His name was Donald, and when I was 17, he was the most beautiful boy I'd ever seen-6-foot-2 or so, shaggy black hair, freckled Irish face. And he could ski like the wind. I wasn't alone in my lust. Every girl in the Mount Washington Valley wanted him. They'd slink around him in pricey pink CB outfits, all crisp and fur-trimmed. I didn't have a chance in my too-cool-to-coordinate ensemble.
But one day, we met atop Doubleheader, a steep double-fall line trail at Tyrol, N.H., our tiny home hill. Simultaneously, we launched off the first cornice-he on orange Olin IVs, me on my 200-cm Rossi Roc Comps-and we flew. Each pitch, we'd swap the lead, one cutting tight turns, the other making them figure eights. It didn't matter what that ungroomed 1970s terrain threw at us.I took air; he flew just as high behind me. He skied dangerously close to a tree stump, I did the same. As we soared off the last lip before the trail ended, it felt like we were one. And at the bottom, hearts pounding, we looked at each other, and I just knew: Despite the pastel-clad girls hoping to catch him, the liftride up belonged to me-the chick who could rip.
OK, so looking back, the Harlequin hokiness of it all is a bit much. But here's how it ended up. That night, we kissed long and hard, and then...burst out laughing. It was like kissing my brother. Donald and I were not to be. We skied together for years, but we never did do the love thing. Still, the experience wised me up to a simple truth: Guys dig chicks who rip. All the hairspray and cute après boots in the world will never outshine athletic grace on a steep pitch.
Donald awoke in me the realization of power, and I learned to use it, leaving some boys in the dust, taking others along for the ride, laughing it all off. I played hard in those young single years, and skiing hard was one marker I could always count on to catch that certain eye.
Mind you, the odds were good to begin with: In the Valley back then, it was about 100 boys to every girl, or so it seemed. Walk into the party-crazed Oxen Yoke or the kicked-back Oakley and swing a ski pole in any direction and you'd hit a dozen guys looking for the perfect ski-town girl. They weren't all Donalds, but there they were, putty in the warm hands of any hard-skiing girl. If you could handle a really long pair of skis or wore an instructor's jacket, you could knock the Farrah Fawcetts right out of the picture. It was intoxicating, and I know it sounds racy, but though I might have been fast, I was never easy.
Years later, I'm no longer that perfectly fit girl. Two kids, 20 years of marriage and a lot of life have changed my appearance. But at the bottom of a double-diamond, I can still see men looking at me in a different way. And I still like skiing with the guys on trails that blow the bunnies away. It's my true-to-my-spouse, legal form of flirting. My husband understands. He sees it, too, and likes nothing better than to ski a challenging trail with me. But I also notice the look on his face when our blond 17-year-old daughter rips past us. Funny how things change from a different point of view.