Thinking about the 2014-2015 ski season

The 2014-2015 season is nearly upon us. I’d like to see more people on the slopes this year than last year. I understand that some of my readers fear skiing or boarding. It is true that one can get hurt and that pain is somewhat inevitable. Yet, despite these potential drawbacks of my favorite winter pastime, the fun of cruising the slopes far outweighs any potential risks. To truly enjoy skiing, and I’ll focus on skiing instead of boarding, one must take one’s time to learn to ski correctly, and with the guidance of a professional. That means, investing in lessons!

I have come to love skiing. Like many of my peers, I started as a youth (albeit older at 18) but never really spent the time or money to become really good. It was probably more the money and the distance to the slopes that kept me from mastering skiing.

I grew up in Washington, DC, not too close to any major resort. As an adult, however, I moved to Pennsylvania, where skiing is more commonplace. Then, for a period of two years, I lived in New England. This coupled with my son’s excitement about skiing resulted in my advancing beyond a beginner and intermediate to the lower advanced skier I am today. I have no regrets! Regrets? Are you kidding? I live for the slopes in the winter!!!

Skiing is an amazing sport, but it does require getting used to speed and the risk of falling. It also requires one to conquer a fear of heights/steepness. We spend lots of time skiing steeper slopes. Indeed, conquering the fear of steeps in my view is the major task in progressing from the lower to upper levels of skiing.

OK, so I am suggesting that people start skiing. I want people not just to ski once, but to ski every year for the rest of their lives. Living in colder climates means that there are many winter months spent awaiting spring. Skiing allows one to enjoy those winter months instead of dreading their presence. Indeed, I can’t wait for winter, just like many can’t wait for summer. I have as much fun in the winter as I do in the summer. Thus, my life has become a 12 month thing. I love every month of every year. Skiing, though, took quite a bit of time to master. One wise, albeit quite drunk skier, told me that skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding but harder to master. I agree. I learned to ski quickly, but getting to the higher levels has been a challenge. For one, I had a strong fear of heights. Not so much anymore. Because of skiing, I actually like tackling steeper slopes. I just go down slopes, and as fast as I can at my level. I still need to master edge skiing further, but I have started, and that has made skiing even more fun.

Skiing is a great sport to share with your family too. If you have children, teaching them to ski will give you an additional benefit. Further, when you can go on trips with them, and ski down big slopes together, you will feel a feeling that few experience. It’s one of my favorite times to be on a slopes, chasing my son who of course is better than I am.

Perhaps the hardest part of skiing in my view was overcoming my fear of speed. I often see beginners screaming as they go down their first steeper slopes, as if the skis control them instead of the person controlling the skis. We are each in charge of our own performance. I can stop skiing at any point on any slope. Just like when I learned that letting go of a sail whilst sailing would allow my boat to stop still in the ocean, a quick skid turn or pizza form will stop the skier on any slope. Yet, there are many a beginner skier who goes down steeper beginner and even intermediate slopes without knowing how to stop. Learning how to stop is essential to gaining confidence on a slope. Once one learns to stop, one begins to fear the slopes less. Just think about it in terms of driving a car. We stop on all sort of hills. One does the same skiing by digging one’s edges into the snow. Letting go increases speed, whereas digging in grips the skier to the terrain and results in a stop.

In addition to learning to stop well, going down some steeper beginner slopes will reduce fear of the steeps. All resorts are different, and what’s a green (beginner) trail on one mountain, is a blue on another mountain. Yet, steep is steep. If you feel it’s steep, then it’s steep. Going down steeper slopes, using fundamental techniques to turn and stop, will make the matter much easier, and increase confidence. Once confidence in steeper slopes is attained, skiing goes from a fearful experience to a “I can’t wait for the next time” event.

At this time, I’m into my fourth year of heavy skiing. Each year, my son and I have vowed to ski more than the last year. Each year, we’ve improved too. We’ve had our share of lessons and will take more. We each want to be the best we can, and I’ve certainly given this old body another reason to enjoy living. I think learning to ski, or board, is one of the best gifts one can give the self. The key, though, is having a good instructor. There are lots of good places to go. You just need to say yes.