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First time on skis: long

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Do you guys allow beginners here?
I though I would relate my experiences as a first-time skier this year and maybe even get a few pointers. For my 50th birthday, I got a set of beginner lessons for me and my 6-year old daughter, so we could go up to the slopes together (separate lessons, of course). Great dad-daughter time, by the way. Very cool to watch a 6-year old girl pick up that level of physical confidence. Her only scare was seeing a kid her age fall from a chair (no protective bars where we ski) about 30 ft down and have to be carried away 60 miles in an ambulance to the big trauma hospital.
I rented entry-level skis and boots and went at it. Never been on downhill skis before; never seen a lift before. Had a great instructor, and only 4 people in the group. 8 2-hr lessons, each Sunday morning, with the afternoons just to ski while my kid took the second half of her lesson.
By the second day, we tackled a beginners slope. This looked like a cliff. My teacher advised that turning up the slope was a better way to slow down than counting on increased wind resistance achieved by opening my mouth and screaming. Fell every time I got off the lift. Felt stupid.
Third day: more of same, felt better. Went to an easy blue run, still fell getting off lift. Started dreading the lifts. But, went a bit faster. Really learned to hate traffic, which I define as any skier within a mile of me.
From then on: somehow stopped falling getting off lifts. About the fifth lesson, something clicked when the instructor told me to drag my downhill pole on the snow while turning. This kept my weight over my downhill ski and made me stop leaning into the slope, a natural reaction of terror. Second epiphany was learning to keep by shoulders facing down the hill and just let the legs and skis turn. I kept feeling as if I was throwing my upper body around to accomplish this, but everyone watching said I wasn’t. About the sixth day, for the first time I actually was smiling going down the slopes and looking forward to doing it again. Started singing (quietly) just to have more fun and get into a rhythm. Made me stop thinking and just ski. The last two days, something else clicked, but I don’t know what. I had gotten pretty comfortable turning, although I was (and still am) unweighting, pivoting, and skidding. But at some point I set my outside ski on edge after the first pivot and skid move, stopped skidding, and started what I now realize was carving the rest of the turn. It felt as if someone but a turbo booster under my ski, as if the snow were providing power to the ski, right up through my foot. Can’t believe it was just gravity. Felt amazingly stable. I’m sure I was doing at least 60mph (translate: 5) My instructor’s jaw dropped open, and he said, “Nice turn.”. Of course he yelled this at me as I was turning, I looked back up the hill at him, and spread all my equipment over about 50 feet as I fell. Ended the series with a day going down the easiest of the black diamond runs, and it was more fun than life-threatening.
Went back to the beginners lift for old times sake. Couldn’t find the hill I was so scared of. Seemed totally flat. Didn’t know they could remodel a mountain that fast. The little “report card” at the end of the lesson said I was “level 5-6”. I don’t know what that means, and I’m afraid if I start to care what it means, I’ll stop having so much fun.
Now that the lessons are over, I’ve been up about 5 more times, trying to get used to more speed and less skidding. Speed still scares me. Two things I find particularly hard are spring slush (can’t my skis go the same speed for more than one second at a time?), and days when it’s snowing, or cloudy in such a way that sky and snow look the same Otherwise, I’m hooked. I found a pair of what I hope a good (and I hope level-appropriate) skis on sale and bought them. K2 Mod 7/8, 182cm I think (they’re just my height – 6 ft) for less than $300, but have to save a bit of money for boots and bindings. I’m interested to see what’s different about shaped skis when I get on them. I’m concerned that I’ll lose my comfortable skidding ability, but maybe that's good.
So, a few concluding notes for you experts from the perspective of a beginner.
Other skiers are much nicer than I had imagined, and really quite helpful to beginners as long as you don't do really stupid things intentionally. My only real problem was getting knocked over getting off a lift by a drunk snowboarder that I rode up with. He couldn’t get his board pointing ahead, so he jumped off the chair late, onto my ski tips. Then fell down in front of me and just lay there laughing. Ski patrol removed him from the slopes. Lesson: don’t share a chair with anyone who’s drunk. Not rocket science.
Instructors: Mine was fabulous, and it’s nice when they’re older than you are. Found just the right way to help, even though that right way was different for each of us. Couldn’t have been better, and seemed to take genuine pleasure in my progress. There were days when I thought he could have been replaced by a tape loop that just said, “Where are your hands, Bill?”, but if I hadn’t kept repeating the same mistake, I suppose he could have said something different.
What I’m trying to learn now: stop skidding and start carving at the start of the turn. My 50-year old legs won’t survive too much more skidding. My problems are entry level skis (now solved for next season), and fear of speed. Sure, everyone says use the line of the turn to control speed, etc., etc., but with current laws of geometry the skis have got to point straight down that hill at some point in the turn, and that means speed to me. But, I’m getting used to it. I am concerned about long-radius sweeping turns putting me in the way of other, better skiers behind, but I guess that’s life. I still find it hard to find a nice point of balance, with knees flexed and back straight but without the butt back.
What attracted me to this forum was Bob Barnes nice post about how to keep learning while still having fun. Somehow I had been “skiing the easy slopes hard” to learn, but I thought that was just because I was a chickens**t. Nice advice.
post #2 of 21
Welcome. Sounds like you got a great start. Keep it with your daughter, you will have some great times.
post #3 of 21
welcome Scientist Bill
Congrats on all the breakthroughs. What a wonderful way to spend time with your daughter
I'm glad you had a good learning experience and are having fun at it too. Hat's off to your instructor that made your experience even better. I'm sure it will be many more years of fun learning and skiing.
Sounds like a good choice of skis. I would recommend you get boots before the next season and if you can afford it have them custom fitted with orthotics. (search the site on "custom footbeds") Since this will make more of a difference to your skiing and comfort than almost anything else you invest in don't skimp too much and don't wait too long.
Again welcome to the wonderful world of Skiing.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by dchan (edited April 24, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 21

GREAT account of your first ski experiences. It's great to have you here. You and your daughter will enjoy lots of quality time together on the snow. If someone were to ask me how they should go about learning to ski, I would have described exactly what you did. But don't think this should be an end to your lessons. Keep up with them. Maybe not quite as frequently, though. You'll find that you can keep getting better fairly quickly, and skiing will become easier on the body. You're right about the level thing. You're probably better off not knowing. But suffice to say, you've done damn well to get to where you are in such a short time. And major kudos for having the kahunas to go out there and learn (and most importantly, enjoy) skiing for your 50th. From now on, you'll wonder why you've been hating winters all your life.

As far as the skis go, you can skid a shaped ski as much as you want, so don't be afraid of not being able to skid. However, it's much easier to get them to carve, and they will feel much more stable. So you'll feel like you have more control. You just need to keep 'em pointed in the direction you want to go, and they'll carve beautifully. I'm actually kind of surprised that the skis you rented to learn on were not more modern "shaped" skis. Having them probably would have made your learning curve even quicker.

Welcome to EpicSki and to the industry. Be prepared to find new ways to part with your hard-earned dollar. One way is to make sure you get good custom fit "orthotics" (foot beds) for your boots (these will run you about $100-$150 on top of the cost of the boots). Find a goot boot fitter. Boots will be the most importiant piece of the package, and make the biggest difference in your enjoyment level, because if they fit right, they won't hurt, but will be tight enough that your foot is held tightly in place. Boots can be adjusted, manipulated and "worked on" to make them fit your foot well. But start with the best fitting boot you can find, then have it worked on to get it fitting exactly right. After you ski on it a couple of times, don't be afraid to take it back to your boot fitter to have any additional adjustments made. If you need to, ask around (here, in the gear forum) for recommendations for a good boot fitter. There are enough folks here that someone will be able to help you out.

post #5 of 21
For spring (actually all conditions) skiing, try this. It really works well and eliminates the "jerkiness" of spring slush. http://www.zardoznotwax.com/html/welcome.html . Since you are a scientist, you will probably be interested anyways.
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[This message has been edited by milesb (edited April 24, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 21
Scientist Bill..... who works as a grocery clerk???????

OK.....??? Is this while you are putting your way through..... science school.. ?

Sorry, since I sleuth for a living, all things are examined.
post #7 of 21
Milesb is the grocery clerk, Scientist Bill is a scientist.

Yuki, you just failed your private investigators exam!

By the way, Scientist Bill, welcome to the world of addicted skiers! It's a fun place to be.

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[This message has been edited by SkiMinker (edited April 24, 2001).]</FONT>
post #8 of 21
Thank you for clearing that up, Ski Minker. It is a matter of professional pride.
post #9 of 21
I'm there for you Miles Any time.
post #10 of 21
Scientist Bill - Welcome. We were all beginners at one point or another. Hopefully you see now that you are welcome, and we look forward to more stories of your and your daughter's progress.

About the boots, everyone's right. Mortgage whatever you have to, to get boots that fit and feel great. Take care of them, and they'll last longer than your skiis. They're what's in contact with your body, so spent the time to get the best fit you can.
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the nice welcome. I guess boots are the next step. Any hints on judging a good fit? Just comfort, or are there things I should do in the shop to test them in diferent ways.

another thing that puzzles me: With all the attention to boots, and their expense, I wonder about everyone walking from their cars to the lifts across gritty parking lots, etc. in their boots. Doesn't that grind down the heels and negate alot of that fine-tuning in terms of fit? I agree it's a pain to find a locker for regular shoes, but seems worth it to protect those expensive, critical boots.

Thanks again. I've never been so sorry to see winter end. Out here in the Pacific NW, it was an odd winter. Most of the snow fell in the last week that all the ski areas were open. Several areas (Crystal for example) closed not because of lack of snow, but because people thought there was no snow. White Pass is open this weekend, and of course Whistler is always there, as is Bachelor through about May. It worries me that I'm tempted...

PS, Bob: I said I was 50. I never said I was an adult...<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Scientist Bill (edited April 25, 2001).]</FONT>
post #12 of 21

For a couple of bucks, you can buy these things called "Cat Tracks" that you put on the soles of your boots for when you are walking around on hard surfaces. They pop right on and off, and will fit in your pocket. It's a good alternative if you don't want to get a locker, and need to walk a distance to the base area. Walking around on hard surfaces won't affect the fit, but it will affect the boot/binding interface. Also, be sure not to drag your feet when you walk, and just buckle the buckle on the top of your foot when you are walking. This will keep the boot on your foot, but keep it from hurting or being quite as hard to walk in.
post #13 of 21
I use CatTracks everywhere unless I am at a ski in ski out location.. They help with traction on snow as well. Unless you are a rep that gets new boots every other year, its a good investment.
As far as fit, more important to find a good bootfitter first and then talk to him/her about your needs. Then work with the fitter. Comfort is very important or you won't like the boots but proper skill level and performance is also very important. Brand is probably the least important. If you find the right fit in your price range and performance range the brand is secondary. If you had a chance to do it again, boots first then skis but water under the bridge. Sounds like you got a good deal on the skis. so that's the good news.
post #14 of 21
How come every time I try to be funny I make a fool of myself?

And I swear I wasn't drinking (or anything else milesb).

And where have you been getting those funny little faces? <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by yuki (edited April 25, 2001).]</FONT>
post #15 of 21
check out the thread on smileys
Then Check out http://www.stopstart.fsnet.co.uk
<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by dchan (edited April 25, 2001).]</FONT>
post #16 of 21
And I thought you were a sleuth??? If I tell you where I get the smilies, I'll have to kill ya.

Look really hard and you'll find the thread...

OK, Sluethy, you got lucky this time since dchan's a way faster typer than me, but we've got your number mister! <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by SkiMinker (edited April 25, 2001).]</FONT>
post #17 of 21
I used to use cat tracks, but they are such a pain in the ass! If you dont get them on just right ( Impossible with gloves, painful without), they pop right off.....while you are walking. I have 3 different colored singles. Maybe my boots fall right in between the size range, but they just don't work for me.
post #18 of 21
Wear shoes, take shuttle, get locker/basket.
Better for apres comfort anyway.
post #19 of 21
Scientist Bill,
Again, welcome to epic ski! That was a hilarious post.
>>My only real problem was getting knocked over getting off a lift by a drunk snowboarder that I rode up with. He couldn’t get his board pointing ahead, so he jumped off the chair late, onto my ski tips. Then fell down in front of me and just lay there laughing. Ski patrol removed him from the slopes.<<

I'm glad you didn't get hurt but seeing a drunk snowboarder (or skier) "removed" from the slopes by patrol is worth the price of admission. Did they use a toboggan?

The best time to by boots is in early November or even October when the shops have lots of stock and time. If you buy now you'll be tempted to get something that may not fit right just because it's cheap. For people who have a lot of experience (translate: we've bought the wrong boot before) buying late season is o.k. because they know what they need. Also, try to buy the boot at a good shop that's close to where you will ski or where you live (ski is better though) because you'll need work on them. They're not like street shoes buy once and forget.

The trick with Cattracks: Take the heel piece and fold under those "tabs" that you're supposed to pull with your fingers. With those "tabs" and that thin spider web of stuff underneath the rubber heel cup, slip the toe of the boot into its piece then stretch the tracks and place the heel of the boot in the rubber heel cup. Once the heel of the boot is in the rubber heel cup it's quite easy to pull up the tabs onto the heel "shelf" of the boot. Gloves? maybe tough, but practice with the boots off your feet first and without gloves. (Unless you want to be an astronaut)

post #20 of 21

Boot fit is critical and will become all the more so as you advance.

Walking from the car in boots is the first tip in Tyro spotting.

Get an old backback, like an oversize Jansport and beat it up a bit more so no one in his right mind would want it. Old mud Sorrels to hike to the lodge will do just fine, the older and riper the better...... again, a theft deterent. Now you can leave things unattended on the lodge floor.

A single car key kept in a zippered parka pocket will assure you can get home if that mess does get swiped by some demented fool.
Keep the key in a pocket where it can't puncture a vital organ if you fall.

I'm not trying to be a comic on this one this is my actual "MO". And welcome.
post #21 of 21
Bill, welcome. This forum has been a great place for me to really get acquainted with skiing and not just feel like another clod on the hill. A lot of the folks here are as knowledgeable as I've found anywhere on the subject. Then there're folks like me who continue to learn and have some experiences to share along the way. With the exception of a very few, all are understanding and friendly. As you can see, I'm a PNW'er also.

First, great advice here about the boots being the first thing. In the Fall there are at least two events around Seattle where you can try on and get boots at a good price. The first is Ski Bonkers at the Northgate Mall. Then there's a big show, can't remember the name, we call it the ski swap, that, this year, was held at the new center across from Safeco Field. Each should have a lot of choices for boots but get there early. There are some really good boot fitters in the area and you might try this thread, http://www.epic-ski.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000646.html .

I'm thinking 50 is a good age for skiing (I'm 50). Got a friend of mine started this year and he had some very similar experiences. As I usually ski Crystal, maybe I'll see you up there next year. Been Skiing White Pass since Crystal closed. Was there last Sunday but with the warm weather this week and the forcast to rain I think their one weekend extension may not be worth it. Probably hasn't been near the freezing mark all week and it was getting pretty thin.

Also, I'm with SkiMinker on the locker. At Crystal, for a buck or two, it's nice to have you shoes close so you can have a beer afterward in "foot comfort". Don't like to walk in them any further than necessary for several reasons. Anyway, your's is a great perspective so keep posting. Can't wait for next Winter.
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