Saturday, February 20, 2010

Memory Lane - Be Cool, Go to Ski School! - 9,182 Vertical Feet

One of my favorite memories from going on ski vacations as a child was attending ski school. I LOVED ski school.

Let's take a trip down Memory Lane...

I remember being a three year old "snow puppy" and riding the chair lift in Aspen Highlands to the bunny slope. At the end of the lift was a Big Bird from Sesame Street cutout reminding the snow puppies to keep their tips up and to get off the lift safely. I also remember falling asleep on the same chairlift and awakening when my little legs hit the wand that tells you you've gone too far. I also remember being lifted out of the chair by a lift operator after waking up. Honestly, these are some of the first memories I have from my life.

I remember having an instructor named Carol Carroll (seriously, her married name, not sure if I'm spelling it right) who loved sucking on Atomic Fireball candy in the gondola. She also taught me a riddle that I still stump people with today. "Whoever makes it, sells it. Whoever buys it, doesn't use it for himself. Whoever uses it, doesn't know he's using it. What is it?"

I loved ski school so much that I attended ski school at every mountain we visited (Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, Vail, and Steamboat) until I was 14. Unfortunately, we all got too busy to go on family ski vacations after that.

Last year when Mom, Shane (my brother), and I went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we took a half day private lesson with Sloane. Mom, being the ultimate mom, had worked out with Sloane, little to Shane's and my knowledge, that Mom would ditch the class at the end and Sloane would take my brother and me to the Hobacks. The Hobacks are an area of Jackson that are completely filled with moguls, trees, double fall lines, and general awesomeness. Shane and I had been working toward skiing the Hobacks our entire time in Jackson. We had such a blast with Sloane. I don't ever remember skiing such difficult terrain for so long in my life. It was hard, but it was so worth it. My brother and I tore it up, and we'll both remember it forever.

This video is a snippet of my skiing the ginormous moguls in the Hobacks. The "I told you so" at the end was directed towards certain individuals who did not believe I could ski bumps.

Today, Mom and I went to ski school! We had originally thought of attending the morning power clinic, but when we learned that it started at 8:45am, we quickly ruled that out. Mom and I are usually putzing around in our long underwear eating breakfast at that time. There is no way we would ever make it to a lesson that early in the morning. We opted to participate in the skiers workshop instead. Skiers workshop is for adult skiers who are a level five or above. At the meeting area, three instructors asked us questions about our ability and what we wanted from the lesson. Then, the 13 people who showed up skied down a short run and the instructors split us up into three groups. The "still learning" skiers, the "I know everything but I want to perfect it" skiers, and the "I don't want to learn anything I just want to tear it up" skiers. Mom and I were in the group who wanted to perfect, of course.

The reason I wanted to take a lesson was so that I could improve my technique on steeper groomers and to learn how to better ski some bumps! Our instructor, Clark, showed me exactly how to do both of those things. Score. The main focus on groomers is "little toe to the snow". Let me explain, or try to (I'm not as good explaining ski technique as Clark is). When you ski, your skis are parallel to each other (or at least they should be). When you go into your turn, your skis stay parallel. You achieve the turn by shifting your weight. The way to shift your weight is by guiding your downhill little toe down the mountain ("little toe to the snow"). When you do this, the other foot will follow, and you will have a beautiful, round, speed controlled turn. It worked for me at least! I'm already a convert.

For the bumps, Clark was also able to explain how to ski them without losing control and getting jostled around. First, DO NOT EDGE! This was so counteractive to the way I think about skiing that it blew my mind. Don't edge? Seriously? OK, Clark, if you say so. Instead of edging, "slither" down the run, meaning don't edge and keep your skis flat. By not edging you will have more control over the speed and direction of your skis. To begin your "slither", pick a bump, ski to the top of it, pivot your skis, and then "little toe to the snow" and let your skis "slither" to the next bump. Get on top of the bump and repeat. Think about the bumps one at a time, and not about the entire run; then you won't get overwhelmed by all the bumps looming ahead of you. If you encounter a bump you don't like, slide down it and move on the next one. Don't put up with bumps you don't like, because you don't have to. It's not like you're competing for a gold medal in the Olympics!

n.b. When Clark first began the class he spoke about how to ski safely. And guess how he ended the class? How to ski safely. My kind of guy. However, that didn't prevent an out of control arrogrant snowboarder with no manners or mountain courtesy from crashing into and knocking my mom down at the end of the day. Le sigh. Unfortunately, you can't control others on the mountain, only yourself.

Even though we only skied 9,182 vertical feet, I feel muscle soreness that I haven't felt before in 11 days of skiing, probably from Clark's techinical tinkering. Now equipped with my new techniques for groomers and bumps, I feel confident that I can really tear up the mountain with Shane when he arrives in three days. I can't wait! Tomorrow Mom and I are going to Deer Valley to practive our newly aquired ski knowledge. Until then...


  1. I am jealous of your month long ski trip! I have not been able to go a single time this season.

    I loved ski school when I was young also... mine was at Burke, in Vermont, and was called "Ski Wee!" haha.

  2. Nice video! Next, I wanna see one of you going down a hill!

  3. That is a steep steep hill I am going down in this video. If you want to see a video of me going down a cruister with no bumps refer back to this entry...

  4. Yeahhh...I don't do moguls. At all. I tried a couple times, but that was way back when I first started skiing. Surely a bad idea. Regardless, knees aren't the greatest knees in the world, so just regular skiing hurts a lot of the time. I can't imagine moguls being very good for my knees, haha.

  5. Tara - During my lesson with Clark, I learned how to ski the moguls with less effort and stress on the knees. I highly suggest joining a group adult 1/2 day lesson the next time you're out skiing. You can really learn a lot of great techniques.

    Trina - We'll have to schedule a girls winter trip for next season!

  6. Hi Tamara!
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about the Aspen Highlands to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)