No matter where you are in New York State, you're never more than 90 minutes away from a ski resort.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. The only thing I was 90 minutes away from was cornfields. Very flat cornfields.
Learning to ski has been an item on my bucket list since I moved to the Adirondacks in 2011. I have plenty of excuses why it took me 4 years of living in an area with easy access to two of the best ski resorts in the East – Whiteface and Gore – to actually get my butt to the mountain, but in January 2016, I finally did it.
I arrived at Whiteface an hour before my 10:00 am lesson with nervous excitement. After securing my lift ticket to my coat at the ticket window and being fitted for my rental boots and skis in the Rental Shop, I was on the snow with my instructor, Eric, who had grown up skiing at Whiteface.
We started the lesson in what I'm unofficially calling the world's smallest halfpipe near the Mixing Bowl, where Eric taught me the essentials of balance and proper form (skis parallel, knees bent, upper body forward so your weight is over the front of your boots, always looking ahead.) After 15 minutes or so, my confidence building as I went down the 4-foot slope over and over again, we were skating our way over to the Mixing Bowl chairlift.
At the Mixing Bowl, Eric showed me the basics of turning as we made our way down the gentle slope, staying by my side with encouraging instruction. Before I knew it, I was at the bottom. I did it. We went up again. On our third run, I didn't even notice Eric was waiting for me when I reached the bottom – I had done it all on my own!
I was feeling pretty good – at this point, it had been about 40 minutes on the snow, and I hadn't fallen once. Seriously, there are days at home where I don't make it through the first 40 minutes of my day without falling. It was time to make our way over to Bear.
I'm going to be honest. When we got to the top of Bear, I slightly regretted not calling my husband that morning to tell him I loved him. You know, just in case it was my last opportunity. But that anxiety was completely unwarranted. Eric coached me down, turn by turn. The snow guns were blasting, and the fluffy powder was a bit different than the packed granular surface at Mixing Bowl, but it was exhilarating. Eric stopped me half way down to look back up at my tracks. I couldn't believe that I had made them. It was freaking awesome. That's when I started to get cocky... and that's when I fell for the first time. During our second run down Bear, I was making wider turns, causing me to pick up speed. In a moment of slight panic my weight shifted to my heels, and I fell back. The only thing hurt was my pride, as Eric was right there to help me get up, and correct my weight distribution and balance.
But practice makes progress. Eric and I took several more runs and yes, I fell one more time, but my last three runs of my lesson were solid – making turns on both blades, and having the time of my life.
At the end of my first-ever lesson, which was just over two hours, I was a confident beginner skier. In fact, after a quick lunch break in the Base Lodge, I headed back out on the snow with a friend and her daughter for a few more runs – no instructor coaching me, just my new skills to get me through – and I did great!
Next time I go to the mountain I will probably do another lesson, just to remind myself of the fundamentals and improve the skills I have already learned. But thanks to Eric's expertise, enthusiasm and patience it's guaranteed there will be a next time because this experience not only checked skiing off my bucket list, but added it to my list of hobbies.
Editor's Note: Are you convinced to try skiing? Visit the Whiteface Mountain website for information on rentals and scheduling a lesson!