Learn right the first time: Ski lessons worth every penny
Few activities span generations the way skiing does. My friend and I, both in our 50s, rode the chairlift with a 75-year-old skier and a 25-year-old snowboarder. Just as my friend commented on the age range, a ski class passed below us with a group of squealing, happy 3- and 4-year-olds learning to carve the slope. Four generations, a lifetime of fun and fitness.
I remember skiing for the first time before I turned 5 at Arctic Valley. I often was told growing up that if you can ski Arctic Valley, you can ski anywhere. I didn’t get to ski often with seven people in our family and a starving-artist father budget, so when I returned to the slopes years later at age 18, the lessons I’d learned at 5 really didn’t help. It was like starting all over again.
Only this time around I didn’t take a lesson. I just trusted my friends would help me. Not a wise decision. They took me to the top of a double black-diamond run, and when I asked how were we going to get down, they shouted, “like this!” and disappeared over the convex of the steep slope.
It took me almost two hours of skiing, falling and hiking to get down. Instead of giving up, I was driven to learn. I wanted to sail down the slopes like my friends. I found a girlfriend who knew a little more than I did (she could snowplow) so I followed her. That one skill suddenly had me gliding down the slopes. I never did take a lesson, just practiced and found friends to ski with that I could learn from. It took me years to reach that moment of elation when I could finally ski well enough to go with the friends from my youth.
That was more than 30 years ago. Over the years I have seen many other people take one or two lessons and ski as well as I did after years of struggle. Big takeaway for me: Take a lesson.
Keeping safe and healthy has proven the biggest challenge. I remember standing on a ridge at Snowbird Resort in Utah one day with friends, thinking how grateful I felt that I never gave up this sport, that I’m still skiing and learning and keeping physically fit.
But then everything changed in an instant when I overestimated my ability and ended up taking a cartwheeling freefall hundreds of feet down the mountain.
That was six years ago and I’m still living with the aftermath. I certainly don’t blame anyone because it was absolutely my decision to follow. I knew what I was doing. I just overestimated my strength and courage.
Fear is what happened. I looked at the terrain and suddenly felt like I was in the wrong place. Instead of facing it head on and keeping it strong, I freaked out. This is another bad mistake.
The lesson I walked away with from that day was the importance of good training and focusing on the task at hand with only positive thoughts.
I often think about that feeling of floating unafraid on a cushion of powder, gliding down mountain slopes, the wind rushing over my skin and the sun kissing my face. That’s something you can never capture on film.
I smiled at the old man sitting on the chairlift next to me, then over at the young man with the snowboard. “How long you been skiing?” I asked the old man?
“Sixty-seven years,” he told me. “I turned 75 last week.”
“I hope I’m still skiing when I’m 75,” I told him.
“So do I,” the boy with the snowboard said.
“You can,” the old man said. “Just don’t ever quit. Let it get in your blood and it will keep you young, strong and fit for life.”
I skied off the lift that day and started down the mountain with a fat ski smile etched on my face. I knew skiing is in my blood.
I’m getting stronger every day and looking forward to the day I’ll be back on skis again. I can accept that I will never be able to tackle those double black diamonds and that’s perfectly OK. Just getting back on the greens and blues means everything.
Skiing is something I crave to keep my body strong, lean and healthy; my mind happy and productive; my soul grateful that I have the ability to be standing on mountain tops soaking in breathtaking view.
View more stories by Debra McGhan at http://www.urocksafety.com/.