Learning to ski – 20 years later!

Arielle’s view

It’s not easy to learn something new as an adult. For one, when on earth do I have time for that? Amongst all these adult things like working, doing laundry, paying bills, and whatnot? For two, I thought you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks? Granted, I’m in my mid-twenties, but still. Finding the confidence to delve into a whole new sport is a bit challenging when I’m trying to keep my great record of zero broken bones and a little bit of money in my savings account.

I grew up in Colorado. And not just anywhere in Colorado — at the base of the purple mountain’s majesty — those towering, snow-capped Rockies. I would not be lying if I told you that every winter of my life, at least one of my good friends finds out that I don’t ski and insists on teaching me. “What? How can you grow up in Colorado and not be a skier?” Usually I laugh, agree that it’s absurd, and tell them good luck.

Here’s what my parents say: One fateful day as a wee toddler, I apparently had the boogie monster as my ski-instructor. My Dad left me there for what seemed like days, and when he returned, so I hear, I was laying in the snow with the ski instructor standing over me yelling at me to get up. As the story goes, my Dad pulled me right out of ski school and had me cruising within 5 minutes.

So what’s my excuse for not skiing until my mid-twenties? I don’t attribute this event to the fact that I don’t ski, but it does give me a scapegoat. The thing is, I just didn’t. I started working when I was 15, and grew up with a very frugal mindset. Spending hundreds on ski gear just didn’t seem worth it to me since I had never cared to get into it before. I had plenty of fun hiking, snowshoeing, rock scrambling, backpacking, tubing the river, and all those other cheaper outdoor activities. You could say I was content.

Well, I always knew a day would come when someone would convince me to finally step into those skinny sticks and slide down a snow-packed “hill”. And how could I say no to a famous backcountry skier wanting to teach me the ropes?

You might have heard of Couloir magazine, produced from the mountains of California starting in 1988. Craig Dostie has been a backcountry skier for decades, and was the publisher of this magazine that really impacted the sport. Ever heard the saying “earn your turns?” I hadn’t either, but he coined it, and apparently lots of other people say it now too. Bottom line is, this guy knows how to ski — and he’s damn good too.

I have to say, it was definitely worth waiting for. Craig, in his signature nonchalant and nonconformist way of doing things, really taught me the basics of downhill skiing. (By the way, Craig threw me on tele skis my first time on the slope – luckily my heels were restrained with a cable, but not locked down!) I have to say, it wasn’t a bad time! And you know what, I’ll never let “adulting” get in my way of learning new things and having fun. Life’s not about playing it safe. And it sure as hell isn’t about money. It’s about taking chances, trying new things, and getting outside. I’m looking forward to next season and pushing that envelope a bit more!

Craig’s view

Arielle is quite kind and complimentary but she was absolutely correct that I didn’t teach her in PSIA style. I knew two things going in. First, if she didn’t know a free heel was a potential handicap, it probably wouldn’t be. Especially since I had no intention of asking her to even try to make a tele turn. My goal was to get her to make simple pizza turns on the gentlest slopes Loveland had to offer. With any luck, she’d be making what we called, back in the day, stem-christie turns.

Secondly, I learned that she knew how to ice skate and thus, she understood that a tight fitting boot is a right fitting boot and she already had the muscle memory to angulate and make her edges dig in. She just had to learn to apply that to longer, wider edges.

The decision to use tele gear was pure monetary practicality. I have lots of spare tele gear, including a pair of boots that just happened to fit Arielle. Thus, no need to spend money renting gear. Plus, tele boots are waaay more comfortable to wear than alpine boots.

My method tricks users into learning how to use their edges before they ever go downhill by having them herringbone up a very short hill. Five times doing that and Arielle was able to turn both ways and we were off to the magic carpet lift for kids who are ready for more than the baby bunny-hill. In short order she was doing 180s, although not necessarily on purpose. After half dozen runs I deemed she was ready for a chairlift. I got a chuckle at her surprise of literally being swept off her feet by the chair. After three more runs on the chair at the lower mountain it was time to graduate to the big kids area and soon she was on her own, cruising off Loveland’s chair #2.

It’s always fun to teach when the student is ready.

© 2016