Monday, February 3, 2014

My first ski lesson

think my skiing career may come to an end before it even began. I went skiing the other day at the beautiful, award-winning Big Sky Ski Resort in Big Sky, Montana. I was lucky enough to be there for a work conference. Since the job was paying for the flight, hotel and meals all I had to cover was the gear and skiing lessons. The conference even has a midday break in the schedule to allow participants to get outdoors or have small group discussions. I’m pretty sure those small group discussions happened on the ski lifts. Sweet.

Pics from their website
I prepared for this trip by checking online for various “what to pack for skiing” lists, then I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to find some gear. As I looked through the store, I kept thinking that I didn’t want to look all brand new like that one episode of the Jamie Foxx Show where he buys a ridiculously loud ski outfit instead of buying Christmas gifts for the Kings. 

I purchased a new jacket, pants, gloves, socks, hat, snow boots and goggles. Some from Dick's and other gear from The North Face store. Luckily, both were having a winter blow-out sale.

I had plenty of base layers from running in Indiana. And thanks to my nephew, I have a thermal running hood that came in handy during my ski lesson.
Hey Shaunah!
Let’s get to the lesson. After the first session of the conference wrapped around 11:45, I went over to the Mountain Village to register for lessons. They asked me what level of skier I was and I promptly replied: Super beginner (aka Turtle). Turtle is for those who have never been on skis before. They ushered me through the steps to pick up a helmet, get fitted for snow boots, then pick up skis and poles. I changed into my gear and made my way back down to the meeting area for my lesson. Whoa. I’m really doing this.

Our instructor was very nice (although I don’t remember his name) and took a few minutes to get to know the 4 beginners in the class. He started the lesson with a few goals:
  1. Be safe.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Learn to ski. 
I can get with that agenda. We begin with putting the skis on and learning about lines and angles. The next part of the lesson was moving in the skis. And here is where things started to fall apart for me. I just couldn’t get it. None of his verbal cues were working. It seemed so easy for everyone else. The basis of our lesson was turning your knees in to walk on the side of your skis. This is against every part of my being as a runner. I just couldn’t do it. I slightly pronate anyway, so turning my knees in was practically impossible. I struggled through it and used my upper body strength to move myself around. I took small offense to the instructor telling the two ladies that we had to do this other maneuver because we lacked the upper body strength to move ourselves using the ski poles. Sir, you don’t know my life! I wanted to challenge him to a push up contest, but you know that would have been disruptive.

The instructor and other students continued to progress with the lesson while I continued to struggle. I had found a way to use my upper body to pull myself up the terrain. This was wasting soo much energy, but I had to do something in order to keep up with the class. As we got higher and higher up the hill, the instructor taught us basic ski techniques like turning and stopping. 

This little moving ski walk way was cool.
And this is where it got ugly. I still wasn’t getting the basics so adding on turns and stops was just too much. Because we were higher up on the mountain, I kept looking down and seeing how far I could fall if didn’t get this right. That fear was my downfall. When the instructor’s cues weren’t working right away, I would get scared that I’d end up down at the bottom trampling into a group of little kids. He’d yell the same cue and I got worse so I’d just fall down. He kept saying don’t do this and don’t do that, but none of it resonated with me to produce the movement. So fall I did. Over and over again. I fell on purpose out of fear that I’d speed down the mountain. As we kept going higher and higher up the mountain, this fear grew larger (we weren’t that high, by the way. Any advanced skier would think this was a speed bump). It felt like a mountain to me and that’s all that really mattered. About two hours and a half hours into our 3 hour lesson, I was done. It wasn’t fun anymore and fear really got the best of me. I kept trying to will myself to keep going because 1.) this lesson was not cheap, especially when you in the cost of gear and 2.) I didn’t want to be a quitter. But since I wasn’t fulfilling goal number two (or three), I called it quits. A little defeated, I packed up my rented skis and walked slowly back down the hill, deciding that skiing just isn’t for me. Before I left, the instructor asked me a few questions about my travel to Big Sky, what I ate that day and how much water I drank. Turns out after a grueling 16 hour travel day, 6 hours of sleep, sitting in a meeting all morning and scarfing down half a turkey wrap was probably not the best lot of behaviors before my first ski lesson. Then he threw in the fact that we were at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. Say what? Sir, you should have led the class with that. I could have taken my arse to sleep during the break and tried this whole skiing thing another day.
Not having fun anymore
So yeah, my first attempt at skiing didn’t go so well. It sucked actually. Next time (if there is a next time), I want to go with friends or family. The more defeated I felt, the more I really needed a friend out there on the slopes. It wasn’t so fun going out with strangers. My brother grew up skiing with the local boy scouts so it would have been much better to have him there to help me.

Have y’all skied before? Is this a standard tale of all beginners? I’ll need all the encouragement I can get in order to try this again. Too bad I didn’t read this article beforehand. It has some useful tips for beginners.
On the bright side, the guy in the rental area gave me a great quote as I came in early to turn in my skis, “A bad day on the mountain beats a great day in the office any day.” Indeed it does sir. Indeed it does.


PS, you can burn some serious calories skiing. 

1 comment:

  1. Sorry your experience was so bad. My first time was in Wisconsin when I lived in Chicago, fortunately I was with a group of friends which did help but also I don't recall the lesson being that long either. Sound like he may have been doing to much. I recently learned of a place near Atlanta well in North Carolina that I hear is nice and hope to get on the slopes again. I know the competitive athlete in you will try it again. All the best!