The Mountain Times

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Learning to ski as an adult: A personal account of my first three hours on the slopes

BACKGROUND
Confession: I live 15 minutes from Killington and do not ski, it's oxymoronic I know. People look at you differently, not in a good way, when you tell them you do not ski and yet live in Vermont.

This was true until two weeks ago. Learning as a kid is easy because you're young, ambitious and not fearful of falling. I thought I was well equipped with a background in endurance running, cycling and mountaineering but don't let me get ahead of myself. And so my journey begins, learning to ski at age 26 at one of the foremost ski resorts in the northeast: Killington, a.k.a The Beast of the East.

MY FEARS
Little kids: This fear is two-fold therefore even more worrisome. First, I pictured myself bombing the bunny slope headed straight for some unfortunate 6-year-old resulting in a trip to the hospital. Second, perhaps more due to vanity than anything, I pictured that 6-year-old weaving in and out of my tracks flying by me. I figured both scenarios were a high probability, thus, very rational fears.

Control: Turning has always seemed impossible to me. After all how do you control something abnormally long that inherently wants to point down the mountain? Next how do you steer down the mountain without contorting your body and without tearing an

ACL?
Falling really was not a fear for me, luckily. This is primarily due to my history of broken ankles, shoulders and arms. Gravity and I do not always agree, but what's better than falling on a snow packed surface?

LEARN-TO-SKI
Killington's learn to ski program is a max five person program. This is appealing as you are paired with adults of your skill level. The program cost includes the lesson, rental equipment and limited access lift ticket. The typical course is a 3-day progression, however, I chose to just start with one day, you know to kind of "test the waters" and to see if I was going to like skiing after all.

EQUIPMENT
Instructors shuffle you into groups and fit you for equipment. You learn a few technical terms like flex and center of gravity. You start indoors with boot fitting and walking in the boots. Next you head to the "indoor gym" of tilt boards, incline boards and balance boards. On your way out the door you are assigned ski poles based on height. Then you get to the meat and potatoes of the day, your skis.

My colleague's daughter is not quite three years old and stands about 89cm tall, she is currently on skis 70cm long. I am a 26-year-old male standing 183cm tall and I am issued skis that are 131cm … pause … calculate … laugh. I look like a grown man wearing little kids shoes. Nevertheless, I collect my equipment and board a bus for the learn-to-ski area.

5--Learning -to -ski -by -Tom -Poole --104_1071

FIRST STEPS
On the snow we start by scooting around on one ski with the opposite foot propelling along. My first revaluation was the ease of steering despite how slippery the skis are. Quickly we transitioned to skiing down a small ten-foot hill without poles. Next we are off on level ground pushing forward using our ski poles. This takes all of 20 minutes and is much easier than I thought. The instructor gave us tips based on performance. By the end of the first run we were all skiing straight.

The second run, we practiced turning on a gentle slope and learning how to stop. It was then that it became clear to me that skiing is all about speed control- learning to move across the mountain rather than straight down.

The most important component I learned my first day was to look 20 feet ahead when mapping the mountain, rather than straight down.

The remainder of the session was spent on the magic carpet. This is more or less a conveyor belt you stand on that brings you 200 feet up a small slope allowing for numerous short runs. Here, I was able to hone my turns and ability to maneuver around other skiers. (No 6-year-old casualties, either!)

HOOKED
My first day was a blast. The 3-hour lesson flew by and I found myself bumming around the learn-to ski area for another hour, eager to try more. I sign up for another lesson the following morning. I am hooked.

Advice to other non-skiers: Do not let excuses take hold. You are not too old, or weak, Killington provides equipment, and the progression is designed to remove the fear of falling. It's fun to learn something new and it's wonderful to be outdoors in the winter. Excuses are all white smoke. The learn-to-ski program is very easy. While skiing is indeed technical it is not insurmountable to the average person, so if you're like me, a non-skier living in Vermont, get out there and try it! You too may get hooked!