Despite living at nearly 10,000 feet, at the heart of a series of great mountain ski resorts. I can’t ski.
Well…I can get down a run…but its like watching Bambi attempt skiing (the deer, not the porn star). My legs, normally strong and agile, turn spastic as I tense up and try to remember: lean forward, keep my skis parallel, bend my knees, RELAX. These mantras run through my head like a yogi on speed.
To be fair, I’m a fair snowboarder, black runs, bump runs, all good. I didn’t get on a mountain until my early twenties and as such, am a late bloomer for snow sports. This, despite growing up in North Dakota’s endless winter. But endless winter on a prairie, is not the same as one on a mountain. Much less entertaining.
I had a bad experience my first time out on skies. My soon-to-be-ex and his best mate at the time left me on the bunny slope in Engleberg to fend for myself. Having never clicked into skis, much less seen a t-bar, an entertaining, but painful day ensued. Only the young snowboarder who flipped around his precarious t-bar position and was dragged up the bunny hill on his back, snowboard hooked on the t-bar, had a worse day than me.
Never skied again. I did however, ditch the guy, and took up snowboarding. Friends that skied were giving it a go – so it was a level playing field. We all sucked. We were smacked around – wrists sore, asses bruised, faces full of snow, it was a tie for who would buy the drinks. None of us got down with any grace, Zoe took her board off and rode it like a tobaggon back down to the apres-hut. She was disqualified though.
A couple winters later, I kept improving and soon I was cruising along with boarders and skiers alike, confident in most runs and no longer petrified of narrow catwalks. The problem was twofold: resort crowds started to wig me out a bit, and traversing when you are the only boarder with a group of skiers SUCKS. I was considering getting a split board to get into backcountry riding, but I’d still be with skiers and still have the traversing issue.
I put it all on the back burner and I started nordic skiing to avoid the resort crowds and mix up my winter running training. I was soon out of the tracks and having fun on our black loop called Siberia. A good hour or so workout of a lot of climbing. That led to skate skiing – I’m a piss poor skate skier, uncoordinated, inefficient, wobbly run the turns with any speed, but I love the immediate feeling of lactic acid building up in your legs and a lung in your throat! A couple years or so of that, and I realized that I was making turns down black nordic runs on skis with no edge…surely transitioning to downhill skis wouldn’t be difficult.
So with a hand-me-down backcountry AT set up and a new pair of Scarpas, I was ready to start my downhill career. Yet at the same time I made the commitment to start my new skill, time constraints took hold. New business, new baby, soon to be founded non profit. Lunch time skate skiing was a more efficient use of time…and if I had time to get out on a powder day – I wasn’t going to waste it LEARNING…I grabbed my board.
So this year – it all changes. I’ve bought my own AT set up – amazingly the skis are at least 6 inches shorter than my hand-me-down pair…and more curvy. I took a demo pair up the mountain during the full moon last week. Just me, the stars, and the occasional drone of an oncoming snow groomer. Turned around and saw my mountain town spread out below – Christmas twinkles aglow – and steeled myself for what was to come. Skins off, knees wobbling before I even got back into my skis. Pointed myself towards the twinkles and made my first Bambi-like turn. Stop. Breathe. Pat myself on the back. Repeat the other direction. THRILLED no one is around to see me, and I make my cautious way towards town – ready to make this season the one I finally learn to ski.