Skiing (Part One) – Hitting the Slopes

I spent the weekend in Buffalo for Danielle’s birthday. Since it’s Buffalo in January, there’s always snow. That can make it difficult, but I’m not a typical “southerner”. I love snow. Despite loving snow, I’d managed to make it through 30+ years without attempting to ski. Saturday, that changed.

I’ve always wanted to try skiing. Growing up, we never had much money, so skiing was a luxury that I never got a chance to try. I could’ve tried five years ago, but the day my company did a ski outing, I had a trip planned to visit my friend Charles in Cleveland. So I lived this long without skiing.

Danielle decided that we’d try Kissing Bridge, a ski resort near Buffalo. There are other slopes in the area, but Kissing Bridge offers a First-time Skier package. For $35, it includes a lesson, equipment rental, and an all-day lift ticket. This way, if I hated skiing, there was minimal investment.

We arrived at the ski lodge at noon, ready for our adventure. Upon entering, we went to the information desk to sign up. Since there was a line, we walked to the ticket desk, thinking this would be a logical place to buy the package. While logical, it was incorrect. So we walked back to the information desk and waited in the wrong line.

Once in the appropriate line, we bought our tickets. The cashier handed us many pieces of paper, which would allow us to get everything we needed. Rather than wait for a sufficient explanation, we accepted them. We figured it would be easier to hold out everything like a tourist using foreign currency when we reached the next person in the process.

The next person was in the rental shop. We filled out the rental form that signed away our right to sue Kissing Bridge if we hurt ourselves on their equipment. That was okay, because what could go wrong?

After filling this out, we moved around the counter to get in line. Not knowing what to do next, we waited for an employee to notice us. A guy asked us if we had our boots yet, and we said no. Danielle and I gave each other a glance and a laugh when the next words the guy said were “I need you guyses shoes.” Pluralization need follow no rules. I love English.

We put on our boots before moving on to get skis. Walking in these boots was like walking in concrete shoes. The next guy gave us skis after debating which size to give us. He asked me which size I wanted. Size? I should’ve said I don’t know, but I chose a blank stare instead. Thankfully he understood, so he used the size chart to determine the right length. He picked the size below the size recommended for my height. I questioned this, but we didn’t quite communicate with each other, so I accepted the shorter skis. This would be my second-best decision of the day.

He then asked if we wanted poles. Since I wished to have some way to hold myself up, I said yes. We now had all of our equipment and just enough time to run to the 1:00 lesson.

We arrived at the lesson as the instructor walked up to the group. While playing with my skis, he started speaking. “How many of you have skied before?” Danielle raised her hand. “How many of you have ice skated before?” Hey, I know the answer to this! I raised my hand. By now, I’d finally clicked into my skis and dug myself into my gloves. “Now that everyone has their skis on, take them off.” He’s joking, right? This was a lot of work. We did as we were told.

The instructor showed us a few basic tips for balance and control. Feet shoulder-width apart. Eyes looking where I want to go. Just like basketball and motorcycles. I could do this.

He took us to the edge of a slope for the next part of the lesson. He showed us how to walk up the slope in our skis and how to balance ourselves once we were there. We learned how to walk up sideways and how to walk up like a duck. After one trip up, I was exhausted.

After learning to walk up the slope, we had to learn to come down. Gravity takes care of this, so the key is learning control. My first trip down, my feet were too close together and my body was too rigid. Unbalanced, I raced down the slope, heading directly for the instructor. He side-stepped me as I got myself under control, turned hard left, and skidded to a stop. An auspicious start, but I wanted to try again.

I walked up the hill with the rest of the group. Following my natural tendency, I analyzed my performance to learn from it. I figured out what I did wrong, based on my motorcycle experience. I didn’t look forward. Always look toward the intended path, not the current location.

My turn came again and I was ready. I turned toward the bottom of the slope and headed down. Out of control again and moving faster than before. I went further than before but stopped myself short of any disastrous accident. In two trips down, I’d learned that I had no idea what I was doing, but at least I didn’t panic when I was out of control.

We headed over to Candy Cane, the “bunny” hill. Candy Cane is a big, scary slope. With lots of people. This would be an adventure, because we were going to practice turning. Instead of wiping out the instructor in my path, I’d turn into someone else. A 7-year-old someone else.

The practice slope is at the bottom of Mistletoe. Candy Cane is on the left, next to First Aid.

I rode the J-Bar up the bunny mountain hill. The J-Bar is an interesting contraption. It’s a spring attached to a moving cable. Riding up, it’s a guide, not a lift, so leaning on it is a bad idea. I knew this riding up, so I was fine, but it did stop every few seconds because someone fell down on the way up.

At the top of the hill, the goal is to throw the J-Bar aside and ski away from the path of the person behind. Since it’s an uphill ride, I couldn’t get off until it put me at the top. As I neared the summit, it stopped three feet short. Stranded on the bunny hill.

Once I reached her at the top, Danielle reassured me that I’d be fine. I’m a quick learner and a decent athlete, so I shouldn’t worry. There are no brakes on skis, so I worried.

Part two still to come…

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