When you reach the top of your first run of the year, this (above) is not the sign you want to see. It serves as a metaphor for my return to skiing, and, maybe life in general. At the top of any great hill, the way down is seldom easy. The only thing you’re guaranteed is that it will be fast. Make sure you know where the brakes are!
I’ve only skied once a year since moving back from Colorado in 2004. Each time I went to a resort out here, I found myself frustrated and bored. The winter back, I went to Peek-N-Peak, two hours from Cleveland in New York. Pre-Colorado, this place could keep me happy for hours because it had enough variety of slopes and it wasn’t particularly hard — I could do some black diamond runs. I used to refer to it as “like Boston Mills but longer runs.”
On my first run of the day, I encountered the all-dreaded ice, which I hadn’t had the pleasure of experiencing the entire time I lived in Colorado. I panicked; my confidence went out the window; I went back to the green runs and sulked. I pretty much stopped skiing after three hours and blew off the rest of my eight hour ticket. I tried to lie to myself and say that I’d outgrown skiing out east since being spoiled in Colorado.
The next year, I decided to go on a day trip to Holimont, a private resort near the coveted Holiday Valley, with an Akron area ski club. Unfortunately, this trip coincided with an ice storm and I spent most of the day taking runs down greens again, sulking about how much skiing out east sucks. I had learned to ski at Holimont when I was sixteen with a friend whose grandparents owned a condo there. I thought this trip would be a blast from the past. Instead, it just made me feel as though I’d come full circle from being a good skier to a completely inept one, like my beginning days.
Last year, I went to ladies’ night at Brandywine. I usually do not like to ski at Boston Mills or Brandywine due to the large number of young, inexperienced skiers who, instead of making turns down these short hills, chose to bullet straight down, out-of-control without worrying about who they may potentially mow down. Most of these skiers don’t know any of the rules I was taught in my Holimont days, such as watching out for the downhill skier when you are the uphill skier. Not to mention the fact that BM/BW typically costs $25 (this year, it’s up to $31, which is REALLY not worth the money).
However, ladies’ night offers the advantage of $10 tickets from 10pm until the 2am closing time. What’s ten dollars? I thought. So I went. And stunk, yet again. This time, I was furious with myself; I could no longer ski worth a crap on these pretty easy slopes (the black diamond runs there would likely be a tougher green or a blue anywhere out west). After just a few hours, my feet hurt in my boots. I came to the conclusion that my skis were too long and were, in fact, hindering my skiing (which I’d secretly suspected for years, even in Colorado). I needed new equipment, I concluded, if I was going to ever take up skiing again.
This past Christmas, I bought myself a new pair of parabolic skis–or “shaped skis” as they are now called and the guy at Buckeye Sports where I bought my bindings hastily corrected me. Additionally, I bought a new pair of boots. After trying skis and boots out at Buckeye, I went online and was able to purchase last year’s models–same specs and all–from a warehouse distributor in Seattle for less than it would have cost for to buy this year’s skis. I am frankly proud of my thriftiness and I would highly suggested the same method for purchasing skis to anyone else. Even if, as my co-worker suggests, it puts the local companies out of business. I know, I know–for shame on me, the girl who purposely boycotts Wal-Mart for this very reason. But sports equipment is all so overpriced (and I’m buying a lot of sports equipment). You should not have to pay $600 for two pieces of board that you strap to your feet. I simply refuse to pay that. I won’t even get into how much boots cost… If you’re a skier, you know.
So I was all set, equipment-wise, to hit the slopes. Then, I was just waiting for the snow. Luckily, it came in the last week. I obsessively checked the snow reports for both Seven Springs (in Pennsylvania) and Holiday Valley until I saw that all or most of their runs were open. Yesterday, Michael and I embarked on a day trip to Seven Springs. God bless this man, for he’d just spent a week in Vail, and he was willing to go skiing yet one more day with me. It turns out it was a good thing he went because I might have given up, once again, within the first couple hours.
My ski legs have gone too long unused and they forgot how they work. The first several hours consisted of me silently berating myself for snow-plowing down slopes I’d have never batted an eye at in Colorado. My nerve was lost. At the top of each slope, I looked down at the sharply slanted world below, intimidated. I tried and tried to tap into the aggression that normally permeates all of the athletic things I do. I just wasn’t feeling it. Of course, the more I berated myself, the worse I felt. I kept apologizing to Michael for so badly sucking. He was obviously a much better skier than me (and warmed up from four days of skiing in Vail). I began to feel bad about the weekend trip for Colorado (to ski) I booked last week.
As always happening when you’re trying to relearn something you used to do more frequently, I figured out how to ski again about an hour before we were going to quit. My sudden enthusiasm, however, bought us an extra half hour in which I could revel in my return to skiing. “Just one more run, ” I think I said to Michael more than once.
I definitely think the new skis helped. I was skiing on 180cm straight skis and when I’d get into a tough spot where I needed to snow-plow, I would end up crossing the tips, which inevitably causes you to fall if not corrected quickly. It also seems like it was harder to execute a good turn when I needed to, which often resulted in me lifting my uphill ski to complete turns. My new shaped skis are 154cm and a lot easier to maneuver. I still caught myself lifting my ski on some turns, but not nearly as much. I definitely did not cross the tips of my skis once. It seems to me that making turns is easier on shaped skis and that turning in less than ideal conditions (ie, on ice) is a lot easier. I’m still a bit rusty and new skis are not going to fix that, but I can say with confidence that they definitely made the experience of skiing much more pleasant for me.
The new boots worked nicely as well. They did not provide any additional warmth (I’m starting to think I had frostbite once from a blizzardy winter hike in Colorado so my feet are now more susceptible to cold). However, they were much more comfortable than my old boots, probably because they are micro-adjustable. And, best of all, they look more high-tech than my previous pair, like a pair of Moon boots or something an astronaut would wear.
Hopefully, this is the start of a good ski season for me. I probably need to ski at least one more time locally before my weekend in Colorado. I’d hate to get out there and have my three-hour learning curve hinder me in all those beautifully long and perfectly powdered runs. I want to get back to skiing black diamond slopes, like I used to in my Colorado days (never did a double-black, though). My friend, Scott, with whom I skied many-a-day back in college, used to make me growl loudly whenever it looked like my confidence and aggression were dwindling. I still think of that when I’m having a low day on the slopes, like yesterday. Sometimes it helps to conjure the inner beast. I think I’m going to need to work on this in the coming days.