Having always lived less than 50 miles from a ski slope, it seems strange that I’d wait until age 22 to start skiing.
But there always seemed to be a reason not to start. Skiing is expensive. The mountains are a bit far. The weather is really freaking cold. And for the past 8 years I had another very valid excuse: weekends are for running.
However, it was running that finally lured me to the slopes. Back in June, competing in the Slacker Half Marathon, I won four tickets to Loveland Ski Area and decided to use them. I had five months to gather up the gear and the courage to try skiing.
I began at Powder7 where Emily helped me find a helmet that was snug enough to protect me from accidental targeting by another skier or the slope, but not so snug that it pinched my cheeks like an overbearing grandmother.
Tip: Just say “no” to French braids. Unless you’d like to say “yes” to stabbing scalp pain.
Next, Emily tackled layering. I thought I knew layering from years spent running through Colorado winters, but realized that learning to ski was not going to generate very much heat, at least at first. As Emily added layers, she assured me that yes, I really was going to want all of them because skiing was cold, but the lift was colder. She was right.
Tip: Pack every layer you think you’ll need and then pack another one. I wore four tops and two bottoms and was nice and cozy. One place where it isn’t a good idea to double up? Socks.
Glove liners were a late addition, but an essential one. They not only add warmth, but are handy when you pull out your phone on the lift to take The Skiing Picture™ and you drop the glove, because despite promising yourself that you’d always use the wrist strap, you didn’t.
Tip: Wear liners for warmth and use the wrist strap so that you never worry about dropping a glove, or have to ski down without a glove to retrieve said dropped glove.
Another last-minute add-on was an item I tend to avoid with my mostly-elastic-waistband-athleisure lifestyle, but a necessity with my Burton snow pants: a belt.
Tip: Try on everything together beforehand to eliminate last-minute gear borrowing.
One reason I was reluctant to start skiing is because I’m not good at being bad at things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly bad at things. But I was absolutely terrified of ending up on Jerry of The Day.
To overcome my fear, I resolved to follow advice given to me by a professor for use in an elementary school classroom: fail fast and pivot.
Armed with a strategy, ski gear and a Loveland Three Class Pass (three beginner lessons and a season pass), I took my first ski lesson in early December.
Learning to Ski at Loveland
At Loveland, beginner ski lessons are at Loveland Valley, which is the smaller section of Loveland home to only green and blue runs. There are never more than 10 students in a group, and we were all first-time skiers except our instructor, Marlena.
Marlena patiently herded us around like a mother duck with her (very slow, very clumsy) ducklings. After some initial practice putting on and taking off skis and jumping to our “pizza” formation, we made our way over to the Magic Carpet.
A covered uphill moving walkway, the Magic Carpet is similar to the walkway that sweeps you through Denver International Airport except instead of a gate at the end, it leads to an even milder version of the bunny slope. It’s fast and fun and has ideal acoustics for singing “A Whole New World,” as the children’s ski instructor riding behind me demonstrated.
Watching longingly as the four and five-year-olds in their green Nature Valley Granola kits strolled up to the magic carpet and glided effortlessly down the hill between the smiling padded obstacles, I struggled to gain footing en route to the magic carpet.
I felt like I was sliding backwards three inches for every one I moved forward, even once crossing my skis and tripping myself.
Some people had poles to move themselves forward on the flat snow, but I opted to go without poles for the sake of developing balance. This paid off when it was time to get on the lift and I could focus on just putting my rear in the chair without worrying about smacking my seatmate with a ski pole.
One upside of falling is that it’s a quick way to warm up. One minute you can’t feel three fingers and the next you’re breaking a sweat trying to clumsily hoist yourself up, thinking maybe there really was something to those LifeAlert commercials. Bonus: you get even warmer if you laugh while you’re at it.
The other upside is that everyone is either falling or they’ve been there at some point. I realized that no one would be so cruel as to submit a first-time skier to Jerry of the Day unless they were wearing jeans instead of snow pants.
Marlena guided us down the easy slope, leading, then stopping halfway to make sure we were okay. We practiced gently turning and controlling our speed and with an hour to spare on the lesson, I was French-fry-pizza-ing my way slowly down the shortest green run and ready to go it alone on “All Smiles” and “Takeoff.”
“The Time of My Life”
I couldn’t stop grinning at the thrill of the momentum and I circled down the slope and up the lift until the sun started its own journey behind the mountain and my friends arrived to pick me up.
I called my dad to tell him how it went. “So, you headed to the Olympics anytime soon?” he joked.
No, I’m not headed to the Olympics, but I’m headed back to the slopes as soon as possible.
Additional Posts in this Series
Many thanks to Loveland Ski Area, WinterWomen.com and Powder7 Ski Shop for sponsoring this “Learning to Ski as an Adult” series. Please click here for a list of recommended gear from WinterWomen and Powder7.
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