The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 16, 2014

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Learning to ski as an adult: Day #2 of my learn-to-ski adventure

Aside from the vast mileage and daunting size of Killington, the mountain also has the unique ability to draw an eclectic crowd. For the second day of my learn to ski program, our class was made up of an orthopedic surgeon, a retired gastroenterologist, the spouse of a Central American Google employee and me, a physical therapist. Much like my first day, ski school instructors divide participants into groups according to skill level. From a bird's eye view we must look like penguins congregating into groups with our miniature skis.

Feeling a bit more confident than my first day on skis, I was still weary of the kiddos on the slope. Even before skiing, I had an image of little kids and what they looked like on skis. I pictured two types of kids; one flew fearlessly down the hill without regard to their surroundings and the other sat there eating snow. The first does exist, however, they are smarter than I thought and safer than I could have imagined. As for the latter, I did not encounter any. I guess those who sit in right field picking daisies during summer little league either do not ski or are more amused with this activity and choose to participate.

But back to my lesson.

My primary goal for the day was: Do not fall onto or off of the lift. Day two instruction begins immediately with boarding an express quad at Snowshed Lodge. Having a minimal elevation gain this hill most resembles what I deem "the bunny slope."

Boarding the lift was a breeze, however the descent off was trickier. We were four amateurs riding a lift for the first time. Even though it slows way down at the top, it felt fast. In my mind we looked like horses out of the gate at Saratoga Speedway bumping and jostling for positioning. In reality, we likely resembled colts on their feet for the first time. But we did not fall, so I call it a success!

Day two was by far the day I learned the most and actually felt as though I was skiing for the first time. Our instructor, Mo, tailored cues and feedback individually to each of us. Instead of plowing or pizza wedging our way down the mountain we learned to bring our heels in and keep the skis parallel. At first this was difficult but through a number of drills I was able to get the hang of it by the end of the first run.

The turning point for me was learning to corner using only my down hill ski, more or less skiing on one ski. For others the simple reminder to plan for what's 20 feet ahead helped with speed control. What the theory behind the drills was I don't know, but based on the results I do not question Mo's methods.

After instruction there were a number of runs taking a quarter of the mountain at a time. This allowed me to blend the technique drills and really work out the kinks. The methodology allowed us to combine what we learned and actually move fluidly. This was a stark difference from the red light green light stop and go of learn to ski day one.

The most intimidating compenent to skiing for me is speed control and stopping. Sure this is easier on a green low-angle slope but what happens when you inevitably bang a right down a blue?

The easiest way to slow down is to run perpendicular to the slope. We learned the emergency stop or what I call "the little 4-year-old that came out of no where maneuver." This was surprisingly easy and very similar to performing a hockey stop when ice-skating. Stopping quickly involves throwing your heels forward down the hill and your skis across the grade.

My secondary goal for the day was: Do not fall. Kids are not afraid of falling and in fact they often seem to enjoy it. There is something about being young and not having the experience of true pain that makes this less of an issue. But, proudly, I did take a plunge my second day on skis. It happened after I went over a large mound of snow then around a bank. I started to pick up speed and all of a sudden I turned too quickly and rolled over. But the fall was not as scary as I anticipated and I learned what quick turns and rash motions will do.

All in all it was a beautiful day with fantastic packed powder and not too busy despite a large Google corporate outing. I learned how to descend the mountain without looking like a fool. I was most excited to learn that upon completion of a 3-day learn-to-ski program I am eligible for 50% off lift tickets, lessons and rentals for both 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. I'll be back next week to wrap up day three.

Killington, you really know how to hook 'em!

Tagged: Learn to Ski