If you still believe that skiing is hard to learn, long to master and also expensive, there is a way to change this misconception. During the month of January, Ski Mountains around the country, including Deer Valley Resort, offer a learn-to-ski program specially targeted to those who never had a chance to pick up the sport during their early years or when they couldn’t quite afford it.
I wish I had been able to learn skiing by taking some easier way and didn’t have to struggle as much as I did when I first encountered the sport. At that time, even though I lived in the Alps, there was no convenient and affordable program available for school-age kids like me and my modest beginnings on snow were placed under the banner of “teach yourself to ski,” with a wooden pair of skis handcrafted by my own dad, including a set of basic bear trap bindings with non-releasable cable clasps.
As for the conveniently located “beginner slope” next to the family house, it offered no lift of any kind to carry us to the top of a hill that consisted of a short and fairly steep slope, cut into the forest that surrounded a fairly large meadow. That ski run, a trench into the trees, was crowned with a makeshift jump. That’s right, it was almost as if I was expected to jump before I could even learn how to ski, but that’s how it was in these days. Then, the line between modern alpine skiing and Nordic remained still a bit blurred and jumping continued to be considered as being part of the total ski experience.
I don’t even remember exactly what I did, but I must have somehow practiced sliding on the snow and perfected a semblance of “hockey stop” before I dared to launch off that crude jumping hill. That’s right; I could descent and stop by making one single right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill (I’m a lefty…) In addition to my forays into catching big air off that jump, I also had to participate in some cross-country races which I hated with a passion, as my crude wooden skis and their bare bases could not perform nearly as well as the real cross-country skis owned by my most fortunate school mates.
So that’s how things began for me. Later, I remember working as a lift attendant during the school holidays. This entitled me to a free ski pass and that’s how I seriously learned how to ski – never with formal lessons – but through simple observation, imitation and sheer mileage. I wish I could have had access to some formal type of instruction, but it never came until the time I decided to become a ski instructor. Only then, did my technique get “corrected” and my terrible skiing “habits” unbent by some high ranking and very dogmatic “ski professors.”
Just a few days ago, as I was shooting a video about Katie Fredrickson taking her very first steps on skis, I was amazed by the evolution of the ski equipment now made available to beginners and by the markedly improved teaching methods that can, in just a couple of hours, turn a non-skier into someone able to evolve independently on snow and enjoy the thrills of sliding down some pretty long runs…
January is almost over, but it’s not too late for seizing the opportunity of learning how to ski in the very best environment and under the guidance of the most conscientious and talented ski instructors in America. If you or someone you know has been putting off that first day on skis forever, now might be the time to make that life-changing move. Just learn more about that great program and register yourself or your friends to the Learn-to-ski program at the Deer Valley Ski School. You’ll be glad you did it and your friends will thank you for it!