OMG I can ski!!!

Posted By: Selma Al-Faqih on January 7, 2011 10:00 am

It’s learn a snow sport month!

This article is aimed at encouraging never-skied-before-people to pull up their courage and try it.  But non-skiers won’t be checking out  You have friends you’ve been trying to drag up the mountain, please forward this to them, and I’ll do my best to convince them to go with you.

First, allow me to say that I am from Washington D.C. (relocated to Los Angeles) and I don’t like being cold.  People always give me a hard time “you’re from DC, you should be used to the cold.”  I didn’t like the cold in DC; I don’t like it in LA.  I prefer warmth, heat, a fireplace, a hot car that’s been left in the sun, a baked potato maybe- you get me.  But I will tell you that I forgot all about the cold during my lesson at Mammoth Mountain resort, and it was windy freezing snowing!

The day started out great, blue sky, sunny, beautiful spring day.  I looked up at the slope for the first time.  It looked steep and scary.  And I’m fairly sporty and game for anything.  I went to the main lodge to get my gear.  Friendly staff, all willing to answer any question I had; how do I get my boots on?  Where do I store my shoes?  What’s that thing on my ski for?   Pulling on those boots is no small task.  They weigh as much as you do.  They also have several hundred wily clips with teeth and as soon as you wrench one open, you’re on to the next one and the first one clamps shut again.  WALKING in them is an experience you won’t soon forget. Once you have clamped yourself into them for all eternity, you have to kind of stomp, heel to toe, smashing the ground like a mad zombie with shin problems.  Aim for the door and finally get outside and it took about a half hour, with seventeen layers of clothing, hat and goggles, skis, ski poles and heavy boots, to cross the 30 feet distance from the door to your first lesson. 

I got a “beginners package,” which includes boots, skis, poles, and an all-day lesson.  I look at the 3 year olds whizzing by me on skis and feel silly for worrying.  Then I look at the class full of 3 year olds and wonder if that is my class.  Thankfully, it’s not.  They have an adult class full of people just like you.  Intimidated, frightened, and off-balance.

Enter Tim – The greatest ski instructor ever.  Tim was a bright young buck whose enthusiasm and vocal chords never failed us.  He would give us clear, step-by-step instructions from 9:30AM to 3PM and made us feel like champs throughout the entire day.

The first thing you learn how to do is stop.  Makes a lot of sense.  In the snow are these amazing conveyer belts that you stand on like a helpless fop and ride about 30 feet uphill, then waddle off, and then slowly ski down with your skis pointing inwards like an arrow.  You look like a pigeon-toed beginner, but you feel empowered.  You know when you’re watching pro skiers on TV like Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn, and they shoosh to a spray-filled stop at the bottom of a run?  This is wildly beyond your ability.  We didn’t BEGIN to learn how to do that until close to the end of the afternoon.  Basically, once you learn the wedge stance, you start learning all the little bits of skiing, going straight, turning, traversing the wide path, stopping and all the while you’re trying to go from the dead-give-away sign of a beginner doing the wedgie thing to bringing your skis close together and parallel to each other.  That is the great mystery of skiing.  That is the key.  The mature skier knows how to ski with feet together and fire in their soul, the newbie skis with feet apart and a fear in their heart.

Tim explained what we were going to do, take us up on the short gondola to the top of the bunny slopes, and once there, we would gather and he would again explain in detail what our objective was, and then show us.  Then he would watch us as we tweaked our way down the hill, some of us doing OK, some of us performing new tricks that we made up as we sped along, at times topping nearly 2 or 3 mph.  At the bottom, he would ask us how we felt, answer questions, do a head count and then tell us what we were going to attempt next.  He would finish up with a big smile by asking, “OK, any questions?”  He was the soul of enthusiasm.  He never let our lack of response stop his ready cheer… “Ready to rock!?”  He would ask us… dead silence (due to lack of oxygen),  “OK cool!  Let’s do it!”  Then we’d all clatter over to the gondola, and do it all over again.

Everyone told me “you’re going to fall a lot.”  True.  We all fell multiple times.  However, falling was more like lightly tripping into a pillow.  Snow you cannot feel because you have on fantastic pants and jackets.  I hurt myself more trying to get back UP on my skis.  Again, you’re wearing 38 components on your person, which all weigh something and take up space.  Space you used to use flexibly, to say, swing your arms by your sides.  By the time you’re all gussied up in your ski attire, you look like someone who’s just wet themselves- arms akimbo and legs apart. 

Let’s count what’s on your person, toes to head:

Socks that come up to your knees (I’m addicted to them now)

2nd Pair socks (for extra cushion)

Heavy ski boots (zombie fodder)

Thermal pants (warmth!)

Pants (optional, jeans are constricting)

Ski pants (oh how you’ll love this wind and snow armor)

Bra (for some)

Thermal shirt (toasty!)

Shirt (optional)

Sweater (I love a hoody)

Gloves  (a must)

Ski jacket (the upper body armor layer, nothing short of divine)

Scarf (very warming)

Beanie (indispensible, and seen as a fashion element)

Goggles (giant goggles that cover half your head)(you can’t see anything without these sight-giving splendiferous item)

Suntan lotion (you’ll still get a nice red, wind-whipped face temporarily)

Helmut (optional, not really needed on bunny slopes)

= 21 articles. 



Back to Tim, Mammoth Mountain ski instructor extraordinaire.  Tim would take the time to answer all of our questions, and re-explain anything, go into depth if required, and kept a sharp eye on all of us as we teetered down the hill.  He would give us tips and ask if we were feeling confident.  Of course we were!  We had Tim!  And more padding than a high school dance.  All of the steps in ski school are well-planned baby steps.  We had about 6 people in our group, including a teenager and her grandmother.  Half of us had never even seen a real ski before, except on The Ski Channel (check out our current line up).  

By the end of your lesson, 3pm, you know how to ski.  Not only do you know how to do something that is basically humanly impossible, which transforms you into a super-human, You are the Sleek Speeding Snowbird from the very crest of Mount Mammoth!  You are also Officially Hooked.  

Outside under the wide sky, whether ‘blue bird’ (cloudless) or filled with white falling flakes, the soft sounds of the snow will bring you a peaceful feeling.  There is a reason many pro skiers are also environmentalists; it’s beautiful out there in nature!  If you’ve ever hiked or baked on a beach, you know the wonderful perspective that comes with a vast open space.  There is a sense of freedom as you glide down a slope, the Earth wants you to thrill as you rush along, (not too fast).  The sensation of pushing snow as you turn (not elegantly), you start to understand your movements and your skis obey taking you to the left, traversing the wide path comfortably is addictive.  It’s a rush! 

Skiing is by far and away one of the funnest things you can do on the planet.  Unless you are one of those people who can’t throw a ball, is afraid of skipping, or had a catastrophic ice-skating accident as a child you just can’t let go of, try it.  You’ll love it.  And if that isn’t enough, when it’s all said and done – you’ve burned hundreds if not thousands of calories, had a full body workout without realizing it, and you can eat a huge dessert at dinner and likely still be thinner tomorrow.

I was not standing in my skis when I took the above photo.

Check out what skiers eat.