By Dianne Newcomer
I can still remember the moment. I could see the rest of the beginning ski class as they stood triumphantly at the top of the hill waiting for the rest of us to get off the lift and join their ranks. It had not been an easy morning, but there was suddenly such a feeling of accomplishment as I scooted to the edge of the lift seat and slipped gracefully off. Relieved by my success thus far, I repeated the instructor’s directions in my mind: turn sharply, get out of the way of the next seat, which, at least in my mind, was coming at mach speed, and head down the mountain about 100 yards where the class would be waiting.
Even though our instructor smirked when he told us this mountain was affectionately dubbed Fanny Hill, it seemed like Pikes Peak to me. It was exhilarating being on top of this “hill”. Assuming the trusted snowplow position, I headed to join our class as they stood in perfect formation below me. The goal of this exercise was to "practice start and stop skills", said our cute ski instructor from Austria. “Ski down, one at a time, and fall into line by turning sideways to the mountain”.
The little incline we had practiced on earlier in the day suddenly seemed about the size of the Ouachita levy as I gained momentum on my first downhill run. My knees fought to find the snowplow position that would slow me down enough so I could join my ski class. The futility of my effort came to an abrupt halt as I skied directly into their midst, knocking them all down like bowling pins in one fell swoop.
Hans, the ski instructor joked that perhaps I had taken his instructions “to fall into line a bit too literally”.
No one else was amused as there is nothing more pathetic than a group of beginning skiers trying to untangle themselves from skis and poles while slipping and sliding on the side of a mountain. It was truly a scene straight from a class B movie, and I was responsible for it. I wanted to disappear.
In fact, back in our hotel room during the lunch break, I cried and informed Rob I was not returning to the afternoon session. Like any good parent does when a child becomes recalcitrant and hysterical in such a situation, Rob’s attempt at logic soon turned to bribery. I had a “guarantee” that, if after 30 minutes, I did not find the afternoon experience at least somewhat better, I could leave the class, make my way down the mountain--somehow-- and never would he ever mention the money I had blown on this ski vacation.
Maybe the idea that it was “O.K. to fail” was the support I needed to help me relax a bit, because slowly the mystery of skiing began to unravel itself. By the end of the day, our little ski class was snaking down the mountain, getting on and off lifts like pros, and feeling good about how far we had come. Pushing ourselves a little harder than we had ever thought possible became more and more fun as the daylight hours slipped away.
No longer were we experimenting with the big “S” moves and turns all the way down the mountain, we were trucking in “II’s” all the way to the bottom of the hill!
Gone was the extreme snowplow “V” position of the morning and its resulting knee pain. This was skiing! It did not matter that it was just little ole Fanny Hill; we were feeling a Rocky Mountain ‘high’ that no one could take away!
From that rocky start, a family vacation sport grew as our daughters also learned the joy of cruising down a mountain with lightning speed and agility. Martin Luther King’s birthday was a red letter day for us; we celebrated on the slopes of Colorado. After a couple of years, this 3 day winter break was not long enough. That was when we became full blown spring break skiiers--not quite as bad as Don and Martha Johnson, mind you, but we were addicted. Like them, we soon learned that skiing was only half the fun--the other half was sharing the good times with wonderful friends.
Now, as the ski brochures start to fill the shelves at our travel agency, the memories of past adventures on the slopes return. The thrills and the chills all have made a distinct impression over the years. I will never deny that it was not an expensive family vacation, but, let’s face it, there is nothing more expensive than a family vacation to Disneyworld. At least in the mountains, you learn what it’s like to fail, how to challenge your limits, and discover your own definition of fun.
Take a minute. Picture yourself on top of a majestic mountain. See the dramatic beauty that surrounds you. Hear the quiet peace. Imagine the smell of snowladen evergreens. Feel the cold. Find the joy of a place where there are no ringing phones, fax machines or e-mail. It will be just you and the great outdoors in a contest against yourself, and it does not matter who wins.
Old Man winter will soon be showing up and smothering the slopes with a ton of white. Why let yourself be stuck in Monroe, Louisiana when such a playground will be waiting just for you?
Make plans now while the availability is good. Every mountain is different. Clay Oakley swears the “powder skiing” in Utah is the best in the world. Jimmy Young and his gang of hot shot skiers believes Vail’s bowl skiing is unbeatable. An avid college skier, Kevin Pesnell would argue that Steamboat Mountain has it all.
Within our travel agency, we all have our favorites, too. Page King likes Lake Tahoe because it reminds her of European skiing. Mary Lou Kirby thinks Crested Butte has the perfect mountain mix with its excellent runs. Linda Bashner sees Aspen/Snowmass as being the best of the best. Karen Brothers chooses Vail for its charm. Rob defends Park City with its excellent long wide blue runs, and I vote for Breckenridge because it was there that I fell in love with the sport.
So how do your find the mountain that's right for you? Let your travel agent show you the way. They are the professionals who know because they have been there. All you will have to do is choose to stop dreaming and live the adventure!