Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How I learned to stop worrying and like skiing

I went skiing last weekend. Those of you know know me well realize that this is the equivalent of watching a friend who has been a vegetarian for over a decade chomp down into a t-bone steak. You see, I do not participate in a category of activities I refer to as Non-Shoe Sports. Non-Shoe Sports require putting something on your feet or standing on something that is not a shoe. To wit: skiing, rollerskating, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, ice skating, and the like. Poor balance, bendy ankles, fear of injury, and bad memories of being the child who had to get towed around by the hand at roller rink birthday parties all contribute to two imminent truths: 1. I am terrible at non-shoe sports and 2. I hate them.

I attempted skiing a few times from the ages of 18 - 22 or so, and the big problem was that I didn't know how to turn, so I'd just end up fucking flying down the slope, too fast to brake, so the only option was to tip over and tumble to a stop. Not fun. The other problem was that I always went with friends who were really good skiers, so I'd either end up by myself and miserable, or with someone else and feeling really bad they they were stuck on the bunny slope with me and my disasterness rather than off enjoying themselves on the real slopes. Plus, if I wanted to spend a lot of money on something that I didn't like, I might as well just go to the dentist. I soon learned that I enjoyed ski weekends much more when they didn't involve skiing, and happily opted to sit by the fire and read, drink cocktails in the hottub, or go snowmobiling or hiking while others did the whole ski/snowboard thing.

However, when one of my soccer teammates organized a trip to the snow (That's what they call it here- "going to the snow"- which never ceases to amuse me because I come from a place where the snow comes to you), for some reason, I decided to give skiing a try for the first time in over ten years. Maybe it was the novelty of skiing in Australia in July that drew me in or the assumption that there would be other novices on the trip, an assumption that proved to be entirely incorrect. We drove up to Mt. Hotham Friday night, spent the evening with wine and boardgames by the fire, and Saturday morning rented our gear and headed to the slopes. One of my friends is a former ski instructor and offered to give a mini-lesson, and she soon realized that I was not exaggerating in the slightest when I said I may possibly be the worst skier in the world. The plan was to learn how to turn, thinking that might be the key skill required to avoid the whole crash landing problem, and the first hour was pretty rough. It took me almost an hour to get down the easiest slope on the mountain because I fell on my ass about every 15 feet. When we finally reached the bottom, I dismissed my very patient instructor and practiced on my own for a little while. I had signed up for an afternoon lesson so I decided to stick around and give it a shot. And guess what? It was great! Being around other people who also sucked made it so much more fun! And I even started to get the hang of it...I got off the lift without falling (okay, 50% of the time) and I figured out the turning thing, to the point where I could make it the whole way down the mountain without falling. Granted, I was doing the snowplow most of the way, but I felt like I could actually control where I was going, and I started go a little faster and practicing keeping my skis parallel instead of in a V, and then hey, I realized that I was enjoying it. Then I got cold and decided to quit while I was ahead. The rest of the weekend involved lots of relaxing by the fire, but overall I had a great time. I'm already looking forward to my next trip to the snow, but I definitely plan to stick with the lessons for a while.


Dean said...

I'm sure you've heard this from someone before, but it's all about confidence (like all sports I guess), and that confidence comes when you know how to turn and, more importantly, how to stop when you need to.

Once you've got that level of confidence up, and you're not so petrified of crashing into another skier/tree/rock/steel pylon/etc, you can start to move your weight around on the skis, use the edges, lean forward rather than back (leaning back is the most effective way to achieve a complete lack of control).

Once you can do that little hop and spin the skis around 90 degrees and dig them into the snow so that you can almost stop on a dime, it makes a huge difference.

If you think about it, the only people you see with their skis flat on the snow, hurling full pelt down a slope in a straight line are VERY advanced skiers lining up for a big jump, or just getting a speed-kick, or ... complete beginners. Everyone else zig-zags. That is to keep everything under control. Getting those edges in and performing a perfect corner can be quite a rush.

The same goes for snowboarding.

(caveat: I am in no way a good skier or snowboarder. I am at best "low-intermediate". Also, I haven't done it for years)

Kevin said...

I enjoyed this post, Eileen. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your skiing and are willing to give it another go. Maybe Tejal and I will join you one of these days!

Eri said...

Wahoo, you did it! People have "gone to the snow" in SoCal for years, I love it.

P.S. isn't there a character limit on comments? ;).

ek said...

I seriously never thought the ski jacket I gave you would ever go skiing again. Yay! Btw, Mt. Hotham is a funny name. And agreed on the character limits!