Given this is Austin’s coldest winter yet (I type this from my couch on a “snow day” in January AND I have a ski trip coming up) I felt inspired to share a “if this 30-something year old girl can pick up skiing, so can you–and here is how,” type of post. Read on for my ski trip experiences below.
Last month I was skiing in Tahoe and while on the Gondola on the way down the mountain after a full day-ish of skiing three girls sat in there with my friend and I. One of the girls was NOT so happy about her first experience skiing. And her friends then confessed that they covered up the sign that said “No Beginners Allowed” as they scurried her along and put her on the lift only to scare the living shit out of her when she was up on that mountain. Not cool.
To no surprise, she did NOT enjoy her first time skiing and though I have only been a few times, I really do like this new-found hobby? workout? (I am not quite sure what to call it), but I am glad it has come into my life and I thought I would write a little blog post to share some tips/things I have learned and my experiences.
- Trip One: Breckenridge, CO (Feb 2015)
We stayed at a ski-in/ski-out at Peak 8 or 9. I signed up for a half day of lessons. The half day flew by and when everyone broke for lunch my instructor said I could come back the other half for free (which I don’t think he was supposed to do, BUUUUT we barely scratched the surface in a half day of lessons). I definitely recommend a FULL day of ski lessons for your first time. The best thing I learned that day was how to get up when you fall, to be honest (because I still use that to this day). I also enjoyed my instructor’s teaching style here. I think its important to communicate to your instructor what kind of “learner” you are. Also, if you haven’t heard of UBSki, it’s a great company that includes stay, lift, rentals and lessons and you can pay half before, and the balance later. Breck is a great little town, easy to get around and being so close to the mountain with all your gear is key. Oh, also key–a hot tub (though harder to come by). Lucked out with the weather that trip as well–plenty of snow and sunshine.
Things I love: Making breakfast in the AM for everyone, getting gear ready all bright and early, and taking a sammich and snack in your ski outfit for later (fyi a burger on the mountain is ridiculously overpriced. But beer on the other hand, worth it after a long, tiring day).
Skiing can be so fun and yet so FRUSTRATING. It goes a little something like this (for me):
Day 1: I love skiing! This is so fun!
Day 2: On own/with friends and being a bit more adventurous: I hate skiing!! and me yelling things down the mountain, such as “Leave me here!! I am so over this $hit!”
Day 3: Redemption (some) and welcoming skiing back in my life again. Trying some more blue runs, yet perhaps a few falls.
Pro Tip: Always rent (and wear) a helmet. (Seriously, I gravitated toward trees my first time skiing and have the bruises to prove it)
(please ignore my cankles)
Another favorite–returning to the condo after skiing, making a cocktail, sitting by the fire and watching good ol Family Feud:
2. Trip Two: Tahoe, CA (Feb 2016)
My second trip (almost a year later) was Tahoe. We stayed near the Gondola (there isn’t an option for ski in and out in Tahoe due to the Gondola taking you up over the mountain. But we did stay walking distance. It is much pricier than Breck, especially for the size of the place you get and we didn’t even rent a car (took shuttle from Reno and walked everywhere/Uber). But Tahoe does have casinos– it’s a bonus if skiing ends up sucking. My first Tahoe experience was good, but the biggest difference I experienced was the crowded-ness on the mountain. We were fortunate that Tahoe had just been dumped on (that fresh pow bruh), but it was really warm in the afternoons (so I definitely took the fleece lining out of my ski jacket) and there were a lot of people to look out for. Here too, I also took a lesson. And since it had been a year, I did a full day as well.
(the notorious mountain man in Tahoe, he skis bare chested with a holster of Barbie dolls, I $hit you, not)
Ski schools do a great job of breaking it up and I was literally in a group called “second time skiers.” so that was fitting and I had a good small group. To be honest, my instructor wasn’t my favorite, but mainly because he didn’t explain things to me the way I needed them (he would explain in a more “science-y way” when I needed more of an approach to athletic form way, but I digress.
My experience went about the same as my first time:
Day 1-happy, joyful to be learning and progressing.
Day 2-F’n hate it and discouraged about skiing, but if I end on a good note/run, I am relatively happy (and tired)
. Day 3-Ok, skiing isn’t so bad, I should do this again some time.
Pro-Tip: Do not keep going to the ATM when roulette doesn’t hit black.
3. Trip Three: Back to Breckenridge (Feb 2017)
After only skiing two times, my desire grew but I couldn’t quite get a group together to pull off a trip in late 2016. I am so fortunate I posted to facebook in January “Anyone going skiing in March? I am a great buddy, will pay own way and even cook breakfast in AM for everyone!” And to my luck-I found a friend who was going with a bunch of other random Austinites. 10 of us, everyone knowing at least 1-2 others. It was great. This time around we rented a really nice house. The pro: Having a big sweet ass house with their own hot tub and ample space. The con: having to drive a bit more/park/coordinate for ski drops etc. We needed two rental cars and it definitely takes some coordinating to get everyone’s gear and such to and from the mountain, but depends if you are a space person or a convenience person.
This time around–YEP, you guessed it–I took lessons again. You know the expression “it’s like riding a bicycle”? Well, skiing is not (and it does not come back as easy–in my opinion) as riding a bike. This time I took a half day lesson. And then I did a few runs with some friends. I stayed in familiar territory from my first trip and had a great time. The biggest difference this trip is the weather was not so sunny. Which also means COLD AF. Every morning it was around four degrees when we woke up…Yikes. But the best part (after skiing of course) was hot tubbing, moscow mules, great company and charades at the house.
Pro tip: Those hand warmers in your gloves are a lifesaver.
4. Trip Four: Banff, Canada, Eh! (Dec. 2017)
My girlfriend from college, Jenn (who grew up snowboarding) and I were long overdue for a trip and both agreed we had time in early December. Banff was basically chosen because of all the beautiful things I had seen and heard about it AND mainly because the lifts there open in mid-November and I am not a big fan of cold weather trips UNLESS we are skiing, is what I have decided (I mean, what else do you do in the cold)?!
The Canadian Rockies are absolutely incredible and Banff is an adorable little ski town. We super lucked out with snowy nights every night while we were there and not super crowded ski resorts. We flew in Tuesday night, and YEP! Once again, I figured it would be good for me to do a ski lesson. This time I did a half day (later half in day which left time for snoozing-yay). My instructor wasn’t bad this time around, but the runs were really short, so I felt by the time I got in my groove (at Sunshine Ski Resort anyway) it was time to get back on the lift and he kept pulling me over to chat. My hands were so. cold. Like, SO. F’N. COLD. And my nose was running-and I had no idea, until he mentioned it–so that was a fun experience in front of my instructor. Also-because the mountain wasn’t busy, I had a 1:1 lesson, though I paid for a group lesson, so that was a perk (and I have always lucked out with group ski lessons being a relatively small group).
The best part about Banff is the proximity of a few other resorts. We only experienced Lake Louise and Sunshine. Lake Louise also had the Women’s World Cup speed skiing competition going on–and you could still ski the mountain or watch a bit. I really liked Lake Louise–the runs were very nice and long. We went to Lake Louise a second time, but unfortunately they had a power outage so I ended up skiing solo (Jenn wasn’t a fan of Sunshine and pretty tired) but I felt the need to get my money’s worth and hit the slopes….which was good, because I also did my first black diamond run!
Confession: The black diamond run was on accident. The visibility was pretty poor and by the time I got to the top of a lift, the sign was covered in snow so I had no idea where I was going, and then nearly wanted to kill myself on a steep side of a black diamond as pro skiers passed me by and I took breaks and wiped out a few times–and laid flat in fear, before trying again.
Fortunately I slowly but surely (and exhaustedly-is that a word?) got down the mountain then went and did some runs I was comfortable with. I met some guys on a lift who talked me into doing a black run with them and promised me it wasn’t that bad–and they were right! So I ended on a high note and capped off my day.
Also if you have the chance to visit Banff you MUST do the hot springs after workin’ dem legs skiing all day. It was amazing and beautiful. And next time (because there will be a next time) I want to ice skate on Lake Louise. They were setting up an ice bar and preparing for the rink when we had late lunch after skiing at the Fairmont (also another recommendation) and I felt like I was trapped in a wonderful wintery snow globe.
Pro-Tip: If you have the opportunity to sing karaoke and crash an employee party when out in Banff–do it.
Also pro-tip: I think 3 days is the perfect number of full days to get in a ski trip. I also recommend renting everything the day before to have it all ready to go so you don’t have to do it the day of in the morning and you can get right on the mountain.
Trip 5: Back to Tahoe (New Year’s Eve 2017)
Around Thanksgiving my friends were actually committing to Tahoe for NYE (ah, that feeling when the plan actually becomes a solid plan and not just cheap talk). I said f’ it and booked my flight then too. I knew I would want to ski one more time (and I love trips!) My second Tahoe experience was far more different from the first. Tahoe has not gotten much snow and therefore there was a lot of man made snow. Oddly enough, despite it being the holidays-the mountain wasn’t as crowded either. Only 27 of 97 runs were open–to give you an idea of how much snow was lacking. Lots of signs that said “no beginners beyond this point” were displayed and trails marked off as closed.
With Banff and a black diamond confidence booster under my belt in the same month I FINALLY went on a ski trip WITHOUT booking a refresher ski lesson.
My friend Barbie and I got up bright and early (despite being exhausted from traveling and casino time the night before) we were high on life (and maybe that crack they pump in casinos) and ready for the lightly powdered…ok, icy mountain. I rented my gear and up we went.
We took advice of a resort worker and did the Nevada side (California Run is what I think it was called) a nice long one. I had to keep up with Barb and it was all coming back to me, but also scary af. Ironically, even though I am competitive and like a bit of adrenaline, when I am on the mountain I like a good controlled speed, and when I go too fast–I do NOT feel like I have control and then images of me crashing in terrible ways pop into my head. We got to the bottom of the run and she asked-“How was it?!” And I told her “FYI I have never gone that fast before, but I am trying to get over my fear and “let it go!” and keep up with you!” We had a great day of skiing and catching up and a few beers at the end of the day.
Day 2 Tahoe skiing I went with some others in our group, they were all more advanced but at least waited for me at the bottom before getting on the lifts. And group texts usually reunite everyone. I now realize why everyone loves that fresh powder. It is SO MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE to ski on. That crunchy stuff, is no fun and around 1pm each day the ice is definitely more prevalent in some parts (as well as rocks sticking up from the ground). I had also seen quite a bit of stretchers that week and heard someone died a week earlier, so was trying to be as cautious as possible.
Going back to the first Pro-Tip: Always wear a helmet.
I didn’t do any black runs (for good reason) but also because I don’t think any were really open, but I did have a great time and look forward to more ski trips ahead. I will most likely do another half day lesson any time I have a long period of not skiing as a refresher AND because I don’t want to form too many bad habits.
My pain point of sharing all these stories is that if I, a thirty something year old can pick up skiing-you can too! Stick with lessons, good friends, a positive attitude and a helmet and you should be good to go.