Get a life: It's all downhill from here

Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP


Me, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1978. Me in Steamboat Springs, circa 1978.

Every adventure I have is a learning experience, a chance to not only sharpen my skills or learn a new sport, but also to learn more about myself. The first time I went skiing afforded me the opportunity to learn to get up after I've fallen. And fallen, and fallen...

My older brother, Steve, moved to Denver when I was in high school, and, during my sophomore year, agreed to take myself and our cousins, Chip and Tim, skiing. Being from Topeka, Kansas, the first part of our adventure required renting equipment (skis aren't exactly necessary in Kansas). What should have only taken an hour became an all-day ordeal, due mostly to Chip's feet. He was a freshman in high school and needed size 13 ski boots. This was problematic because in those days the "graduated length method" was in vogue, which meant beginning skiers were put on very short skis. Every place we went, the short skis couldn't accommodate the size 13 boots. After being told several times we should just wax the bottom of his boots (they were certainly long enough), we finally found a pair of short skis that fit Chip's gargantuan boots, though there were only mere centimeters of ski sticking out from under each foot.

Steve took us to Eldora, a small resort near Nederland, Colorado, for our inaugural day of skiing. Since Steve was the only one of us who had previously been on skis, his plan was to take us up one at a time. This way, he could help each of us get off the chairlift (a daunting task for any new skier) and teach us some basics on the way down. I went up first and managed to get off the lift without falling. That was the high point of my day. We started down the bunny slope, and I discovered that there is a second during a snowplow turn where you face directly down the mountain. I found this terrifying, and coped by falling...every single time. And then I couldn't get up. I was a fairly chubby kid, and the extra weight I was carrying kept causing my skis to shoot out from under me, landing me on my butt again and again.

Eventually, Chip and Tim grew impatient and hopped on the lift. Steve was trying to help me up after my fifteenth or sixteenth fall when we heard someone yell, "How do you get off this thing?!" We looked up to see our cousins on the lift above us. Steve hastily yelled some instructions to them and we hoped for the best. A few minutes later, Tim barreled past us screaming, "I CAN'T STOP!" Steve went flying after him just as Chip hobbled up with one ski on his foot and the other in his hand (his ski had fallen off on the lift and he couldn't get it back on). At this point, Tim was careening toward a group of unsuspecting skiers standing in the lift line. At the last possible second, Tim executed a textbook parallel stop, narrowly avoiding causing serious injury to the waiting skiers. We all agreed it had to be divine intervention, but decided to call it a day regardless.

There have been many, many ski days since then, some of which have included making the last run in frozen, scotch-guarded jeans and then letting them thaw out during après ski at the bar.

Steve and I still ski together occasionally, and always have a great time. I still fall from time to time, but now I am able to get back up by myself.

I'm looking forward to seeing some of you at the Ski CE event co-sponsored by the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society and AAHA this month at beautiful Vail, Colorado. Even if you have never skied or snowboarded before, if it is something you've always wanted to do, GET A LIFE and just do it! Hope to see you on the slopes at Ski CE January 24 - 27!

And, if you have a passion for adventure, and some great stories to share, I invite you to share with like-minded colleagues who believe in the concept of life outside of veterinary medicine. Send your story (about 500 words) to getalifeblog@aahanet.org and you might see it show up in a future blog post!


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