Skiing + Whitney Houston

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February 20th 2017
Published: February 20th 2017
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We've had a pretty good trip, a couple of sicknesses notwithstanding. Two days of skiing in the books, an hour and a half of tubing later on today to go.

We left Milledge Ave Baptist Church in Athens, GA, on Friday afternoon at 5PM for a weekend of skiing at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia. None of us had ever been here, though many of us had gone skiing before. Our typical church-youth-group skiing trip had been at Winter Place, WV, since at least 2005. But we decided to try something new this year, since we had a majority of students who had not made that destination a tradition for themselves yet. There have been some perks to this place, as well as a few things to get used to.

The first thing was the distance. Many of us thought we would never get here on Friday night. We did take one more stop for gas and bathroom than normal, but it seemed like the drive was interminable while we were making it. We pulled into the hotel parking lot around 1:45AM Saturday morning, and the hotel receptionist told me that she wasn't sure we were going to show up. I'm glad they were expecting us, since most of the lights were off and the sign by the door clearly said that they locked it at 11PM.

Did I mention that I had been placed in charge of skiing and hotel logistics for this trip? Yeah, the first sickness of the trip happened just before the trip, when Ginny, our associate pastor, came down with a stomach bug. She had made all the arrangements, but now she was out of commission. And she was pretty indispensable. So now the rest of us adults have divided up responsibilities. And we got Susan, mother of two of our youth and husband to David (another chaperone) to be our female chaperone. Rounding out the adults was Barry, dad to two other youth on the trip. Of course, I am parent to no children on this trip, or to any at all. Yay! Barry took the bus driving duties on the way up to Virginia, and bless him.

Probably the most fortuitous event on the bus trip up was the discovery that the CD player on the bus was working again! Well, sort of. I normally drive the bus on youth trips, and about 1.5 years ago, I brought along my Whitney Houston greatest hits CD for a trip. When we got back from the trip, the CD player wouldn't eject my CD. Sad! So it's been in there ever since. And then before last summer, the CD player stopped working altogether. No ejection, no new CDs allowed, and no playing of the one in there. So imagine my surprise when we get to a place in North Carolina with no radio signal and Barry switches on the CD. Whitney! It was at the beginning, and we listened to the whole thing. Well, some people listened. Many of us sang along, and some others managed to sleep through it all. Their loss. Barry credits our entertaining karaoke for keeping him awake for that first stretch. When Whitney is on, what else can you do?

That was Friday. When we got to the hotel early Saturday morning, we adults decided to get a little extra sleep so that we could all function the next day. I got 5 solid hours, and it was fantastic. Saturday morning wasn't too bad, actually. The hotel breakfast is outstanding, and has been for both days. Holiday Inn Express - I recommend it. Our first stop was the Ski Barn, to pick up the equipment. The lady in charge was not the nicest person, but we got everyone's equipment and headed on over to the resort. The journey was very scenic, and once we got to the main entrance, steeply uphill. If you've never experienced such a steep grade in a church bus, don't. It probably took 1/4 of a tank to go the 5 miles to the top. But we made it to the top, got our lift tickets, and made our way to a communal place to set up some sort of timetable and rendezvous point. Most of the group had opted to do ski school, but we arrived too late to take part in the one that we had hoped for. It turned out pretty well, though, since it meant some folks could get oriented to their skis and/or have some rest time before undertaking the arduous process of learning to ski.

A quick time-out here - I no longer partake in upright winter sports. I can't say I always had enjoyable times on the slopes, but I've been to Colorado a couple of times, and then Winter Place, WV, probably a dozen times, and all of these since 2004. Colorado was definitely better quality - snow, resorts, mountains. I started out snowboarding, and I've tried skiing once or twice. And basically every time I've gone, I've broken something. Tail bone, several ribs, and usually more than one rib at a time. In 2012, I decided to go with ski blades, because my normal foot stance is at a weird angle (apparently a natural 3rd position in ballet, if that means anything to you). Anyway, the blades are shorter, so I thought I would have better luck with stopping and maneuvering in general. I was right. I managed to ski upright for an entire slope once, but I still managed to break a rib in one of my numerous falls. In 2013, I thought I'd try it again, and I made it about 30 minutes on the slopes before I tore my meniscus at the bottom of the 2nd slope I tried. That was it. Several months of physical therapy and no surgery later, and I've still got a couple of years before I ever get back on skis. If ever again. It's always a bit disappointing for the kids when they find out I can't go out on the slopes with them, or when they get here and are reminded; and then for me when I think about how much fun it would be. But here we are, nevertheless. So my typical role on these ski trips is guarding all our stuff in the ski lodge (or cafeteria this year) and go out and take pictures whenever someone else agrees to hold down the fort. And I typically enjoy building the annual snow-celebrity with a few of the youth. Last year it was a Snowyoncé, but this year it had to be a SnoWhitney Houston. Check out the pics.

I also brought my pink pussy (cat) hat because I was dying to wear it in a locale that would be most suitable. It was easy to spot amidst all the white ground, and it keeps your head and ears warm. I got several compliments, and a few of the youth even asked to wear it. I said they could wear it on Sunday, but Saturday was my day. Check out the pics for that, too.

Before lunch, Barry and I took Anna, Carson, and Thomas out to the flat area to (re)orient them to skiing. They did pretty well - putting on the skis, moving forward, stopping. Enough that they could go to ski school without having to worry about these things. All of our youth are in middle school these days, so we had all 12-14 year-olds on this trip. We were concerned that some might not have a good time, despite really wanting to come back. In fact, all but two of these youth had been with us last year. Thomas was not, but he had attended a few other church events and so everyone knew him. Ietta was the other newcomer, a friend of Jenna, an 8th grader. All of the girls except Anna had a difficult time on Saturday, and I thought they might even give up altogether. But they decided to do ski school again on Sunday morning, and it made all the difference.

Carson and Thomas were the only boys who did ski school; Thomas had never skied before Saturday, and Carson had only been last year with us, and he hadn't had a particularly good experience with the slopes. After ski school, these two decided to take a break from skiing, which typically isn't a good sign: taking a break makes it harder to go back out if you've not really enjoyed it in the first place. But they did go back out, and when I saw them heading down their second slope with few problems, I new they had turned the metaphorical corner. Success! And it turns out that they credited me with a good bit of the teaching that got them to that point; probably because I was able to give individual attention when their ski school instructor had to go help someone else or tend to a particularly difficult problem with a single student. If I could actually ski, I'd probably be a great ski instructor, it seems. That's a pipe dream.

David had gone out skiing with our trio of adventurous boys, the only ones who didn't feel the need for ski school. They were gone for most of the day, and as a result, I got a total of zero pictures of them on the slopes. But they were among the first back in at the end of the day. I think the short night of sleep contributed to that. A long ride, a short night of sleep, a hard day of skiing, and using muscles you're not accustomed to using will do that. It was no surprise then, when everyone was finished with skiing earlier than expected. All that combined with a less-than-stellar lunch selection at the cafeteria to make us want a quality meal at night. So we left a little earlier to make time for better food. Some of us walked to the Outback beside our hotel, while the rest took the bus to Cracker Barrel. I think everyone was satisfied with their choices. Back at the hotel, most of us opted for some pool/hot tub time to end the day. We were all back in the rooms before 10PM. Yep - we were tired out.

On Sunday morning, we got an earlier start, but not by much. Maybe an hour. Three of the girls went to their ski school, and poor Anna surprised us all with a stomach bug, promptly throwing up in the lobby of the main hotel at the resort not long after we arrived. It was a good thing her dad was with us. We weren't sure how serious it was, but she went a couple of hours with no relapse, mainly sleeping wherever she could find the room. Then it happened again, so we figured she should get back to the hotel for some quality rest and recovery.

While I was out making my rounds for photography's sake, a couple of older gentlemen stopped me and questioned my attire. I hadn't particularly noticed it, besides the potential colorfulness of what I was wearing. But they were curious about my intellectual affiliations; Mercer shorts (yes, it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit), TCU jacket, and WMU hat. I was glad that they went in the academic direction instead of the athletic. The latter is typically the way most people go. I didn't even have to tell them that I had gone to all those schools; they just assumed it. I was pleased. I wouldn't even bring it up, but at dinner later on that day, another older gentleman was asking us where we were from, and after we told him Athens, GA, he was curious about my WMU hat and Mercer hoodie, but again he assumed it had academic significance.

While Susan and Barry took Anna back to the hotel to recover, the rest of us stayed at the ski resort. And all the youth had much better performances on the slopes than previously. Progress. I went out right after lunch to help build the SnoWhitney Houston. Meanwhile, since we were shorthanded with chaperones, I (as the non-skier) spent the remainder of the afternoon hanging out with all our stuff in the cafeteria. I got some reading done, but it was pretty boring all around.

On the way back to the hotel, we returned our ski equipment to the Ski Barn, which was as luxurious and efficient as ever (sarcasm). Our quality meal for the day came from Panera near the hotel, after which we made a quick stop at Wal-Mart for some aloe, since most of the youth had sunburnt faces. The final event of the day was helping the boys pack up all their belongings. It was not my intention in the slightest. And I'll say that I put no articles of clothing in any bag. Their room is next to mine, and I went in to remind them of the time to be on the bus in the morning. Right after I did, Carson and Will asked if I could help them get everything together for the morning. Before you ask - yes, it was a mess. So I started asking them about the individual items on the floor, or on the bed, or wherever; we got things situated, but not before Jackson Butter pointed at me and laughed; curiously, it turns out he was struck by the same thing as the older gentlemen twice earlier today - UGA sweatpants, Mercer hoodie, and WMU hat. And before I could even give it a response, Carson came to my "defense." Bravo.

Also, I'm pretty proud that a good number of the youth are now prone to burst into Whitney Houston songs without warning and with no real trigger. And frequently it'll be more than one of them at a time. And they're mostly the male students. Mission accomplished?

Today is Monday, President's Day, and we're tubing (a snow activity in which I can participate!) for an hour or so before making the long trip back to Georgia. If I think about it, I'll update this thing with any relevant pictures or words once we get back home.

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