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Never been skiing? No problem. Learning is a breeze nowadays

February 2, 2012
MARGARET MORAN , Lake Placid News

MARGARET MORAN

News Staff Writer

WILMINGTON - Going down the center of the snow-covered slope at the Whiteface Mountain ski Area, I begin to pick up speed, slicing through the air, turning my skis right than left to stay on course. Before I know it, I'm going too fast and hit the ground.

Article Photos

First-time skier Christine Rhodes, of Tupper Lake, learns how to ski with the help of Tony Lawrence, a Level I PSIA ski instructor, on Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area.

Photo/Margaret Moran/Lake Placid News

The fall doesn't surprise nor rattle me. After getting back up on my skis with some difficulty, I'm ready to try again. This time hoping to remain upright all the way to the base of the mountain.

It's Sunday, Jan. 22, and I'm at Whiteface learning how to ski for the first time as part of the the fourth annual Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and I'm not alone. Fellow first-time skier Christine Rhodes, of Tupper Lake, is with me on the slopes that day, a day that features clear skies and the sun shinning with temperatures in the 20s.

"I was nervous (at first)," Christine said after skiing. "A little bit excited, but kind of iffy, not sure what to expect. But now I'm really excited. It was fun."

Fact Box

Prices

To have your own Whiteface experience a day pass on a non-holiday costs $79 for adults, $64 for teens and seniors, and $51 for juniors. To rent gear for a day, which includes skis or a snowboard, ski poles and a helmet, it costs $45 for adults and teens and $33 for juniors and seniors. A one-hour private lesson for an individual is $105 with a another person costing an additional $65. A two-hour lesson for an individual costs $175 with a another person costing an additional $95. Privates lessons can be scheduled for a group up to five people. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the reservation office at 518-946-2223 or online at www.whiteface.com.

Class lessons, which are two hours long, are also offered daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. One two-hour lesson is $43, two two-hour lessons cost $78, and three two-hour lessons cost $113.

Helping to make our experience fun and informative was Tony Lawrence, a Level I PSIA ski instructor at Whiteface. Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month encourages both children and adults to learn how to ski and/or snowboard by taking lessons with a professional instructor.

But before Lawrence could teach us the ropes of skiing, we first had don on a pair of skis and other equipment.

Rental shop

At the rental shop, we first fill out forms that ask for a person's age, me: 23, experience level: none to speak of, height: 5 feet 4 inches even though I sometimes tell people that I'm taller, and weight: good question. How much do I weigh? I hadn't weighed myself in years, so I wasn't exactly sure.

Christine spots a scale in the corner, so she weighs herself first and then I follow. I get on, and after it calculates for a minute or two, the number 150 appears. I stare at it dumbfounded. I was expecting around 125 or 130, not 150. But then I realize that I'm wearing a lot of layers and heavy boots on top of carrying a camera, batteries, paper, pens and pencils, adding weight to my person.

I subtract a few pounds from calculated weight of 150 due to the extra gear I'm wearing, and pencil in a weight of 135 onto the form. I wasn't sure then or even now if that was the right thing to do, but I decide to go with putting down a number that is closer to my actual weight. With my filled out form in hand, I go up to one of the consoles to get a pair of boots - size 8 and a half - from one of the ski technicians.

Trying to figure out how to undo the ski boots' bindings, so I can slip my feet into them, and failing to do so, only reinforces how green I am to skiing. Seeing that Christine and I are having trouble, two ski technicians came over to help us. With their help, I'm able to get the boots on, which fit snugly.

With my boots on, I get a pair of skis from the same ski technician that helped me earlier. I tell him that I'm a beginner, as if he couldn't tell already, and he hands me a pair of Salomon skis. I'm surprised that my pair are so short in length and the fact that I won't be needing poles with them. A helmet finishes the ensemble.

With our skis in our arms, we walk outside and look for a orange pole with a bell on it where we can find our ski instructor, and that's where we meet Lawrence.

Ski lesson

One of the first things he shows us is how to clip our ski boots into the ski's bindings, and I instantly encounter a little problem. While I get the boot aligned with the bindings, I have trouble snapping into place.

"Put all your weight into it," Lawrence tells me.

I try, but nothing happens. I even try lifting my heel up and down, hoping the weight plus the momentum will get the boot to click into place without success. It takes a few more tries with help from Lawrence for the boot to snap into place.

At first we do few small exercises at the base of the a begiinners trail called Mixing Bowl like going in a circular path with one ski on, doing a star turn, which involves making a 180 degree turn by taking an even amount of steps, stopping, and a move Lawrence called "the garland."

Lawrence demonstrates the garland by skiing down a slight decline, moving his skis back and forth leaving a squiggly track in the snow. Afterwards, he tells Christine to follow in his tracks, and then I go.

As I mimic his path, shifting my weight on the skis, I get the sensation that I'm doing the move correctly. When I stop near Lawrence I look at him for confirmation, and he tells me I did a good job. Success!

From that moment on I feel more confident in my ability, which is only reinforced by Lawrence not being as on hands with me as he is with Christine, sometimes skiing with her.

"He really helped, especially when I was having a little bit of trouble," Christine said. "He went down with me to make sure I knew what I was doing, like when he let me hold onto his poles so I knew what hand to hold up and how to posture myself to turn without actually falling."

We practice going down the length of Mixing Bowl using the techniques Lawrence taught us. With my skis pointing down toward the left side of the mountain and my left hand stretched out in front of me, I keep my feet flat and start to slide on top of the snow. As I get closer to the edge of the trail, I lower my left arm and raise my right in a semi-circle motion, feeling my hips move in turn, taking me to the right side of the mountain.

All the way down I do this, feeling the whoosh of air going past my face and the excitement and delight of going fast.

"That was fun," I exclaimed once I reach the bottom.

Soon afterwards, we hop onto the Bear lift to reach Wolf run. Lawrence accompanies Christine down a bit and then they both stop so I can follow behind.

I repeat what I did on Mixing Bowl, but soon I myself picking up a lot of speed since it's steeper, and with each turn I make I end up going faster, which is the opposite of what I want. Not being able to control the speed, I find myself skidding into the snow. My first fall of the day.

To get up I roll onto my belly, as Lawrence instructs me to do, and spread my legs apart with the tips of my skis facing out in opposite directions. Then using my hands I push my upper body off the ground and steadily move them in closer to me, forming a pose similar to downward dog. I have some trouble with it, mentally kicking myself for not taking a Yoga class in college because it would prove to be useful in this case. After awhile and some struggling, I'm back on my feet once more.

Lawrence tells me that I was turning too soon causing me to go faster, which made me panic and fall. Instead he says I need to make sure I go to the end of each side of the run before turning.

I try again and fall again.

He and Christine go down the slope together a bit further, and as I watch them, I wonder how they are able to maintain a consistent speed. I'm missing something.

Lawrence tells me that after I come out of a turn and as I am gliding to the other side of the run, I need to look back up towards the mountain.

I do as he says, and it works! I can feel myself slowing down a bit before entering each turn, so as not to speed up to a pace I can't handle. But as this is happening, I see a person coming down the run and panic a bit because I don't want us to crash into each other, so I end up turning too soon and only to pick up more speed than I'd care for, and fall down again.

I think I fell one more time before reaching the bottom of Wolf, and it's there at the base, that Lawrence told us that we did well for our first time skiing and left us to practice on our own.

Christine and I agreed to practice on Mixing Bowl by doing another run or two.

"The couple times that I got to go down on my own after the lesson was over was the best part," she said. "I felt a little more comfortable."

So did I. I felt I had a better ability to control my speed on the mountain, in part due to the errors I made on Wolf and learning from them.

We both had smiles on our faces by the end of our first skiing experience.

"Overall, it was good," Christine said. "It was a little hard to get used to and I had a bit of trouble, like it took me a little while to get the hang of it, but when I did, it was really fun. I would definitely do it again."

That makes two of us.

Prices

To have your own Whiteface experience a day pass on a non-holiday costs $79 for adults, $64 for teens and seniors, and $51 for juniors. To rent gear for a day, which includes skis or a snowboard, ski poles and a helmet, it costs $45 for adults and teens and $33 for juniors and seniors.

A one-hour private lesson for an individual is $105 with a another person costing an additional $65. A two-hour lesson for an individual costs $175 with a another person costing an additional $95. Privates lessons can be scheduled for a group up to five people.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the reservation office at 518-946-2223 or online at www.whiteface.com.

Class lessons, which are two hours long, are also offered daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. One two-hour lesson is $43, two two-hour lessons cost $78, and three two-hour lessons cost $113.

Contact Margaret Moran at 518-523-4401 or at mmoran@lakeplacidnews.com

 
 

 

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