December 1, 2014

Ski Season is Here!

Well, my first Colorado ski weekend is officially in the books. (And by that, I mean I am literally keeping a log of how many days I ski this year and where I go. Come on, did you expect any less from the woman who developed a Thanksgiving Excel?) After taking care of some issues with faulty bindings on my skis, I spent Friday laying low at home, writing this Thanksgiving recap, and going to bed super early. I then got up at 5am on Saturday to drive out to the mountains and try to avoid the holiday traffic. Great success on this front! I made it from home to Summit County in less than 90 minutes, with no delays at the tunnels. In that time, the temperature went from 55 degrees at home (with birds literally singing) to 35 degrees at Breckenridge… warm for skiing, sure, but it’s crazy what a difference 60 miles and 4000 feet of elevation gain will do to the weather!

Once there, I met up with my friend Matt, who moved out to Colorado a week ago. We were able to get a few hours of skiing in together before he had to go home to get some work done. He felt really bad about leaving me to ski by myself, but I was actually happy to be on my own for a bit – it was a good chance to practice my technique and try to get better. I definitely had a bit of a learning curve to get my ski groove back from last season, and since it’s still very early-season conditions (i.e., packed powder and some ice), it wasn’t easy for me to feel like I was doing well. I was really tentative on some of the icier parts, and I hated when my skis would flail apart on a turn instead of staying nice and tight together. Come on, legs, show your strength!

I had brought my Koss Fit headphones with me, and put them on after lunch when I was on my own. While the Koss Fits don’t allow as much ambient noise as something like the Earhoox,  I found that if I kept the volume low, it provided nice background music while still letting me hear what was going on around me and chat with random people on the lifts. Random question: if you ski/snowboard, do you talk to the random people you end up with on the chairlift, or do you ignore them and just MYOB? I’m never sure which is more polite!

That background music turned out to be really perfect on the slopes. It gave me something to sing along to in my head… and okay, fine, sometimes out loud too if there weren’t any other skiers/boarders around. However, because it was a playlist of country music that I’ve heard a million times, it still allowed me to zone out and think about anything and everything as I headed down to the base of the mountain. My very own way of doing nothing while accomplishing something! I am really looking forward to using skiing as a relaxation technique this winter, alternating trips with friends and going by myself to enjoy the beauty of the snowy mountains and just think.

Breckenridge November Skiing
Solo and smiling!

Another benefit of the music was that focusing on it kept me skiing hard – like not wanting to take a break until the end of a song, at which point I wouldn’t really want a break and would just keep going. When I’m by myself, it’s so easy to overthink how hard I’m working and want to take lots of breaks to stop and stand and catch my breath! (Whereas if I’m skiing with others, I don’t want to hold anyone else up.) However, breaks aren’t really a great thing – and not just because they keep me from getting as many runs as possible into my day. First of all, it can be kind of dangerous to just stop in the middle of the trail (and I definitely never do it just over the crest of a hill where others can’t see me), but also, I find that when I stop, it can be hard to get going again. Not because of momentum issues, but more because I’ll look down the hill and either get scared or start overthinking it (“I will go around that bump and then turn left, then I will turn right again by that patch of ice”). If I’m continuously skiing, I get into a good rhythm where it becomes instinctual what to do, and my technique is much better that way.  I am definitely a better skier when I don’t think and just go!

Along the same lines, I was also pleased to remind myself that I am actually a better skier than I think I am. I tend to be a really cautious skier – the kind who always does a bunny slope as my first run to warm up. As a kid, my dad always yelled at me for this – he knew my skill level, and would get really frustrated when I’d insist on literally doing the pancake-flat J-bar slope upon our arrival at a mountain. Likewise, on this ski trip, I did a lot of green (beginner) slopes and nothing harder than a blue (intermediate), even though I know from past experience that I am capable of handling the single black (expert) trails. Skiing the blues felt plenty challenging to me at the time. Plus, I felt like even on those, my technique wasn’t great and totally in control – I sometimes felt uncomfortable when I couldn’t catch an edge or when my legs would wobble instead of staying together. But I figured I had all season to step up my game (and strengthen my legs) before trying something harder.

However, toward the end of the day, I inadvertently ended up on a mogul run (not marked as such on the trail map – do they still do that these days or am I clueless?). Since it was so early in the season, this wasn’t a nice powdery mogul field, but one that was icy and had patches of dirt and grass and rocks in some of the troughs – so you really had to be on your game to avoid those. After first psyching myself out by watching a few boarders fall, I had no choice but to go for it myself. However, I found that while my mind was scared, my body knew exactly what to do – and I actually made it down faster and more elegantly than any of the others I had just seen! I was really proud of myself, and realized that my ski technique is actually probably better than what I demonstrate when I’m not being put to the test.

Going forward, I want to make sure I’m pushing myself on the slopes, like my dad did for me when I was a kid. I find it way too easy to get complacent with the easy runs instead of trying to up my game, and I want to change that. I’m certainly not aiming to become a world-class skier or anything, but I get a great feeling of accomplishment after tackling a tough trail. I want to encourage myself to do that more and leave the mountains feeling great about my performance! (Plus, when I head back east for a ski trip in February, I want to show my Colorado ski skills off… it’s basically a crime to live here and still suck at skiing!)

So – lots of stuff learned about myself this weekend. Funny how casual hobbies can teach you about your personality quirks, huh? I’m really excited to get back out to the mountains soon… and by soon, I mean in just a few days. I’ll be back in Breck all next weekend for a girls’ trip, and especially if the snow base gets a little better this week, I’m hoping to venture out onto at least one black trail. Or maybe another mogul run? Time to get out of my comfort zone!

Plus, I’m going to make sure that even though I’m going with a group, I still get some time to ski by myself, zone out to music, and come up with random deep thoughts (that really aren’t very deep but certainly feel that way at the time). After lots of self-reflection following some comments on this post, I’m reevaluating whether I am really an introvert or an extrovert, or if I can even be categorized as one or the other. All I know right now is that I definitely need a healthy mix of alone time and social time to feel my best!


12 thoughts on “Ski Season is Here!”

  1. I first learned to ski when I was 4 and then we moved and I didn’t ski again until I was in my 20s. I forgot it all. I really want to be a good skiier, but I was always so dang scared that I’d do to runs and then cry and sit in the lodge. Hopefully sometime I’ll have both the money and the time to actually get out on the slopes and get better, because it’s such a great way to make winter more enjoyable 🙂

  2. That sounds like such a fun weekend! We finally got snow in Tahoe, and I’m so excited to go snowboarding this weekend. Good luck pushing yourself, I tend to go extremely slowly and I’m hoping to push myself to go faster this season and do a little more tree riding.

    1. Ha! I did it the first time by accident, and then realized that it wasn’t as scary as I thought. I only do widely spaced trees in good snow conditions, and I’ve had more than one melt down in the trees, though.

    2. I need to look for some realllllly widely spaced ones 🙂 I like narrow (non-tree) runs best anyway so maybe that’s a start?

    1. You know you can come visit Colorado anytime and hit the mountains 🙂 There are even some marathons here during ski season, if you want to fit it into your 12 in 12!

  3. What sort of pass do you have for the year? Or do you purchase individual tickets? We have a friend with a condo in Vail – if you’re ever interested in joining up for a night/weekend! I haven’t skiied in a very long time, so I’m pretty slow, but I have a lot of fun!.

    1. I have the Epic Local, so that means I get ten days at Vail and Beaver Creek! I’d love to go skiing with you sometime 🙂

  4. Sounds like you had a great ski weekend! Confession: I’ve lived in Colorado for 29 years and have never been skiing. I tried snowboarding once, when I was 15, and decided that if I was going to spend a day sliding down a mountain on my butt, I’d go sledding. 🙂 I’d like to try skiing or boarding again sometime…. maybe.

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