Snowboarding didn’t work out for me, but that didn’t stop me from getting on Whiteface Mountain. I worked hard all last year to feel comfortable on my snowboard. After taking an hour lesson and spending many days on the bunny hill, my fear of falling and my discomfort level never seemed to fade. At this point it was mentally exhausting. There was still one other way to get up on the mountain. Skiing.
Several of my friends had always told me I would pick up skiing easily, especially since I played hockey all the way up into college. It was always my response to shrug it off; I just couldn’t see the correlation. By the end of my first day ever on skis, I’m surprised at how natural it came to me. To be honest, It felt like I was wearing skates the whole time! The edges on skis functioned similar to the edges on skates. My instructor even told me that they refer to stopping on skis a “hockey stop,” and I had no problem picking this up right away.
Thinking about it, I realized why I may have had so much trouble on the snowboard. After all of these years my brain has been wired to think of edges just as they are on skates. You have your inside edges and outside edges. With a snowboard you have your toe edge and heel edge. To use those edges would mean that I would have to rock my feet in opposite directions as I would to use the edges on skis or skates, something my brain and muscle memory found difficult to render. I'm not saying that snowboarding is the more difficult of the two sports to learn, but it happened to be the case for me. It depends on each individual. I would imagine that if I knew how to surf or skateboard, maybe I would pick up snowboarding quicker than I would skiing.
Lessons and the final tip that clicked
It was our first day out on skis for both my friend and me. Our instructors name tag read “Lemon Head” — the guy with the yellow helmet. Quite a jolly guy, he was one of the best instructors we could have hoped for. He started us right out on Whiteface’s “Parallel From the Start” program, designed to get us to the top of the mountain in three days. To begin, we jumped right into a gentle slope where we were shown the very basics of our skis, skiing, and our edges. From there we graduated to the magic carpets. These got us slightly higher up on the hill so we could begin to practice traversing down the mountain. Our instructor was very pleased with our progress and wanted to get us up on the chair lift. Before we knew it, and with great instruction, we were up on the lift and skiing down the bunny slopes at Bear Den.
The real kicker came a few hours in when our instructor said we were ready for the Face Lift, a lift that takes you halfway up the main part of the mountain! Although we picked up on things quickly, not everyone is ready for the Face Lift their first day out. Just remember to keep your expectations lower than you might like. You never know, but you might have the pleasure of surprising yourself as we did when we weren’t expecting to leave the slopes at Bear Den at all.
I have to say that if we had taken only a one-hour lesson, I don’t think that either my friend or I would have been comfortable enough to make it over to the main slopes for possibly another couple weeks. Having spent almost the entire day with our instructor, never once did I feel uncomfortable or afraid of the mountain. It was very easy to understand the instructions that were given to us to help better our skiing. A few hours into it, the instructor pointed out something and made a minor adjustment to my approach on skiing. After that, everything seemed to fall into place and my comfort level sky rocketed. If I had only an hour lesson, it would have taken a lot longer for me to find my groove. If you can, it might be worth it to get the extra couple of hours.
Did I “Jerry” at all? Tips and tricks
The entire experience was unforgettable. Bear Den Lodge was beautiful and all of the staff were very kind and helpful. They quickly got us all set with our rental skis, boots, and helmet. I must say that I was a bit of a Jerry, having been my first time out on skis, however my ski instructor gave me a few helpful tips.
I found out that there is an easier way to carry your skis, so take note of how others carry their skis by resting them on their shoulder.
Feel free to use your ski poles as an armrest when using the chairlift.
Definitely use your straps on your poles, but there is a particular way they should be used, and don’t forget to take them off before you get in line to the chair.
It was a beautiful bluebird day but with that it was also very crisp and cold. I was lucky that my instructor had some hand warmers to give me, but definitely find yourself a pair of warm gloves; the lifts can get pretty cold. Goggles are a bonus!
The biggest tip of them all as my instructor stated: “Smile! Don’t forget to have fun!”
See you at the mountain!
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