Diary of a first-time skier
Special to the Sun
This fall has been my first time in Aspen and only my second visit to Colorado. The one thing I wanted to do was learn how to ski and have an experience I would never forget. So I borrowed some layers from a friend, rented some skis and signed up for a two-day private lesson at Snowmass on opening day.
Day 1: “Don’t be so serious”
I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. on Snowmass ski area’s opening day, set out my clothes the night before and went to sleep early. I was ready to no longer tell people here that I have never skied before and receive that blank and confused stare in return. To say I was a little excited and nervous was an understatement. After running a bit late and getting lost, I finally found my way to the ticket office at Base Village to meet my instructor, Gregg Wardle, who has been teaching for 26 years.
Wardle didn’t know it yet, but he was in store for quite the day with me. I was set up with my rental gear, and we headed up the gondola, and then it was time to put one ski in front of the other. But first I had to ride the carpet, which looked a bit daunting. Once I made it up the carpet, learned french fries and pizza and took Wardle’s advice, the rest was easy.
“It’s just like a big sandbox,” Wardle said. “Just have fun. If you go out with that mentality, it’s going to be easy.”
And it was. I never stopped smiling even when I almost lost my balance or thought I was going to run into one of the many toddlers. Wardle told me not to be so serious, and I had the best time on the mountain.
Day 2: “Let’s go ski”
Today I was ready to go. I knew exactly what I was doing and felt comfortable. We headed up the Elk Camp Gondola and only did two quick runs before advancing to Fanny Hill and progressing to Dawdler. After not falling once during my first lesson, I was bound to fall during my second. Dawdler seemed to be going OK after I got over how steep it was, but I took a couple of tumbles getting cozy with the snow. If you don’t fall, you’re not skiing, Wardle said.
I got right back up, took a deep breath and followed Wardle down the hill. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have run into a tree and would have chickened out going back up. I thought I was relieved after Dawdler, but then we went down Scooper. I made it down the first section and came to the flatter terrain and then saw the next slope. This is where I completely froze. I wanted to take the chairlift back down, but again I followed exactly what Wardle did and survived.
Wardle taught me the basics, and once I got those down it was time to pick new terrain for a challenge. For the final run of the day we took the lift to the top of the mountain to Max Park. I didn’t think a run could get steeper, but it did. I took another tumble this time, losing a ski, but I made it down the mountain in one piece, heart racing. It was another successful day of skiing with a great instructor.
Day 3: “Just go for it”
On Sunday, it was time to take my training wheels off and brave the mountain by myself. To warm up, I went back to Elk Camp even though I could have gone on the more intermediate slopes. I ended up staying there for more than an hour. I was having too much fun to leave. I just kept going back up the lift and down. I practiced what Wardle taught me and felt like a pro. I then ended my day with one run down Fanny Hill, which I completed perfectly. I smiled to myself, knowing my instructor would have been proud. After two full-day lessons and taking the leap and going out by myself, I can finally say that I know how to ski.
Abby Margulis is an editorial intern working at The Aspen Times. She is a junior at DePauw University in Indiana.
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Like the ceremonial rite of passage from ancient civilizations and worldwide throughout various cultures, solitary time spent in nature — hungry and alone — ignites a deep connection from within to the vast outer world.