As a 26-year-old who has lived in the Adirondacks her whole life, it seems surprising to many people that I just learned how to ski last year. But, I have been a figure skater since I was 7. It consumed a large portion of my life - which was fine by me because I love it, but I didn’t have time to do much else. Now that I’m not a competitive skater any more, I’ve acquired some time to try new things. I had wanted to start skiing for many years, so I finally bit the bullet, bought some skis, and hit the slopes. Literally, face first!
I figured the first thing I needed to do was get some gear. I’ve bought a lots of skates in my time, but never a pair of skis, so I am extremely thankful for the staff at Lake Placid Ski & Board. They were incredibly helpful in helping me find the right size skis, boots, bindings, and poles. They were running a student special at the time (among others) that was amazing, and I absolutely took advantage of it. I also picked out a coat, snow pants and gloves there, but luckily Santa brought me those for Christmas!
Once I had everything I needed I was ready to go to Whiteface Mountain! I was so nervous the whole ten-minute drive from Lake Placid to the mountain. I had to roll down the windows for air. Not because the mountain was intimidating, but what if I fell and people saw? I was reassured by my best friend, who was going to teach me how to ski, that I would fall, and that no one would care. It didn’t make me feel much better, but I went with it. We pulled in, and I immediately felt like everyone was going to know it was my first day. I didn’t know how to hold my skis, I had only put my boots on once, I wasn’t sure what to do with my poles, or how I would get my boots out of these skis. I had this whole matching outfit, so I thought maybe I would at least look okay, until someone actually saw me try to move. But, I was there, and I was going to ski (fingers crossed).
I got all of my gear on, grabbed my skis, and was ready to learn. We headed for the Mixing Bowl (the bunny hill) so I could start out easy. Luckily there weren’t many people there that day, so it was a great day to start. He started by teaching me the concept of the pizza and the french fry; When your skis are toe to toe (like a slice of pizza) to help slow down or stop, or parallel to each other (like french fries) to go straight or make turns. I tried out the pizza for a bit first so I could go slowly down this small hill. Then I tried out some french fries, and was starting to understand the concept. Edges make sense to me from skating for so many years, but it’s definitely a different feeling.
I was feeling pretty insecure when I realized it was mostly kids around me, but oddly enough, I ran into one of my good friends who was also skiing for the first time, and I felt so much better. Surprisingly, I didn’t fall at all that day, and I had an absolute blast. I would like to think my skating background has something to do with my first-day success. If there's one thing I know from skating, it's balance, and that was definitely my saving grace for the day.
I left that day feeling accomplished and already wondering when we could go back. I was ready to go on the gondola, go to the summit, and check out “the slides.” Just kidding - but the second time I went skiing I heard, “ready for the gondola?” I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. Now I was faced with the challenge of getting my skis on the gondola and getting myself inside in time, all in these awkward ski boots I can barely walk in. I figured it out, because it’s actually a piece of cake, and then made the ride up the gondola, which seemed like we were going to the summit, but little did I know that is much higher. On a side note, you do meet a lot of interesting people from all over on your gondola rides.
I made it down Excelsior without falling and felt a huge sense of relief, then I was ready to get back up there right away. It seems like so much work to get up to the trail, just to make it down in such a short amount of time. But it’s so worth it, and I love it! I did make it to the summit last spring, too. I fell a lot on the way down, but it wasn’t anything a heating pad couldn't fix! Spring snow is so much different, and I had a hard time adjusting, but I’m definitely going to try it again this year. I feel much more confident in my lack of skiing abilities than I did my first day last year.
Whiteface Mountain is 80% intermediate to expert skiing terrain, but clearly anyone can ski there. Really, if I can do it then anyone can! There is a kids campus for any younger skiers looking to start, and a number of ski instructors for anyone who doesn’t have someone to teach them like I did. I understand now where people get this obsession with going to the mountain. I never understood it until I went for the first time, and now I can’t wait to tackle the mountain again. Whiteface will open November 27th this year, and I'm ready. Whether it’s your first time, or you’re an expert skier, you’re sure to have a great time skiing the greatest vertical in the East! So grab your gear, and plan your stay today!
This week in related ADK pre-ski season news: Wax On!