“If you see anything in yourself to make you proud, look a little farther and you will find enough to make you humble” this is a quote by Wellins Calcott, Thought Moral and Divine. Try skiing if you are looking for some humility. Last week I wrote about opening day and how “hardcore” I thought I was. Well pride cometh before the fall. Today I didn’t resemble a hardcore skier in any way shape or form. Thank goodness for the two good Samaritans who helped me out.
Day three of season two and I was enjoying my third beginner run, Ontario, and I noticed the sign for Hidden Treasure so I made a mental note to circle back. I had skied that run during my Max 4 lessons last year but had completely forgotten how steep the top was. From the lift, it is deceiving since the steepest part is hidden from view. From my vantage point, the run looked perfect so I decided Hidden Treasure would be my first intermediate run of the year.
The cross country style narrow connector trail should have been the first clue that I was in over my head but I had already committed to the run so I ignored that warning. When I finally got to the top of the run and looked down, I saw something that spelled double trouble for me – a steep and bumpy run — not a good combination.
I took stock of the situation. My options were to climb back up the hill and skate ski through the narrow uphill trail back to Ontario or traverse the steep part of this hill and take Hidden Treasure. Not normally one to retreat, I decided to go for it. It didn’t take long for me to get intimidated and lose all my confidence. I fell a couple times and did something unexpected. I totally forgot everything I had learned. In my lessons last year, I was taught to traverse back and forth across the run slowly or to simply position myself to slide sideways down the hill using my edges to stop me. Well, in the moment, I forgot all that.
Panic set in. In my lifeguard days many years ago, I had to memorize the definition of panic so I know it well — “a sudden unreasonable and overwhelming fear that destroys one’s capacity for self help.” Since I wasn’t thinking straight, I simply took off my skis, threw them on my shoulder and started hiking down one step at a time through the powder.
I had only seen two people pass me the whole time so there weren’t many people on the run but the ones that did come by, stopped to help. The two good Samaritans on skis reminded me of much easier ways to get down the steep part of the hill. With one below me and one above, I put my skis back on and then followed one traversing across while the other looked on until I got past the steeper part.
Once I got to the middle of the run, I could see why they called it Hidden Treasure (instead of Nancy’s Nightmare.) I felt like I was floating on this powdery wonderland. This my friends is snow. I thought I knew what snow was before but I really didn’t. Thanks to a couple of really nice Deer Valley patrons, I got to enjoy it. My story fortunately has a happy ending and as I shared it many people have laughed and told similar stories. But it didn’t have to be that way – I could have had the wonderful experience without the panic. Here is how:
- Read the map. Deer Valley puts out a daily groomed status trail map so you can determine ahead of time the state of the run. It is also on the website so you can check it from your smart phone. It is possible, I might have been able to do that run earlier in the day. Since it was on a “first shift groomer schedule,” it was pretty bumpy by the time I got there.
- Ask a mountain host. These helpful people are everywhere! I could easily have discussed my plans and gotten advice from the mountain host at Flagstaff Mountain (right at the big map). I am sure, he or she would have sent me down an easier run like Hawkeye instead.
- Go with a friend. When you are taking on a new challenge, go with a more experienced skier in case you need some coaching.
- Take a tour. If you are an intermediate level skier or higher, catch up with the FREE mountain host tour. The intermediate tour leaves daily from Snow Park Lodge at 10 a.m. and Silver Lake Lodge at 1:30 p.m. (Click here for a full schedule) Then go back and ski your favorite runs by yourself later.
- Take a private lesson. I know this sounds simple because having an instructor take you down new and more challenging runs just seems like common sense. You learn more, are safer, and enjoy the experience much more.
Hey good Samaritans out there, I want to give you a shout out of thanks for stopping to help. Maybe someday when I actually really am a hardcore skier, I will pay it forward.