An embarrassing truth is going to be revealed in this post – I’m a novice downhill skier, and by novice I mean that I’ve been downhill skiing twice in my life.
At my first lesson, I was stuck with a bunch of daring teenagers who begged the instructor to take them straight to the big hill and I trailed along in mortal fear. By the end of that lesson I did manage to ski a few greens, but I learned the rather painful lesson that one, I am not a natural born skier and two, I can’t seem to get off a chairlift without falling flat on my face.
Fast forward a number of years, and I had the opportunity to attend Ski & Ride School at Breckenridge Resort this past January. This ski school experience was very different from my first introduction to skiing. First of all, I’ve been cross country skiing for the past three years, so I’m more comfortable wearing skis. Second, everyone else in my class, with the exception of a gal from Boston, had never been on a pair of skis before.
The class was made up of sweet, friendly and slightly terrified Texan girls. They all looked the part, having splurged on fashionable ski gear for the occasion, but several of them were suffering from altitude sickness. Honestly – their fear gave me comfort. I passed out Tylenol from the stash in my pocket and felt pretty good about not being the newbie in ski school. Note: Tylenol helps alleviate some of the symptoms of altitude sickness, but you should also drink plenty of water. Get more tips here.
Our instructor was Darrin Hart, a guy with an Australian accent and matching chill attitude. As a true beginners class we first learned about our boots and skis, and then practiced clipping in and out of our skis, which is a lot harder than it sounds if you’ve never done it before.
We walked to the top of the first bunny hill and stood alongside kids that barely came up to my knees. If they can do it, I can, I thought as I snapped my boots into my skis and took a deep breath of thin air.
After learning a few basic mountain rules and skills, we learned the mechanics of the snow plow and then, one by one, we slid down the bunny hill, legs awkwardly splayed, applying the use of muscles we didn’t know we had. Within minutes, a Texan was down, but being fairly athletic she was back up in no time.
Halfway through the morning we “graduated” to the larger bunny hill which required a short ride on a J-bar ski lift – the kind you put between your legs and hold on as it slides you up the hill. It turns out the J-bar was a challenge for many of my ski school buddies as one after another went down on her way up.
After a few runs down the larger hill, even making our way into real ski traffic once or twice, we were dismissed for an hour lunch. My husband, Ryan, had been out skiing real mountains all morning where he’d ran into a friend. They were drinking beers when I showed up in very good spirits.
“I think I’m turning into a real skier,” I announced.
This was, perhaps, a bit of an exaggeration coming from someone who’d been snow plowing down the bunny hill all morning.
After a lunch of hot and delicious green chili at The Maggie, I joined back up with the other students. The afternoon was going to involve some real mountain skiing on Peak 9, which meant I was going to have to ride a chairlift. My previously high spirits began to dissipate.
Fact: I’ve never fallen while skiing, but I’ve never gotten off a ski lift without falling. This day was no exception.
This is no mark against my ski instructor, Darrin. He gave us very good advice about holding our ski poles in one hand and pushing off with the other hand. His wise words worked for the four other gals on our chairlift, but not me and down I went. Fortunately, I’m skilled at ducking and waiting for the chairlift operator to pull me up and plop me down unceremoniously, but upright on my skis. I rejoined my class, who were watching with no trace of amusement. After all, they’d all spent time on the ground that day, just not in front of so many people.
The other skiers and snowboarders gave us a wide berth as we trailed down the mountain following our patient and faithful leader, Darrin. Back and forth we went, and occasionally I gained more speed than I felt was appropriate and I snow plowed the heck out of the hill.
I didn’t have time to do a second big run with the rest of the class because I had to head back to my condo to get ready for the Ullr Festival Parade, but I’m not sure my muscles could have handled it. After a day of snow plowing bunny hills, my legs felt like cement and my ski boots felt like torture devices.
Despite the chairlift incident, I felt pretty good about my day at the Breckenridge Resort Ski School. Darrin was a supportive instructor who made us feel confident before moving to the next level. I’m definitely not a real skier yet, but I did manage to make it down the mountain in one piece. Now, if only I could conquer that dang chairlift. I plan to take on that challenge on my next ski adventure.
While sitting in the hot tub back at our condo that evening, we were regaled with a story from a young couple who spent three hours getting down the mountain earlier that day. He thought he could teach her to snowboard, but he was wrong. Take it from me, if you are a newbie skier or snowboarder, a lesson is the way to go. It might even save your relationship.
To learn more about Breckenridge Ski & Ride School click HERE.
To learn more about all the fun Breckenridge has to offer year-round go to GoBreck.com.
I’d like to send out a big thank you to Darrin and Kristen at Breckenridge Resort and Rachel, Jessie and the rest of the team at GoBreck.com. It’s the people who make or break a ski town and you all do an awesome job at making Breckenridge, Colorado an extra special place to visit!