Here we go for your first tale of the 30 Before 30 Checklist:
Until this past March, I’d never been snow skiing. Never with my family. Never with the high school youth groups. I blame some of it on our geographical location smack in the midwest (although airplanes these days will take you just about anywhere). More of it on how my dad’s very last trip snow skiing ended (on a medic sled with a torn ACL). And most of it on our (rightful) preference for beach vacations or family reunions in the Georgia mountains.
I don’t blame my parents nor do I hold any grudges for the lack of this experience in my youth (certainly not like the swingset and Barbie Jeep grudges) because I’m not a huge fan of the snow myself. I tolerated it growing up because I had to, and I sure loved a decent sledding hill but as soon as I could fly the coop in college, I headed south. And now have settled just a bit farther south.
Now that I’m in Oklahoma, I’ve never met so many people who travel to Colorado to ski in the winter or to escape the heat in the summer. It’s a serious hobby here. Even that wasn’t enough to get me interested. But then, I started dating this guy around Christmas time. He is one of those snow skiing hobbyists. He went at least three times that first season we were together. His love for the mountains isn’t just limited to the winter either. Our very first big trip together was a drive from Tulsa to Colorado for one of those summer escapes everyone here seems to do.
That’s when the snow ski pressure started. While we were hiking there was lots of imagining this place covered in snow, and tales of horrible traffic going out of Denver into the mountains on the weekends. After a long weekend of hiking, rafting and running a race, I was smitten with the Rockies.
That initial infatuation with Colorado coupled with Chap’s incessant snow ski talk, led to a 2015 snow gear-themed Christmas. I got ski pants and a ski coat which was just what I wanted that year to get ready for a spring trip. New Year’s eve we spontaneously booked flights to Denver in March, and that was that.
First rule of ski travel, as I was told by Chap, was to take the earliest flight out. We had to check bags (I hate it) to fit all of the bulky snow gear in. And of course barely made it to our gate. Then there was the trek with all our stuff to the rental car place and then the drive into the mountains. It had been snowing (still was really) so the drive took us a couple of hours. 5 of us crammed into a Jeep Cherokee.
We finally made it to Breckenridge. The boys were so anxious to get on the slopes for the afternoon but Maaike and I hadn’t ever skied before. First we stopped at the house to drop things off and for the skiers to get layered up. Next, we had to go get our rental skis and boots (this hobby is not for the faint of heart, or the shallow pockets. I saved for most of 2015 to afford these four days). Finally, we dropped the guys off at the lift and then opted for pizza and some grocery shopping for the weekend while we let the guys play. Our plan was to check into ski school the next day.
Y’all just getting dressed for this activity is a workout in itself. Base layer of skin tight warm clothes comes first. Then a comfortable cotton shirt on top. Then the puffy layer of ski coat and pants. Gloves then mittens. Face warmer and neck guard. Helmet with goggles attached. Skis and boots. These boots are an exercise machine in themselves. Heavy and awkward to walk in. Even requiring help snapping them shut.
Ski school was such a good decision and investment for me. I think I certainly could have gotten the hang of it on my own, but I’m glad I opted for the full day of drills and practice. First lesson was just maneuvering over to our instructor on a flat spot in our skis. That’s still the hardest part to me (followed right up by walking around in the boots). Then we got to practice keeping our skis apart on a downhill by railroad tracking down a snake hose. After that skill was mastered, we moved on to the bunny slope. This is not even a hill y’all. But it was exhilarating for the first time and great practice just staying up on the skis. We practiced that hill over and over, working more towards french fries (fast stance), and away from pizza (brake stance).
After a lunch break and catching up with the boys who’d already been on several longer runs, we went back to our instructor. This time we graduated to a real ski lift and got to practice going down some real hills. I feel like we both mastered enough of the technique pretty fast. Maaike and I spent an hour or two together on those slopes and then decided it was time for a green run. The guys helped us down by leading the way, turning at appropriate times and shouting encouragement. Before long I was ready to head off with Chap for some longer runs.
I was confident but in no way a master. I’d start down a hill and then feel completely out of control which led to one of three scenarios:
- Me staying on my feet but screaming the whole way down for people to get out of my way “I’m out of control! Can’t stop!” (hey, at least I give fair warning. and really, I’m surprised there aren’t more collisions out there)
- Me falling into the snow on purpose in what I dubbed a “controlled wipeout” in order to stop the next option from happening. Sort of picture a gentle fall to either side, or just completely sitting down.
- A complete wipeout. These are terrifying and should be avoided. I had two big ones where skis came off (that is a workout too, getting those suckers back on and trying not to slide across the slopes) and it ended my run for the day.
The end of the day was always fun because the five of us would come together over drinks in the base camp bar and watch NCAA March Madness. Showers, naps and snacks by the fire at our condo came next and then we’d head out somewhere into the darling town of Breckenridge for dinner.
The tale of the Single Blac
On the last day, Chap talked me into looking down a black slope. It was on the way to one of the blue runs I liked so he said, “let’s just go look at it, and we can skip if you want to”. We got there and peering over the edge was like looking off a cliff. One of our other guys was there too, and he was just a little more experienced than me. We decided to go for it, but even after that decision I just stood there staring at the run for at least five minutes. Finally, I devised a strategy to take it as wide across the pass as I could, and then employ step number 2, before whipping my skis around to face the other direction. Repeat. I did this about five times before I felt far enough down the hill to not have too much momentum gather behind me if I lost control. And then we were on a blue again, and soon enough I was done with my first ski trip!
It was so fun! I completely buy into the hype, save year round for my ski lift fund and plan to go at least once a year for as long as I can!