Killing the Spirit!!
While my family was vacationing up in Gatlinburg over the Holidays, I was hoping to get some snowboarding in and to expose my 4 year old son to the sport for the first time. Unfortunately the weather was too warm for them to make snow until the 2nd of January, after a cold front had passed through. Living in Florida keeps us from hitting the slopes every weekend but we usually make it out west for at least a week each year. With this in mind, I simply purchased a small plastic snowboard for my son at the local Wal-mart store and then proceeded to Ober to hit the slopes. The upper parking lot was full so we had to pay $10 to park below and then pay again to take the tram up to the top after a two and a half hour wait. Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't have waited so long, had it not been for my son being so excited about his first stint on the slopes. We muscled our way through the crowds at the top, I purchased a lift ticket for myself, and we then proceeded to the entrance of the slope. I told the lady that my son would not be taking any lifts and she and another person let us go by. The bottom of the slope was just around the corner. We got about 10 yards from the very bottom of the slope where I gave my son his first instructions. He slipped his boots into the straps and I gave him a little push. He started to go by himself at a nice little steady pace with me walking right next to him all the way. He would go about 4-6 feet, fall over, I would pull him back up and he would do it again, another 4 to 6 feet. When we finally reached the bottom, he said he wanted to do it again. The joy on his snowcovered face was priceless. So we walked back up about 10 yards and did it again. Each time he would go a little further without falling but never going faster than I could follow. He made everyone around smile with his determination.
After about 45 minutes, a ski lift operator came running over. He proceeded to tell my why I couldn't use that board on the slope. He said the rail wasn't made of metal so my son wouldn't be able to stop. I was astonished. I explained that he was only 4 and couldn't go more than all of 2 miles per hour being at the bottom of the hill and when he wanted to stop, he simply fell over - and I stayed next to him. Now I can understand not letting people on the lifts and on the slopes with this kind of equipment but we were no threat to anyones safety being at the bottom. But it was like talking to Barney Fife about the dangers of jaywalking while there was a shootout occuring at the bank all around us. Beginners were everywhere, screaching, tumbling, and stumbling down the hill from above. If anything, I was more worried about my son's safety than the possibility of his massive 40 lb frame taking someone else out.
So I asked to speak with a manager but the lift operator said he was skiing. Go figure. So I went up to the entrance and asked to speak to a supervisor. Three gangly looking guys came up and said the same thing. One guy was looking for a confrontation. He was itching to take my pass away but I kept my cool and tried to talk reason into them. Another guy told me that all of the slopes worldwide were governed by the FCC and they had to abide by their rules. I asked what FCC stood for but he wasn't sure. Strange, I thought to myself, that the FCC not only governed the airwaves in this country, but they also controlled the slopes. So I asked Mr. FCC if they had boards small enough for my son to rent. We went over to the rental place and the guy said he could probably fit him but we had to go to the cashier first. The line again was incredibly long and by now my patience was gone. We left soon afterwards in disgust.
My son was crushed that he couldn't snowboard after I hyped it up for weeks. Unfortunately we had to depart the next day.
What has happened to the free spirit in this country? Have we thrown all reason, logic, and sense of adventure out of the window?
If only I had so many pathetic rules to live by when I was growing up. Perhaps I could have been a head ski lift operator with only 6 teeth to worry about instead of being retired at the age of 45.