Ski Advice Worth Remembering

The first time you find yourself staring down from the top of a steep hill in the middle of winter, you may be asking, “What the heck am I doing?” Chances are your ears, fingers and cheeks are numb, your feet hurting from those uncomfortable boots, and worst of all, you look like the StayPuff Marshmallow Man. Why would anyone subject themselves to this? Yes, it is a little absurd to speed down a mountain with a pair of twigs strapped to your feet, but millions of people a year are first-time skiers and snowboarders.

With the risk of broken bones, frostbit limbs, and a deflated ego, it is often challenging to give skiing or snowboarding a shot – especially when a warm fireplace, a cup of hot chocolate, and a good book seem like a much more reasonable way to spend a cold winter afternoon. However, since most of you will eventually probably own ski homes in Aspen, and with plenty of school ski trips coming up in the near future, I thought it might be worthwhile to provide some advice on how to make your first time skiing or snowboarding as enjoyable as possible. Hopefully my years as a ski instructor will prove valuable.

Rule #1: If it is too cold, don’t go!
There is nothing worse than being miserable while trying to learn something new. If you’re thinking about how cold you are, you’ll never be able to think about what you should be doing while skiing. This is when most people run into the chalet or through the parking lot. Not a whole lot of fun, unless of course, you are watching someone else do it. Also, it is extremely selfish of you to go when it’s too cold. Do you really think your instructor wants to be out there in the cold too?

Rule # 2: If you want to enjoy yourself, make sure someone else is looking after your kids!
How can you learn if you keep having to chase your kids around the hill (chances are they will be better than you). This is really the ski school’s job. Instructors are merely glorified baby sitters, so parents can go out and enjoy themselves. Do not be afraid to use them as such!

Rule #3: It is important to look cool.
You need to look good. It’s true, your skiing ability really does not matter. It’s all about how you look while you are on the slope. In fact, many hot fashions, such as neon clothing and earmuffs, started on ski hills and worked their way to the mainstream. No matter how new you are, make sure you spend a fortune on a good ski outfit or two. Jeans are not an acceptable alternative!

Rule #4: Keep it simple. Learn how to stop first, and stay on the greens and blues.
All ski hills are coded in colors and shapes to make it easier for people to determine how difficult the run is. As a beginner you want to stay on greens for the most part. If you are feeling confident, then you can move up to the blues. It’s important that you learn how to stop and control your speed on these hills. If you don’t, you will end up having what we call a “yard sale” with your equipment and body strewn all over the hill after a wipe out. Most people will laugh at you if this happens, which is not cool (refer to rule #3).

Rule #5: Ask for help when using the chairlift.
For some unknown reason the chairlift is the most difficult concept for beginning skiers to grasp. At the bottom beginners see people sit down on the chair, just like at home, and they can grasp that. Getting on is usually not a problem. Then, for some reason, at the top, all intuition goes away and they freeze. When the lift places you gently back on the earth, and the chair is about to turn around and go back down the hill IT IS TIME TO GET OFF. Simply stand up and the chair will push you out of the way. Simple. For some reason people don’t do this and they fall every which way, or stay on the chair and ride it all the way back to the bottom (again, rule #3). Ask for help so you don’t make this mistake.

Rule #6: Bring your credit card.
For some reason common economic principles do not apply at ski resorts. No matter the supply, the demand, or how readily available substitutes are, everything at a ski resort is expensive. Expect to pay two to four times the normal costs for things like Kleenex and ChapStick. Not to mention lodging and equipment. The sticks of wood you need to put on your feet can cost up to $1,200.

December 6, 2004
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