.

The last evening before she left, we were lying around, watching TV and putting aloe vera on our sunburns when a Volkswagen commercial came on. It had several young people driving a convertible late at night with fireflies dancing around them. You couldn’t even tell the bugs from the stars and I thought it was beautiful.

“You know I’ve never seen a firefly,” I remarked, “I think they look really cool.”

“What’s so cool about fireflies?” she replied, “It’s just a little glowing bug for crying out loud.”