It’s Learn to Ski Month, and we’ve been reflecting on our own introductions to snow sports. Some of us started before we could walk and others learned as adults. Here are some of our memories of the learning process and how we first became hooked on skiing and snowboarding.
Nicole’s learning to ski (and snowboard) experience:
Report cards and getting bamboozled at Alta
I took my first ski lesson when I was in second grade, and I remember how proud I was to show my “report card” to my parents after a day on the bunny slope. At age 13 I decided to rebel against my family, all of whom were skiers. I took up snowboarding. Back then instructors didn’t quite know how to properly teach snowboarding—the sport has come a long way since the 90’s.
When I was 16, my parents took us to Alta and acted surprised to discover the resort doesn’t allow snowboarding. I rented skis and did a lot of wedge turns that day. I still think my parents bamboozled me into getting back on skis, if only for one day.
Getting hooked: big skiing at Mt. Bachelor and destination travel
When I was in elementary school, we went to Mt. Bachelor for our first family ski vacation where I was thrilled to stay in a hotel and ski a big mountain. For me, the excitement of traveling and experiencing a new destination is what hooked me on skiing.
Steve’s learning to snowboard experience:
A middle school crew, hitting jumps and eating pizza
I was in middle school when I first strapped my feet into a pair of snowboard bindings. Most of my friends had been skiing or snowboarding for many years by this point. Overhearing their lunchroom chatter about how much fun they had over the weekend convinced me to talk my mom into signing me up for a lesson.
The nerves in my legs and frost in my toes on that first chairlift ride up the mountain quickly turned to warmth and exhilaration once I was able to connect a turn or two down the mountain. I was able to see and feel the excitement my friends were talking about in school. After a few more lessons, I could join my friends on the mountain, and we shared many years of unforgettable memories riding lifts, hitting jumps, eating pizza and telling stories.
Getting hooked: bowling at Aspen Highlands
I always enjoyed snowboarding, but I never really explored that many mountains outside of my local ski hill. One day I invited my uncle to join me at Aspen Highlands since neither of us had ever been. We rode a few lifts and took a few runs when we saw other skiers making their way to Highland Bowl. We followed them to see what it was all about. After a little convincing from each other, we decided to give it a try.
Outside of sledding hills, this was the first time I could remember hiking to a run. I had boarded down many double blacks in my day, but this was easily the steepest run I had ever seen. My first few turns were tentative as I felt out the mountain, but as I connected turns I grew confidence and the rush I felt was like nothing before. I remember high-fiving my uncle as we both reached the end of the run. My goggles may have been completely fogged up, but it was clear this was a moment I would never forget.
Kari’s learning to ski experience:
College friends and the neon newbie
Having been born and raised in Colorado, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t strap on a pair of skis until I was 18 years old. It was 1988 and my freshman year of college. My boyfriend at the time (that I’m currently happily married to) grew up skiing in Aspen Snowmass every weekend from the day he was just two years old. I reluctantly agreed to a weekend ski trip to his beautiful hometown and used my Christmas money to buy the puffiest and brightest neon ski jacket with matching pants. Let me just say that the clothes do not make the skier!
I did not take a lesson because, with my group of college friends who were experienced skiers, it would have been just embarrassing. My friends were mostly patient while I slowly navigated the beginner runs, but by the end of the day, I actually managed one run without falling.
Over the next couple of years, I took some lessons and tallied several more ski days, and my apprehension was replaced with exhilaration! It’s never too late to learn something new and, in the case of skiing or snowboarding, it will offer a lifetime of fun, travel and friendship.
Getting hooked: ladies’ lessons and family ski days
It took a few years for me to really develop a love for skiing. When I began working in the ski business in my mid-twenties, I was very lucky to experience many ski resorts all over the western U.S. and Canada, honing my skills and graduating to some difficult blues and tame blacks. I took a women-only group class at Snowmass, and that was the turning point in my confidence as a skier. I knew I truly loved the sport once my own children had learned to ski at a young age, and we were able to navigate from top to bottom as a family. And to be able to live near our playground? Priceless!
Leah’s learning to ski experience
From the backpack to the ski leash to full freedom (at 3 years old!)
Technically my first memories me of skiing weren’t really my own. I was a little more than a year old when my dad, a volunteer ski patroller at a small resort in northern New Jersey, put me in the backpack. It was 1988 and skiing with your kid on your back wasn’t yet frowned upon, which was a good thing for me because I apparently loved it. A speed demon from the beginning, I squealed, “Dada faster,” according to my parents, and would push his head to the side so I could see better.
My own first memory of skiing came almost two years later. I was about three-and-a-half years old when I witnessed my friend Emily, who was younger than me by about nine months, ski without the help of a harness. Everyone was making such a big deal about how good of a skier Emily was, so on the next run I insisted, “Daddy, no harness.” He abided, and I did my best to stay upright, but I eventually crashed and tears ensued. I recall them being tears of shame more than anything else. A couple weeks later I nailed skiing on my own and never looked back. I spent the next 15 years skiing as much as I could at our little ski area in N.J.
Getting hooked: Vail tree trails and open doors to new experiences
I think I really fell in love with skiing around the age of five or six. We were on our first big ski trip out West. I was awed by the size of the mountains. We were in Vail, and I couldn’t get enough of the fun tree trails, like Sherwood Forest. There used to be a children’s ski-through fort on Golden Peak, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. There were just so many trails to explore and things to see and do. I remember thinking, “Wow, skiing is the best.”
In my own way, my young mind had grasped the fact that skiing opened up doors to new experiences. I think that stayed with me through the years and is part of the reason why I moved to Colorado after college and now work in the ski travel industry. I really enjoy knowing that I’m contributing to getting people to the mountains to make their own memories.
Alex’s re-learning to ski experience:
Mileage in group lessons and powder-day tears
I re-learned how to ski four years ago in Aspen Snowmass. After a few seasons of chasing my skier husband around on a snowboard, I strapped on two planks to better navigate cat tracks and moguls. I enrolled in a series of group lessons, and it forced me to stay on the mountain and get the mileage I needed to make it the next level.
I cried on my first powder day on skis. Having known the thrill and ease of snowboarding powder, the daunting task of keeping my skis together through fresh snow seemed impossible. After struggling through a few deep, tough days, I got the hang of it. (The trick is to go faster!) Now I’ve hung up my snowboard permanently and really enjoy all snow conditions on skis.
Getting hooked: conquering the Spiral Stairs in Telluride
I knew I was hooked when I skied Spiral Stairs at Telluride, successfully. This double-black run has massive moguls and is so steep the fall line creates an optical illusion, making it seem like you’re skiing right into downtown Telluride. My first few attempts weren’t so graceful, but when I finally made it down, linking turns and feeling that incomparable weightlessness between chalky bumps, I was left with a huge sense of achievement. Skiing presents a new challenge every time I get on the mountain, but it’s in those challenges that I continually replenish a feeling of strength and accomplishment.
Learning to ski or snowboard is a rewarding experience, and, as we’ve all found, it offers a sense of accomplishment and open doors to new experiences. There are countless programs for first-time skiers and accomplished intermediates, even lessons for those who are looking to test their mettle on extreme terrain. Our Mountain Vacation Specialists can help you find the perfect program for your ability. Speak with an expert at 800-610-8911 to get started today.