The moon was still the brightest light in the sky when I pulled into the parking lot of the local racquet club to meet my new skiing partners. The temperature hovered around 20 degrees and ice crystals clung to my car's exterior mirrors.
A day of skiing stretched before me, but a 2-1/2-hour drive would precede it, so we had agreed to meet early and carpool to beat the midday rush on the groomed trails at White Pass Ski Resort, which is about 50 miles west of Yakima, Wash.
A Chilly Reception?
I wasn't exactly nervous (it was too early in the morning for such a complex emotion), but I did have a certain sense of foreboding as I entered the asphalt lot. Of the four women I was supposed to meet here, I knew one, and her only slightly. She had mentioned a cross-country skiing day trip in a passing conversation earlier this winter, and apparently my enthusiasm for the sport garnered me an invitation.
So when I saw the SUV with its two female occupants in the otherwise-empty parking lot, I didn't know whether to hop out, all friendly-like, or wait in my own warm car until the others, including my acquaintance arrived. I did a combination of both, hopping out briefly and hoping for a welcome, then retreating to my warm coffee and heated seats when none was forthcoming. (In truth, I probably wasn't outside my car for more than 20 seconds and undoubtedly appeared pre-occupied with my gear, but never mind that.) Great, I thought as I watched them chatting amiably, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Everyone knows one anther except me.
Warming Right Up
Fast forward 2-1/2 hours.
Heck, fast forward 10 minutes ... we were all chattering like magpies before our vehicle even hit the freeway. Whatever trepidation I might have had evaporated in stories both hilarious and serious. In that inimitable manner of women who have ... ahem ... reached a certain age and comfort level with themselves and the world around them, the five of us were sharing intimacies like we had known one another for years.
It didn't matter that some had preschool-age children while my only son is in college. It didn't matter that some were new to the area while I had lived in southeastern Washington most of my life. Nor did it matter that they were all connected by the common bond of attending the same church while my only connection was sharing a civic committee with one of them. The group made me feel welcome instantly.
And The Skiing?
The skiing itself was almost incidental to the great time we had, but it was, in fact, fabulous. Oh, I was a little disappointed in my strength and stamina, but what else is new? I am reminded afresh every time I revisit a muscle-group-specific sport such as cycling, kayaking, or cross-country skiing, that not only am I not particularly fit, I never really was. But despite our varying levels of talent and abilities, we had a blast. Come to find out, it was Marilyn's first time. What a trooper she was, taking a lesson and tackling the entire Lake Loop trail including a downhill section that had my allegedly experienced knees shaking more than a little.
What really happened on that crystal-clear, sunny day of skiing, was that five women with generous spirits shared stories and got to know one another. With that uncanny ability women have to reach out and build bridges of the heart, we cut through the small talk and got down to the IMPORTANT stuff: who likes curly fries, for example, and who won't eat onions (OK, those things might not be important to YOU, but food forms the foundation of some of my most important relationships).
By the time we had returned home, we had made our new alliance formal. This little ski trip would become the first meeting of the Tri-Cities Women's Recreation Club. I'm looking forward to many hikes, canoeing adventures, and other outdoor excursions with Marilyn, Ruth Ann, Julie, and Trish, and other local women in Washington's beautiful Columbia Basin and nearby mountains.
Sally O'Neal lives, writes, skis, and hangs out with like-minded women in southeastern Washington State. She writes weekly for Sportsmansguide.com.