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Another wonderful, annual event had come to a close, and it did so with ominous signs. For the 18th year I trudged north to Quebec to go skiing during the February vacation week. It’s a wonderful time that can be turned into an endurance test, as the mountain allows you to ski from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. That’s about twice as long as most local ski areas.

This year was slightly slower-paced as it was just me and my 8-year-old daughter, given that teen boys do not necessarily like doing things with their father and parents of teens do not necessarily like leaving them home alone for any extended period of time for fear they will return to a beer-can-filled crater where once the house stood.

With my daughter in lessons, I was able to head over to a favorite section consisting of very steep, groomed double black diamond trails. These suckers are steep. White Heat of Sunday River fame has nothing on these slopes. I quite honestly have not skied anything steeper.

These play to my diminishing natural strengths. I can point them and go, with my ever-expanding ass providing me with sufficient momentum to go from zero to 60 faster than most. Lacking moguls means my arthritic knees do not have to do very much, and “not much” exceeds their capacity even with the benefit of 1,000 mg of Naproxen on a daily basis, with a little arthritis Tylenol thrown in to quell the breakthrough pain.

The mountain in question happened to be unusually empty this year, meaning I was able to do laps. Ski down without stopping; ski onto the lift; catch your breath on the ride up while taking inventory of any new aches and pains; get the poles straps on before reaching the departure point; and pole out off the lift like a starting gate and head back down at breakneck speed. I became very friendly with the lift operators who began pointing to their watches and telling me I was slowing down.

Each trip down took on a life of its own. The slope’s steepness means you have to remain on your toes at all times and be looking two turns down from where you are to find a reasonable navigation point. Couple this with ice patches blending in with the packed powder, and you have the makings for incredibly exhilarating — and sphincter-tightening — rides.

This happens to be my version of skiing heaven, and I was able to enjoy this scenario from 9:45 a.m. until 2 p.m. when I would gather up my daughter.

Then all hell would break loose.

My daughter, you see, happens to like mogul skiing. She particularly enjoys skiing in a child-friendly glade called the “Enchanted Forest.” A glade consists of little more than moguls with trees. The Enchanted Forest adds to the experience with plywood cartoon animals nailed to said trees who mock you as you struggle through it. Furthermore, the turns have been carved by little skis, meaning that behemoths on long skis have even more difficulty added to the mix.

I donned a helmet in my concession to age several years ago. I figured this might help if I lost an edge going at breakneck speed and skidded off the trail into trees. I did not realize how handy it would be muscling my way through pine branches while trying to keep up with my elementary-school-age daughter in the middle of a damn forest with 3-foot-tall rodents pointing at me and laughing.

Any twinge on the left side of a middle-aged man’s body immediately gets them thinking two words: heart attack. This happens to be particularly acute for those of us who have already lived longer than our fathers and are essentially sitting at the black jack table of life playing with house money.

Every once in a while I would stop and lean on my poles and try not to acknowledge that I was gasping for air in a child’s ski area and hope the left side of my chest would not start twitching while thinking, “Just how out of shape am I?” I would then peer downhill through the trees to try to catch a glimpse of my daughter humming to herself as she flitted like a waterbug through the moguls.

And while doing this I added a new fear to my skiing regimen. I had heretofore worried I would be skiing too fast and catch an edge, winding up breaking something and being carried off the mountain in a meat wagon for the last time before orthopedic surgery. Watching the apple of my eye bound through the moguls, I realized I was going to have to take lessons on how to ski these monstrosities so I can chase this little creature through the mogul fields into my mid 50s. The vision I have is not one of me bouncing through the mogul fields in some metronomic rhythm. The vision I have is more one of me red-faced and sweating, suddenly clutching my chest and falling to the ground in a glade field into which the ski patrol cart cannot enter, while a particularly snotty plywood penguin points his flipper at me and laughs.

Where is the dignity in that image?

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