Ryan’s First Ski Lesson

Learning to ski can be very intimidating. I was nervous leading up to my first ever ski lesson. This wasn’t my first time on skis however, it was my first time since I was a small child. I have been a snowboarder my entire life. After finishing college I planned to learn to ski. I have a lot of friends that ski and instead of take the time to learn, I continued snowboarding.

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In the fall of 2013 I started a job at Deer Valley Resort. The job called for an intermediate skier. I figured that I would pick up right where I left off when I was 4 years old (It’s just like snowboarding, right!). Boy was I wrong. My first day on skis I did everything wrong. I couldn’t turn, crossed my skis, and  dropped my pole off the chairlift. It was safe to say that I was a little rusty. I knew then I needed the help from an experienced ski instructor. After recovering from a few rough falls, I scheduled my lesson for the middle of January.

I felt like I had to start at the bottom and work my way up. The Deer Valley rental shop had a sign on the wall explaining the six different skiing levels. I thought I was a “Beginner.” So I signed up for this level.

Ski Lesson Sign

Deer Valley made it really easy to find my ski instructor. Signs outside of the ski school pointed me in the right direction and signs marked where each skill level gathered. I soon met a very nice young man named Brandon. He took my lesson receipt and put me in a group of three other skiers with the same skill level.

Max 4 sign Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the chairlift up to the top of the Wide West ski run, after introducing ourselves to the group. After making sure we all knew how to stop, our instructor gave us some pretty basic instruction. Like, get in an athletic stance, hands in front of you, and keep your weight balanced. Brandon explained that he needed to watch us ski a little bit before he could instruct us. We made our way down Wide West making slow parallel turns as our instructor watched.

Ski Lesson Chairlift Ride

When we reached bottom of Wide West Brandon informed us that we were all actually “Advanced Beginners” and were done with the training hill.

One person in our group said she felt more comfortable staying with the beginners on Wide West. So my “max 4″ group lesson became a lesson of three and one instructor, we were about to get upgraded to “Advanced Beginner.”

I would have to say my favorite part of the lesson was getting to know the other two skiers and the instructor. Adriana was around my same age and from Washington D.C. She moved to Park City to ski for the winter with her boyfriend. Greg was an older gentlemen who had retired and lived all over the world. He told us interesting stories all afternoon about the places he had lived. Our instructor Brandon explained that he was the youngest instructor at his level of expertise at Deer Valley. This gave him the nickname “Pampers.” He was from Oregon and moved here to teach skiing and be a part of, in his words “The best ski resort in America.” I’m a huge people person and these memories are the ones really took away from my ski lesson.

Ski Lesson on Wide West

Brandon told us that he liked teaching skiing by what is called the mileage method. He explained that the only way you will get better at skiing is to ski. This was really cool because we got in a lot of runs during the lesson.

Our first run was a green run called Ontario. We got there by taking Silver Lake Express to Silver Lake Lodge, then skiing down to Quincy Express. The best part of this run was that there were a lot of designated Ski School areas. We would ski down to the signs out of everyone’s way, and get instruction from Brandon. This worked really well for me.

Ski Lesson Sign

We skied from 1 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. Skiing from one Ski School area to the next. Brandon would ski in front of us a little bit and then watch as we came down. We would work on new stuff on the easier parts and things he had already taught us in areas where it was more difficult.

At the end of the day Brandon told us that we were done with the green runs and we needed to tackle our first blue run. The group was a little nervous to say the least. We made our way up Carpenter Express and took Little Stick ski run down. This run was a little narrow in some spots. The best part of Little Stick was being able to see the resort from a different view, which was very beautiful. After reaching the bottom Brandon explained that we were now intermediate skiers!

Ski Lesson

Have you had a lesson at Deer Valley or another ski resort? Tell me about it in the comments below. Also, check back I will be updating my progress throughout my first season as a skier!

Learning to Ski at 65: Day One Season Two

There is a reason the words “older” and “wiser” often go together. Not all of us gain wisdom as we age but I have to say my husband, Jay did. He is very wise when it comes to learning to ski. This is his second ski season after turning 65 and the first day of the season, he did something very smart and signed up for a ski lesson.

Learning to ski Photo

Last season was essentially, his first time on skis and he ended up really enjoying skiing green runs with confidence.  With eight months off between seasons, he decided to start this year with a lesson from a Deer Valley ski instructor. What he didn’t want to do was make the classic skier mistake, have a family member (like me) or a friend convince him to go down a run he has no business on.  Who needs to be frustrated?

It’s not like friends and family don’t mean well. It’s just that we forget what it’s like to be a beginner. I block it from my conscious memory! Seriously, when you look at a relatively narrow run with a few steep spots, it seems fine to you since you know how to do a parallel turn.  That same run looks very different to someone without the skills to do it. It’s like taking me to a chute. As an intermediate, I don’t have the skills of an advanced skier so runs looks impossible to me while may look fun to you.

Leanring to Ski Photo 2

Friends and family aren’t good teachers either. There is a big difference between doing and teaching. Ski instructors, just like classroom teachers, are people who are passionate about helping other people learn. It’s not for everyone. I remember teaching my oldest son to read when he was five years old. It was excruciating for me read the phonetic spelling. I spent many a night sounding out every word like:

ka — ah– ttt  –  Cat

It took an hour to read a paragraph. Thank goodness his younger brother was listening and I never had to do those remedial phonics lessons with him. I’d never have made it as a first grade teacher.

Most of us would never make it as ski instructors either, but instructors like Mark Schindler have a passion for teaching. With a refresher course on the basics: turning, how to control your speed, shifting your weight and getting on and off the lift, they practiced all morning.  Jay felt completely comfortable.

Learning to ski Photo 3 Mark ended the lesson with some words of wisdom:

Go at your own pace.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing.
Have a good experience.
Most of all have fun.

Fun, he had. The next day, Jay went all over the mountain with his friend, Harry. They started with five runs on Ontario, and then ventured to a green run Jay had never tried – Bandana. They did a couple of runs and ended with Success — taking the whole run and not the easier Rosebud cut off at the end.  Jay had a fantastic start to his season since he made a very wise decision to take a Max-4 lesson at Deer Valley his first morning out.

For more information on ski lessons at Deer Valley, click here.

A Learn-to-Ski Rookie Mistake to Avoid

When I was a little girl my father always told me, “If you are going to do something, do it right.”  I wished I had listened to him instead of making a classic rookie learn-to-ski mistake.  I got the wrong equipment for my ability level.  A ski swap seemed like a good idea at the time, but was a place I really had no business going.

My husband and I moved to Park City last fall and were very excited about learning to ski.  So we picked up some gently used skis, helmets, poles, gloves and a really nice jacket for my son (which I have since claimed as my own) at the National Ability Center ski swap.  We love donating to a great cause but when you think about it for a minute; I really didn’t have the slightest chance of finding the right skis.  As expected, I didn’t. I found this out when I tried them out on the Wide West run (the bunny hill) and took off like a rocket!

After a few practice runs, I decided to try a green run so I hopped on the Carpenter Express with my friends and headed for “Success.” I must have been a sight crossing back and forth across the run.  My friends were probably thinking, “Doesn’t she know she is supposed to go down the hill?”  But every time I pointed my tips down the hill, I flew. I muddled my way down with some coaching from my friends but spent most of the day back on the Wide West run because I just didn’t feel confident.

When I got home that night, I “googled” my skis and bindings.  I read the words, “slalom, racing, expert, and carving” and knew I was in trouble.  None of those words even remotely applied to me.  So the next day, I decided to get some help from the experts at the Deer Valley rental shop.  A smiling green jacketed technician set up me up with some skis, Rossignol Avenger 74s that actually fit my height, weight and ability.  They were shorter and much lighter with auto-turn technology– I saw words like “stable and forgiving” and I knew I was in the right place.  My technician also gave me some tips on some runs to take.  He said, “Take Ontario! It is wide and very beautiful – nice beginner run.”  He took the time to show me exactly how to get there and off I went.

Guess what?  I had a wonderful experience with controlled turns and I was actually skiing down the hill, not back and forth across the run (making life much easier for the skiers behind me also.)  The right equipment made all the difference in the world.

Do you know what I am doing next?  I am avoiding the second most common beginning skier mistake – not taking lessons.  I decided to take my father’s advice after all and enrolled in a couple sessions of lessons.  I haven’t met the smiling instructor in a green jacket who is going to take this rookie and turn her into a skier in three hours, but I am looking forward to doing so.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

The joy of learning

Sometime between my Little Guy’s first runs and the second day of this season, I lost the fear and found the fun.

I was worried I could not keep him adequately safe on the hill, all by myself.

I was worried he would not listen.

I worried I was not worried enough.

And then I relaxed.

I started pouring on the praise, and using the chairlift as a time not only to soak up the moments of one-on-one time, but to point out the turns other skiers were making.

I watched him find his love of learning, as he set out upon yet another run, and tried his best to emulate those turns. I saw his determination grow. And I heard his rallying cry.

Then again, so did the rest of the people skiing Wide West on the first Sunday in January. As he wedged his way down the racecourse, I heard him release a primal scream of joy. “Aaaaaaaaaah!” All the way down the hill.

 Did he want to turn into the Magic Carpet area and try a few turns without the edgie wedgie?

“Aaaaaaaaah!” in the affirmative.

 Once there, his screams continued. The laughter they encited was contagious.

He continued as we returned to the racecourse—our runs in the Magic Carpet corral were only semi-successful, but he was determined to strut his DIY wedge for all it was worth.

Again, the scream of joy.

Again, the laughter of onlookers. Powerless against the charms of the scream, I looked up at the chairlift riders and informed them, “The sound effects are at no additional charge.”

Exuberance, your name is Little Guy. And I adore you.

For me, the teaching moments were not as much for his benefit as for my own. The only thing that matters when you are skiing with a three year-old is this: It’s a party. On Skis. Nuff said.

Wide West

When it comes to skiing as a family, managing expectations is key. We don’t, for instance, expect to ski first-to-last chairs. Big Guy can handle it, but little guy is good for about three runs, max. 

We also don’t expect to do what most people would consider skiing. Family ski days cater to the little one. Big Guy offers tips, a pole-tow, or just encouraging words. Dad and Mom offer pointers, encouragement, lifts up from falls, and also try to keep the little guy safe from other beginners.

 A note to other families: It’s great that you want to videotape your kids. We do it, too. But it’s a good idea to either recruit someone to man the camera while you manage the skiing kid, or enlist another adult from your party to do so. 

Little Guy got knocked down by a child, perhaps 5 years old, who was skiing down the “Candyland” section of Wide West, completely focused on his ski tips, and rather out-of-control, so he did not see that there was another child on the course.

Even that is a teaching moment, showing both kids that skiing is as much about coping with the unexpected as it is about sport performance. More on that in another post.

But I definitely encourage families with young beginners to do some laps on Candyland—the course is set up to coax beginners into making turns, and it’s on a mellow-enough grade that they have to work hard to go super-fast. Most importantly, it gives the kids (and their parents) a taste of success, so they have something to build on with each additional run.