It was a perfect day to ski. Blue skies and plenty of sunshine can lure me outside any day in spite of my dislike for the cold. Donata, a ski student from Italy, and I were leisurely following our ski instructor Hank down the run heading to Runaway Lane. At one point, he stopped, and at first I didn’t realize why until I saw what lay before us—a magnificent view of the wide skies and mountains bathed in sun. I squinted, wanting to really take in this picture-perfect snapshot. It’s not every day I get to see this, I thought, so might as well enjoy it as much as I can. Below the distant mountains, I saw the quaint Sun Peaks village with a layer of snow on top of a neat row of houses. And then I looked down some more.
Holy crow. Is that where we’re going? I asked myself, mostly a rhetorical question. “It’s not any steeper than Sundance,” said Hank reassuringly, referring to the blue run where we did our warm-up. “I think you’re both ready for it. Just follow me,” he said, then slowly skied off. I looked at Donata. Her usually cheerful face mirrored my own anxiety. “Are you ok?” I asked. She nodded. “Ok, let’s do this,” I replied.
Slowly, slowly I skied down taking it one turn at a time. Surprisingly enough, I started feeling more comfortable after a couple of turns and a smile started to form on my face. We met Hank at the bottom of that first steep pitch. “I was scared,” said Donata. Stopping at the top is what gets you, she explained. When we skied a similar steeper portion on Sundance, Hank told us to keep going, and we did. There was no time to be scared or think about where you’re going. I guess we learned something today.
That’s just one thing that we learned. Today, we worked on turning the skis with the legs and getting used to keeping the upper body quiet while skiing. Hank also showed us how to drag our poles to make two lines on the snow, which personally helped me to stay in a more balance stance while skiing. Then we eased into parallel skiing and pole planting. Finally, we learned to adjust our turn shapes to the terrain while keeping the same speed. It was tricky, but it’s something that Hank said will come with more mileage and practice.
But seeing my progress in skiing is just a half of what makes my weekly lessons enjoyable. Learning about other individuals and making a connection with people who visit the resort is the other half. Today was my lucky day because I got both. Today, I learned about Hank’s dad and his adventures in ski jumping, about the old-school but ingenious way of preparing a ramp (“They carried the snow up a ladder and packed it in.”). It’s amazing how creative people can be when they’re determined to achieve something. The story reminded me of how Adam, Kenny, Don and others started Velocity—with shovels and plain old muscle power—all for the thrill of skiing. I also had a quick Italian lesson from Donata, who, by the way, also speaks German. I love languages. Nobody has ever taught me Italian, but today I learned three short Italian sentences. Donata was as pleased as I am.
So, to paraphrase that now-famous Mastercard commercial…
Sun and blue skies: free
Italian lesson: free
Conquering Runaway Lane with two awesome skiers: priceless!