Remembering a serendipitous first day of skiing at Pico

By Karen D. Lorentz

The northern view as seen from 49er on Pico thrills the soul and makes riding and skiing sensational.

By Karen D. Lorentz

Remember the excitement of the first day of school? The trepidation?

Well, getting out on snow at Pico for my first time in 2016 was a funny mix of both for me.

I was happy to finally find the time and, looking up the mountain, I was excited to see it all white.

But I was also a tad anxious, wondering how I would do and how the conditions would be.

So I snapped a photo from my car and ditched the camera — I didn’t want to have it hinder my skiing, and since it was Friday afternoon and not crowded, I figured what was I going to find anyway?

Talk about a positive jinx! I should do that more often.

On my first run off the Golden Express, I stopped on Swinger by the pond to catch my breath and scan the chair for sisters I was to meet. While there, an instructor skied up to me and commented on his two students whom I had been watching. He was so pleased with their skiing, telling me they were exchange students in their third lesson.

Since they were making parallel turns and not stemming or wedging, I thought I had misheard him.

Long story short, he introduced me to Tokiya and Jason, and I skied down Ace of Clubs with them and we chatted on the lift ride up.

Tokyia is from Osaka, Japan, and Jason is from Anyang, South Korea. Both are in 11th grade at the Rutland Area Christian School where they were placed through the Youth for Understanding International Exchange program. They have a choice of Friday afternoon activities like ice skating, bowling and skiing and both chose skiing, with one having been on skis once before coming to America.

I told them how amazed I was to see how well they were doing, and we skied off Fools Gold, with their proud instructor Richard Barnaby offering advice like “stay loose” as they headed to the upper chair.

I figured that they were in their sixth hour of instruction and if they had free skied ‘til 4 p.m. after their previous two lessons, they had been on skis for all of nine hours!

Barnaby had noted he had them for the first week’s lesson and someone else taught them their second lesson and yes, they had learned the wedge (snowplow) — I never saw them use it — and had been to the top of Pico already. Now they were heading there again, putting me in awe of what good instruction can do today.

I had to meet my sister so I skied back down Lower Pike and skied a tad looser, enjoying the race-course side and running imaginary gates. It was packed powder with one bamboo spot, but somehow nothing fazed me.

On my ride up, I met a woman whose husband teaches at Pico, and when I told her about the exchange students, she mentioned how instructors use the specially groomed terrain to teach newcomers now so they don’t have to focus on the wedge and can learn parallel and become decent skiers faster.

From the chair, I spied a sister on Panhandler but was unable to catch her, so my next ride up was solo. That’s when I realized the beauty of the sport through all my senses — the crisp cold that had gripped my fingertips, the scenic splendor of the mountain, the woeful sight of the sun starting to set (less light to ski by), the happy sounds of a tiny tot on a snowboard below, and my memories of the serendipitous meeting with Tokyia, Jason, and Richard.

All made me hyper aware of the joys of sliding on snow and how skiing provides a tie that binds.

Skiing that Friday afternoon promoted an invigorating sense of wellbeing and, “staying loose,” a willingness to foot-steer, carve, skid, and wiggle my way down the glorious mid-winter slopes of Pico.

Meeting up with my sister at last, we enjoyed runs and rides together. She mentioned the little kids I had seen (as they were lining up for their lesson), and it reminded me of how many years we’ve enjoyed the sport our dad had taught us as kids. Knowing the story of a lifetime sport could repeat with all the youngsters I had seen that day brought to mind the joy and happiness I have known at Pico, the friendly-family mountain.

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