Ive reached a mile
stone in my life: as of this winter I have officially been skiing longer than I
havent! December 26, 1997 marked the 17th anniversary of my first day on the slopes.
Little did I know, the decision to learn to ski would change and shape my life for years
to come -- in ways I could have never anticipated.
In that time, Ive seen skiing
from almost every angle: At 16 years old I quickly progressed from beginner to
Intermediate, but struggled in Intermediate-oblivion for eight years to follow. I moved to
the mountains in 1987 and spent 8 years in the ski business. Ive been a ski
instructor, ski model, recreational racer, snowboarder and worked in marketing for two ski
resorts (side note: we had a joke in the business that guys wanted to date a ski marketing
girl since we frequently saw six inches and said it was a foot!)
Id like to say I learned to ski at age 2 - when I was fearless and closer to the
ground. For me, however, it all began during my Sophomore year of high school with a
full-grown adult body. I didnt know how to ski yet, but I joined the high school ski
club and signed up for a trip to Mammoth. I did this for two reasons which seemed very
logical to me at the time:
#1 - I thought it would make me cool (which I definitely was NOT in high school), and
#2 - I was jealous all those kids that came back from Christmas vacation with
tan-raccoon eyed faces.
My father (convinced that Id die on the slopes of Mammoth mountain without a
previous lesson) took me to Mountain High (in the Southern California mountains) the day
after Christmas to teach me how to ski.
He seemed like a likely candidate as an instructor; having grown up in Vermont he was
practically born on skis. Besides, my dad can do anything! It was that very day, however,
that I broke first cardinal rule for women in skiing: (There are 10 rules, by the way see
them at the end.)
RULE #1 - NEVER, ever, under any circumstances attempt to learn to ski from a close
friend or relative (this rule becomes especially combustible when that person is a partner
or spouse.) Know this rule. Live this rule: it could eventually save your marriage.
There wasnt much snow that first day, and what little was there was machine made
(this was 17 years ago, mind you, long before technology perfected the art of snowmaking.
Believe it or not, its come a long way).
It was a beautiful, sunny Southern California day. There was only run open at Mtn.
High, and of course it was NOT a beginner run -- it was a deathly steep Intermediate
slope. My father, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to take me up the chair lift right away.
I must say the best piece of advice I got from the man that day was "If you feel out
of control, sit down" - so thats what I did, all the way down the hill. I slid
two feet, then sat down. Another foot, and down. Three feet. Down. It must have taken two
hours to get down a run that should have taken 10 minutes. When I got to the last, steep
pitch at the bottom, I saw someone slide out of control into the base lodge and hit the
wall. I proceeded to take off my skis and walked down the rest of the hill.
Now I can barely remember what I have for breakfast each morning, yet I can vividly
remember my first hour on skis -- it was the second most frustrating, painful and
humiliating experience of my life (second only to my first day on a snowboard, which was
to come 11 years later.)
To top things off, if theres one thing I hate its the feeling of holding
somebody back - especially when that person keeps screaming at you to "MAKE A
SNOWPLOW! TURN! TURN! NO, NO, NO -- YOURE DOING IT ALL WRONG!" (Having been a
ski instructor, it never fails to amaze me when people who really cant ski correctly
themselves attempt to teach others...) Miraculously I made it to the bottom of that first
run unscathed. Upon finding flat ground, I set my father free.
"I understand what I need to do," I told dad. "You just go skiing and
Ill practice side stepping up the bottom of the mountain until I get it." And
thats just what I did. After about an hour or so I almost had enough confidence up
to give the chair lift a try -- that was just about the time a gorgeous 6-foot tall Nordic
blonde with chiseled features yelled single in my direction. I mustve took out 5
people in line to meet up with him (a little trick my family soon began to kid me about
since I unfortunately repeated it many times in my early skiing career) and with that, I
instinctually learned rule #2 for single women in skiing:
RULE #2: Scope out the cutest guy in the lift line before yelling single (this
worked a little easier 17 years ago, before the advent of the quad chair.)
Be it age, novice ability, mans need to feel superior, or just plain
flirtatiousness - whatever the case, every time I went skiing that first season I got a
date - its a phenomena Ive never been able to duplicate since.
And so my skiing career began -- and during an El-Nino winter to boot. Seeing skiing as
a great way to reunite the family that was drifting apart during teenage years, my parents
took me and my two sisters skiing almost every weekend that winter. My skiing ability
improved that winter (as did my social calendar), but years later I would discover that I
really didnt know how to ski at all. Which brings me to RULE #3:
RULE #3: - take lessons early, and frequently until you feel comfortable and in
control on any type of slope.
I learned this rule the hard way. I skied for eight seasons without every taking a
lesson. I even and considered myself an advanced/intermediate (for a definition of
advanced/intermediate, see Rule #10 Know the Lingo at the end). Control was a term
I could never grasp in those early years. It wasnt until I knew I could slow down or
stop on any type of slope, that my passion for the sport began.
In the beginning I could take or leave skiing. It was a great way to meet guys, get
outside and get some sun - I but I was hardly fanatical about the sport. Picking ski pants
that looked the best on me and picking the best spot on the deck for sunning and flirting
were the most important agenda items for the day. Once I really learned how to ski,
however, the sport took on a whole new meaning...
At 22 I moved to Aspen, Colorado. This move catapulted me into a new life-style that
was supposed to be temporary, and has somehow transformed into my long-term life. In Aspen
I was not yet a real skier, however it lead me to love living in resort towns. Aspen was
the perfect transition town for a big-city girl. There was plenty of nightlife and culture
and even seclusion (if thats what you wanted.) And, with the help of two consecutive
drought winters, I learned to appreciate the snow slowly.
Shortly before my 24th birthday, I moved home to Southern California and to Big Bear in
the San Bernardino mountains. Thanks to my parents, I lived rent-free for the first six
months in their cabin, and still was barely affording to live on a ski instructors
salary (its not a glamorous lifestyle, trust me!)
And becoming a ski instructor was not as easy as I thought it would be. Id been
skiing for eight years and thought it would be easy to teach kids or beginners. Boy was I
off. By the grace of god, somebody in that ski school department must have thought I was
trainable, because my skiing seriously SUCKED! They accepted me as an instructor, with the
caveat that I train for a few weeks before actually teaching. Well, for the first three
weeks of that ski season, seven days a week, I was re-taught how to ski. They taught me
from scratch -- in a Snowplow (now termed a "wedge") and with my ego severely in
check. I had eight years of bad habits to break, and I wasnt going to
give them up on them without a fight! That winter was my break-through year. I spent 110
days on my skis and progressed to a level I thought Id ever achieve.
I started that winter of 88/89 teaching beginning skiers. By the end of the
season, I could not only teach advanced classes, but had learned to use my own poles, had
mastered the short-swing turn, could control myself in steeps and hard pack, and had
learned to ski race-gates (not bad for one winter). And, I was well on my way to a new,
previously foreign world to me: the world of ski business. Some people dream of
getting into the ski business - some people work years to make it happen. For me, it was
not planned nor forecast, it happened purely by accident
THE STORY OF MY YEARS IN SKI MARKETING IS STILL TO COME...
#1 - Never, ever, under any circumstances learn
to ski from a close friend or relative (especially from a spouse!)
#2 - Learn when to yell Single in the lift line.
#3 - Take lessons early, and frequently until you achieve an advanced level of skiing
- then take clinics periodically to keep moving forward
#4 - Invest in good, warm, waterproof clothes and gloves - cause when
youre cold and wet, plain and simple youre miserable. Skiing in blue-jeans
died with the 70s.
#5 - Get good equipment, right from the start! Pass up the worn-out used skis
from the Good-Will or your neighbors garage sale. Rent equipment for the first few
times, then invest in a good pair of short, light-weight, flexible, easy to turn skis.
Invest in good boots that fit well right off the bat - these will stay with you for years
(avoid rear-entry boots; sure, theyre comfortable, but they provide little to no
support. If your feet can turn inside the boot, theres no power to turn your skis.)
#6 - Dont be a "ski geek" and other fashion rules for both on and
off the slopes. (I.E.: its not cool to wear your Sorrels or Ugh boots if
theres no snow on the ground -or- dont be caught dead wearing your ski clothes
over an hour after the slopes closes (wearing ski pants on a dance floor late at night is
an ultimate no-no -- that right up there with leaving lift tickets on your daily jacket
for weeks, months, years...)
#7 - Dont be afraid to go skiing alone. There are many more men than woman
that ski and trust me, you wont be alone for long if you have a friendly smile.
#8 - Dont be afraid of the race gates. Racing is a great way to improve
your all-around skiing skills quickly. Besides being fun and addicting, ski racers are
usually the most gorgeous guys on the hill (if not the most dangerous!)
#9 - Learn how to carry your own skis and walk in your ski boots. Chivalry on
the ski slopes is dead. Do you think Picabo Street would ever let a guy carry her skis for
her? Chicks who ski (I mean really ski) carry their own equipment,
and do so with finesse and style.
#10 - Know the lingo.
You Ask: Can you Ski?
He Says: "Im a really hot skier" or "Im an
What this really means: get out of his way, hes out of control and probably skis
wearing cut-off shorts without a shirt, or wears shirts with such sayings as "ski
You Ask: Can you Ski?
He Says: "I get down the mountain ok or, I can turn them from left to right,"
What this really means: Hes probably an advanced/expert skier, maybe even a racer
- these types let their skiing do the talking, not their mouths.
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