Around this time last year, I was in Bozeman, MT, and a friend of mine invited me to go skiing with him. Most normally functioning people who grew up skiing in NH would probably have jumped at the opportunity to have a sweet ski day with a buddy, but my reaction was simply horror. I hadn’t alpine skied in probably 10 years, and I knew for sure he would out ski me at every turn, leaving me to plod awkwardly along the overly difficult terrain (you mean you want me to ski around all those bumps on this purely vertical hill? HA! Calm down, I can’t fly) and hopefully not fall to my death.
I grew up skiing at Tenney Mountain, fifteen minutes from my house in Plymouth, NH. My mother diligently taught me herself. Not once was I foisted into ski school so she could go ski on her own. However, by age nine or ten, by virtue of wanting to keep up with my older sister, I spent more time skiing straight down hill than receiving any coaching on my ski technique. The last time I really did any significant skiing was when I was probably fifteen. By then, I had made the switch to Nordic skiing. All my friends were on the high school team, my parents had gotten me all the gear I would need to race, and I loved the simplicity of just going out into the woods away from the crowds and corporations of ski resorts.
Then I started climbing, and the more I started to climb, the more I desired to become an all-around alpine/mountain athlete. Skiing plays a large and important role in the alpine sports repertoire; backcountry skiing, to be specific. When I discovered backcountry, I couldn’t believe how perfect a combination of the various parts of Nordic and Alpine skiing it was. Away from resorts? Check. Out in the wilderness? Check. Light equipment? Check. Still get to rip down hill at top speed? Check.
Thus, when it came time to find work this winter, I decided on teaching skiing (among other things). I figured there would be no better way to improve my skiing then the jump right back in and just start teaching it. Backcountry is also, unfortunately, a much more complicated form of alpine skiing than resort skiing, involving a special set up, avalanche knowledge, and the time and energy to get pretty far away and high up, so I decided to stick to the straight forward chairlift style this year.
Having needed to basically rebuild my relationship with skiing from one full of frustration and stress to one of joy and fun, I had to be careful about what I did with whom. I got the opportunity to go to Copper Mountain with a buddy of mine, and despite the four hours of traffic that kept us from skiing until 11:00 am, we had probably one of the most ideal days possible.
The snow was soft and pretty fresh, the temperature was in the high twenties, the sun was out and the air was still. Copper is an enormous mountain resort, encompassing three “bowls” (open, concave sections of treeless land on the top of the mountain) on one side, and another bowl on the backside in addition to all the cut and groomed trails on the bottom of the mountain. The views are spectacular from the top, and there was so much to explore, we never ran out of new runs to do.
Wait. Skiing is….fun?
What a revolutionary thought. All these people spend all this time, money, and energy on this sport of being brought up a mountain and then sliding down it again because it’s enjoyable? You get to feel like you’re flying, be outside, exercise and have great talks with your friends on the chairlifts? That sounds amazing! I think I’m starting to understand why skiing is such a huge industry. We want to have fun.
While I’m still a long way off from being a backcountry skier and “earning my turns” (not to mention using human energy instead of fossil fuel energy to get up the mountain) I’ve come a long way during this winter in cultivating a better understanding of skiing as a sport, and that, at least is a first step.
Many thanks to all the friends, teachers, parents and (the one) sister for teaching me, supporting me, and helping me appreciate this sport.