Where the fun begins
Picture it. You and your family are at the resort to begin your ski/snowboard lessons. You have all of your stuff and you’re ready to go… or are you? Oh my God, what if I die on my first day? What if I fall and never get back up–what if I’m bad at skiing? Well, to answer those questions I’d say:
- Yes you definitely are ready and your brain is a big fat whiner
- You’re not going to die the first day, you’ll be skiing strictly mild terrain
- You are definitely going to be so bad at skiing. You are going to fall. You are going to be scared. You are going to be put in a place of total anxiety where you think of bad scenarios only. Don’t worry guys. I’ve been through all of this.
The first day of skiing, you’ll probably be with an instructor. If not, you may want to re-think it. Unless you’re with someone who legitimately knows what they’re talking about, can properly ski a black diamond (which I’ll get to in a second), and is willing and capable of teaching you the basics of skiing, then don’t go trailblazing the mountain. Skiing can be very dangerous when you’re out of control and unstable. Good skiers are in control of whatever they’re doing and always have direction. They have a compass that always points down the mountain, and they follow that compass accordingly. So, when you are first starting out skiing, just imagine you have a compass and it’s pointing to the direction you want to go in.
At first, you’re going to fall simply because of your lack of experience when dealing with the edges of your skis. So, imagine your skis are like two parallel rulers. When you lay them flat on a flat surface, they’re easy to push around, back and forth. The moment you tilt them to a degree where it is evident that you cannot apply the same force as you did before when you lay the rulers flat, the skis will stagnate- meaning it’s stopped temporarily. The same concept applies for your skis; when skiers need to stop or make a turn, they edge with their skis. When they want to go down the mountain, they flatten those skis out. When you fall it’s most likely a ski catching an edge.
A few tips to stop you from falling:
- Never lean back, always lean forward
- Never lean too far back
- Correspondingly move your skis together
- Never twist your body or your poles to avoid the gap between your skis
- Don’t stand straight up, but don’t squat either. You want to be in the middle, have a slight bend in your knees with your hips more forward.
- Internalize the difference between edging and non-edging
One thing that they’ll teach you in ski school is the concept of pizza-ing and french-frying, or triangling and paralleling. They will probably use a term something similar to that, but what they are basically saying is that with a pizza (this is how I was taught) you make your skis point towards each other in a way that’s shaped as a triangle. This is not ideal as you will begin to realize that your hips are going to be overworked. The ideal skier will only really pizza in the line on his way to the chairlift. Other than that, there’s really no other use for the exercise once you’ve gained that confidence.
These instructors are there to help you gain confidence and they should give you tips and things to work on as the day goes on. At some resorts, the lessons will start a little later and end a little earlier than when the ski resort remains open, so in those gaps you can definitely practice on the lessons the instructor has taught you from days before.
When you’re first starting out, you’ll definitely need a couple of days with an instructor to really get things down before you can go on to more steeper terrain. This means you will be first starting on the bunny slope. Every skier has been there, even Gus Kenworthy (“true” American Olympian) who performs the sickest jumps. Like I get pneumonia watching his highlight reels–those jumps are absolutely breathtaking to watch. Anyway, you start out here and you get comfortable with your skis. Depending on how fast you “get it,” you can start getting on the chairlifts on day one. Some take longer which is totally fine, everyone “gets it” at various times.
You’ll then be heading onto the chairlifts, which you should get some practice in beforehand with the instructor. Don’t ever go into the chairlift thinking you’re going to fall, because if you think that, you will fall. Always follow the instructions at the line, listen to the staff, and always be ready. When you’re right about to go onto the lift, there is a line you have to go to. Once the people ahead of you have gone, use your skis to propel you forward to the next marked line. Once you’re there, put both your skis in one hand and use the other hand to feel when the seat is coming and sit accordingly. You’ll want to turn your head to see the chairlift seat coming. And then you’re on! Once in the air, you can put your skis under your legs as that is an effective way of holding them if you need to get something from a backpack or readjust your gloves. Once you lower the bar, there usually is a map on the bar itself, but if not, you’re going to want to have a plan of action going down the mountain. Decide with your peers where you want to go. When you’re dismounting, make sure to raise the bar (you better have lowered it) and make sure you have all your things. Keep your ski tips up, and have a plan of where you are going in regards to the dismount.
When coming down the mountain, there are typically four main types of difficulty you will see: in order from least to most difficult it goes green, blue, black, and double black. There are also marked signs for freestyle terrain for boxes and bumps for jumps and tricks, usually marked in orange. There will be signs of unmarked territory which obviously, you have to go through because the ski resorts are hiding undercover government projects that no one can know about. I’m just kidding, don’t go there. Greens obviously are the easiest to go down, ranging from relatively flat terrain to a little bit of a decline. Blues are going to have more steeper terrain, tree routes and possibly moguls. Black slopes are definitely composed of much steeper terrain, moguls, steeper tree routes, and possibly some jumps. Double blacks are usually hard to get to because they are so high up the mountain and once you’re at that level, you’ll have a sufficient knowledge of skiing and hopefully you’ll make smart decisions deciding whether or not those runs are too much for you.
Keep in mind that everyone picks it up at different paces and everyone at the resort goes skiing to have fun. Having fun goes hand in hand with having proper technique, because along with proper technique comes fluidity. Once you feel that fluidity, you can ski the entire day feeling at ease. Once you become more experienced at the art of skiing itself, it becomes close to effortless throughout the day.
Tune in next time for another skiing blog as I’ll gloss over the subtle nuances hidden in on the ski field.
Dilanka (Dil) is a rising senior at Manhattan High School and in addition to volunteering, he enjoys hanging out with friends, practicing piano, and reading classics! At school, he’s started the Civic and Community Engagement Club, is currently serving as Student Body Vice President, and has been a State Officer for the Topeka Model UN for the past 2 years! In these unique and disconcerting times, we require proactive leaders in our society today. With IYAB, he helps lead those who will take us to a better tomorrow!