Column: No ski like snow ski

I am the sort of athlete who participates in a lot of winter sports - basketball, for example, is an activity that I'll spend many hours a week watching. And I'll sometimes agree to let my children drag me out for a day of snow skiing, though I prefer this occur in the summer, when it's not my fault we don't go.

My philosophy on snow skiing is that there are less expensive ways to fall down a mountain. Yet every couple of years I go on a ski trip for the same reason that women will have multiple children - they simply forget how much it hurts.

Ski-lift tickets became rather expensive in the 1980s, but since then the ski companies have helpfully limited their price increases to keep pace with inflation - in Zimbabwe. The good news, though, is that at the top of the mountain there is a beautiful lodge where you can relax, rest and pay a month's salary for a hamburger.

My ski equipment is top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art for something purchased in the Carter administration. The skis themselves have the word "cyber" printed on them, as if you can use them to log on to the Internet. They also have some elegant Japanese characters written on them - I don't know what the words mean, but I do know that Japanese women won't let their children look at them and that Japanese men sometimes tell me I am a "vile pig."

My ski boots are so tight it feels as if I'm wearing matching bear traps.

My ski outfit is layered and as uncomfortable as sleeping underneath a wet Buick. It takes so long to undress that I head to the men's room about an hour before I actually need to go.

But once I've gotten dressed and assembled my gear and mortgaged my house for a lift ticket and headed for the slopes, I'm always glad to get on the chair lift because it means I can sit down. I also appreciate the ski poles, because they are designed to poke your children when they annoy you.

(If you can catch your children. The fact that they ski so much better is actually what you find so annoying.)

There are two kinds of slopes: "cruisers," where the snowcats have mashed the snow down as hard as a cement driveway and where you can build up a lot of speed before you fall, and "bump runs," where the terrain slams you like anti-aircraft fire. Joining these two are often a series of "catwalks," where people are expected to ski uphill.

My favorite ski slope is the kind that winds up at the cafeteria. My children, though, usually insist that I get out and take on a few expert runs, in a game called "Let's See if We Can Get Our Inheritance Early." An expert run is what would happen if an obstacle course and an elevator shaft had a baby. The best way to survive the whole ordeal is to collapse on the first turn and fall all the way to the bottom.

You'd think skiing wouldn't be strenuous - all you have to do, after all, is start at the top and let gravity pull you to the dessert bar in the lodge. But at those elevations you'll find about as much oxygen as you'll find kindness from your children. It's like spending six hours holding your breath.

By the end of the day, you'll have body pain in a) your calf muscles and b) everywhere else. If you've fallen, your body will be covered with bruises and impact craters. If you haven't, you're sore where your muscles detached themselves from your skeletal system and tried to find someone else to attach to. Doctors will tell you to apply cold to the afflicted areas, which is ridiculous - you hurt because you've been falling in snow. Cold caused the pain! In my opinion, if you want to feel better, you should get into a hot tub and film a beer commercial.

You want to feel really better? Stay at home, and watch a game. Nobody ever crashed watching basketball.