About five years ago, I decided I would never be a skier. I’d gone with a rather large group of people, half of them children under the age of 12, to Shawnee Mountain, a resort here near where I live in central NJ, where we all signed up for a group lesson to prepare us for a day on the easy slopes. This experience actually turned out to be more of an exercise in frustration as everything ended up being a little “off,” from inadequate ski clothing, to a late arrival with younger kids who became ravenously hungry by the time we got there, to improperly fitted boots that made everyone sore and cranky by the time we’d waited in line for over an hour, to a lesson with about forty-two other clueless and aggravated people standing around wondering what, exactly, we were doing. Our instructor was a Brazilian guy with an accent so heavy that the only thing I could understand completely was the humiliating phrase, “Make a pizza,” a phrase he unfortunately repeated over and over again until I thought I would punch him. Oddly enough, I didn’t really understand the pizza analogy because I kept thinking of a PIZZA as a CIRCLE. Why in the hell is this guy talking about pizzas? Honestly, now I know it’s slice of pizza for crying out loud!
Lots of falling, lots of complaining, lots of sore feet and shins. Truly, not an ounce of fun or nice feelings and we left that day without even ever making it up the magic carpet or down the bunny hill. That’s it, I thought, I am athletic in so many ways but I am clearly not a skier. And I have believed this completely ever since then.
Until this past weekend that is! Fast forward to a new era of possibilities, a new time of adventures and a philosophy of let’s see what happens! This past weekend my two teenaged sons and I joined three, seasoned skiers in Killington, Vermont where we arrived bright and early with fitted seasonal rentals, new ski wear and a can-do attitude. We took an awesome lesson where we learned the more dignified wedge, and even tried the very basics of the more advanced parallel method. We practiced on the magic carpet and the learner’s hill until somewhere around 1:00 when we bravely boarded the lift for the first time–even though our instructor told us we were not ready for it–exited without falling or getting clocked by the next chair, and did our first green slope, Snowshed. And, in a nice surprise, our black-diamond friends came back from the great beyond to do some slumming on the greens with us, which was really encouraging. I spent two days perfecting the same hill while my boys conquered blue runs and, even though our shins were sore, we all left feeling happy and successful. We became skiers.
My children tell me that I ski like a duck and I’d have to agree that my pole-less, wedge stance is certainly akin to a waddling creature precariously sliding down a slope of slippery snow, but by the time I got to my third run down Snowshed, I’d at least stopped falling, my zig-zags became a bit narrower, and I was starting to feel less fear over speeds above 2 mph. Most importantly, I was having fun. I ended the second day with an ambitious solo run down a rather long green trail, Great Eastern, which I’ll admit left me tumbling quite a bit and even prompted me to sit off to the side in one very real moment of panic. I took off my skis and actually considered calling ski patrol but, thankfully, a nice snowboarder stopped to tell me I was almost at the bottom and it would be OK, and it was.
There are few places in America that are as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the mountain ranges of Vermont. What a place to learn to ski.
So, accompanying today’s self-indulgent post about my weekend is a list (you know how I love the lists, friends). It’s called “Life Lessons I Learned From Skiing.”
- If your footwear is tight and uncomfortable, it might just be that you are about to blaze a brand new trail with a new pair of boots made just for the adventure–instead of taking them off, slowly break them in and see what happens.
- If your ski instructor tells you that you kind of suck and you’re not ready for the lift, you can say, Screw that! I’m gonna try it anyway!
- When someone tells you that you look like a skiing duck, remember that ugly ducklings can become beautiful swans and anyone who is good at something was once a beginner at the things they now do with any amount of skill.
- If you find yourself moving too quickly down a slope, give yourself permission to do a little zig-zagging and you might find out that you’ll make it to the bottom just fine.
- When you encounter people who ski better than you do, seize the opportunity to let them help you and be grateful you have people like this in your life.
- If the terrain gets a little scary and weird, pull off to the side, take off your skis, enjoy the beautiful view and just breathe for awhile.
- Falling down is part of the deal. Stop crying and carry on or the next person is probably going to hit you.
- When the ski day is done and you are sitting in the lodge feeling every muscle screaming in agony, thank your body for being such an amazing machine.
- If you french-fry when you should’ve pizza you’re gonna have a bad time.
TRY THIS WEEK: Hit the slopes!