By Mary Best

February is named after a Roman purification ceremony. In the spirit of starting with a clean slate, stories this month embrace that theme, with tributes to love poems, artistic expression and more.

While I applaud these gallant efforts, for me, the second month of the year brings back memories that vacillate between Do the Right Thing and Fargo. Frankly, I’m not a cold weather girl. Here’s one reason why.

Years ago, a few friends convinced me to go snow skiing. Never having been skiing, I thought why not? How bad could it be?

Obviously, I didn’t think this through, given that I can’t keep my balance on a straight sidewalk on drought-laden July afternoon.

The problem was that my friends didn’t know what I didn’t know. After all, they grew up on Alpine slopes. And, in turn, I didn’t realize how much they thought I knew.

When we topped the expert slope, I was transported to what seemed suspiciously like the Ardennes in 1945. Not to mention that I had put the skis on the wrong feet, barely caught the ski chairlift thing and then was told to jump at what seemed like eight feet from the lift while it never even slowed down. Who jumps off a moving vehicle while it’s in motion?

Before Axl had blared out the first verse of “Welcome to the Jungle,” my first — and only — romp down the ice-glazed suicide path propelled me into a mountain of snow that felt like the Donner Pass.

My descent (literally and figuratively) continued as I repeatedly crashed into skiers and unforeseeable moguls. The stupid skis kept coming off, while members of the poor ski patrol tried in vain to escort me to an exit ramp. Nice folks, but the horror on their faces reminded me of the final moments of a Hitchcock movie.

On television, it all looked so easy.

I finally traversed the hill to an icy area where, with graceless, uncontrollable acceleration, I crashed into the deck in front of the lodge.

After the patrol team tended to my wounds, steadied me to my feet and located my skis, a member of the ski patrol approached and whispered: “Here’s $20, please go to bar, buy a few drinks and never come back.”

They escorted my crackling and nearly hypothermic body to the bar, where they placed me in a comfortable booth. They were merciful enough to seat me by a window overlooking the slopes. From there, I watched my friends play like children, captured by the magic of falling flakes.

Sitting there alone, having needed a respite, I cherished the warmth of each sip of a Kentucky Coffee. I’m almost certain O. Henry gave me a nod from above, as we watched and smiled.  OH   

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