Peering over the edge
Alison Marshall gets ready to plunge down an intermediate ski run during Vicenza's Outdoor Recreation trip to Paganella.

PAGANELLA, Italy- Saying "misery loves company" can be a lot like saying "this ski run is beyond my capability, so please join me" -- which out of context doesn't make sense. So rolling back before the point of tumbling down an intermediate or red ski run, let's begin at Paganella, Italy, during the recent Vicenza Outdoor Recreation ski and snowboard trip.

Alison Marshall decided she wanted to participate in a winter sport with her husband. He liked to snowboard, and since she had tried cross-country skiing as a child in Michigan, she decided to try downhill skiing. The fact that ODR was offering free ski lessons, she said, helped make the decision easier.

"I wouldn't have done it if there weren't free ski lessons to help me get my feet under me," said Alison, though truth be told, red runs, beginners and feet (or skis) firmly planted on the ground rarely all stick together in reality.

Alison, who is a substitute teacher at Vicenza Middle School, found herself learning with some of the students she teaches.

"It's good for the kids to see adults trying something new. Even though I was out learning with the kids, the lessons really help you stay in your comfort zone," she said.

Though staying in the comfort zone for long wasn't going to be the case that day.

After some cajoling and reassurances from two new "friends" she met on the beginner slopes that day, the small group of beginners and the advanced skier, Christine, were jumping on the gondola and going up the mountain. The map in hand showed a circle of blue runs, what were supposed to be beginner runs, at the top of the mountain. The gondola dropped the group off at the top of a very steep red run -- an intermediate level course. But then there they were. With no way other than down, the descent began.

"After getting up again and again on the red run, I began to think these new 'friends' aren't nice," said Alison.

After her new acquaintances apologized profusely and promised that the next run would definitely be a blue run, they continued the adventure on a different chairlift. True to the spirit of adventure, the blue run, unfortunately for the beginners, connected back to the original red run. After another challenging descent, the map was consulted and a route planned to avoid another red run at all costs.

But the map either lied or was made by a colorblind cartographer. The alleged blue run, literally on top of the mountain pass, was bitingly cold, icy and steep as the wind whipped around the peak. Lesson learned: If the runs are at the top of a mountain pass, they are generally very, very steep.

"I'm running a half marathon in Verona next week, and at the top of the mountain I was really worried about getting down safely and being okay," said Alison. "The hardest part is not being so nervous, because physically my legs are shot, but mentally I feel good."

After a tough day of being told that reds were blue,s and learning that blues don't really exist at Paganella, Alison said that despite the challenges, she really likes skiing.

Mark Juliano, Vicenza ODR ski instructor, said it's exciting for him to share his passion for skiing and then seeing new skiers enjoy it.

"It's a neat life lesson, that one is never too old to learn, along with being a great experience for families and singles," said Juliano.

"It is a great feeling of being free when you go down the slopes," said Alison. "I learned: don't be embarrassed, but instead seize the opportunity to try something new."

What she didn't say though was: Make sure if you meet new friends out on the slopes, see to it somehow that you won't all be miserable attempting to negotiate intermediate slopes.

Page last updated Fri March 15th, 2013 at 00:00