My Losing Season, Redux

A ski-averse outdoorswoman makes her first trip up the mountain—and decides if it was worth it.

January 2014

A couple of months ago, I penned what turned out to be a somewhat contentious essay regarding my conflicted feelings about taking up skiing. On the one hand, I understood the potential social and psychological benefits of taking up Colorado’s unofficial state sport. On the other, I loathed the investment of time, money, and potential pain involved in tackling a new sport at the age of 35. In the end, I landed in the yes camp not because—as one commenter interpreted—I’m a lemming following the hordes, but primarily because it’s never been in my nature to turn away from a challenge simply because of fear or difficulty. (A severe acrophobe, I took up rock climbing in my 20s for the same reason, and it has brought me endless joy.) This weekend, I took my first trip to Copper, so it seemed like a good time to assess the accuracy of the pros and cons I set out in the initial essay.

The Cons

No. 1  History doesn’t instill confidence. Last time I skied in Colorado, my snowkiting instructor strapped me to a kite and watched me scream/ski/eat shit (in that order) across the lake. It wasn’t awesome. Turns out I’m much better on skis when I’m not strapped to 15 pounds of nylon. In fact, I managed to make it through the entire day without eating shit—possibly owing more to my grandmotherly pace down the mountain than actual ability.

No. 2  We’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 to cover a Four Pack to Copper Mountain, lessons, season rentals from Christy Sports, and garb courtesy of Sniagrab, plus gas, food, and a bar bill big enough to cover my wounded pride—and backside. While there’s no getting around the cost of a ticket and equipment (or the fact that cheap rental boots double as torture devices), I saved some bones by nixing the lessons in favor of a tutorial from my fiancé, Josh, a skilled skier of some 20 years. And given my relative success on the day, I had time for just one celebratory drink instead of the three pain-killing pints I expected. WIN!

No. 3  Plus, if past experience is any guide, my friends will leave me to learn all on my own after their obligatory two runs spent “teaching” me. True. Josh managed to stick it out for ¾ of the first run before leaving me to my own devices. But only because, to both of our great relief, we discovered that whatever long unused neurons containing the skiing muscle memory I’d acquired as a kid hadn’t been destroyed by a couple decades of dormancy, minor head injuries, and microbrews. Not only was I perfectly capable of making my way down the hill alone, I also kind of preferred not having my personal coach there correcting my every technical imperfection.

No. 4  I’ll spend another hour dodging six-year-olds (who can already out-ski me) on the greens. Even on what was supposed to be one of the busiest days of the year, the only crowds I encountered were the ones at the bar. I didn’t have to dodge anyone besides the occasional lift pole. Plus, only, like, half of the six-year-olds I saw could out-ski me. Not that it’s a competition. (Ha!)

No. 5  The pilgrimage up I-70. Yeah, this sucks. While we were pleasantly surprised to miss the morning traffic by heading out at 6 a.m., the return voyage wasn’t nearly so smooth. Of course, the Conga line of Subarus and SUVs just gave us a good reason to stop at Georgetown’s Lucha Cantina for chips and a glorious selection of house-made salsa and some delicious monstrosity called the PBJBC: Peanut butter, jam, bacon, and cheese on a double decker burger.

No. 6  I’m adding one to the list that I didn’t expect: Chairlifts. They’re terrifying. Apparently this is the part of the day when you’re supposed to relax, soak in the views, maybe sip something stashed in your ski jacket. Yeah, right. How can anyone relax when your non-aerodynamic lower limbs hang heavily off the bottom, pinwheeling around with the wind, threatening to yank you off with every gust? Even though Josh assured me thousands of people ride the lifts every day without falling, I remain convinced I will be the first. I endure them only because I do rather like the feeling of floating across snow at exactly 2.5 miles per hour.

The Pros

No. 1  I’d feel like I actually earned that hot toddy. It was a Dark and Stormy, but after five quad-burning hours and zero wipeouts, I felt entitled to up the ante.

No. 2  I’d get to experience the mountains of my new home in winter, providing me a whole new perspective on the natural beauty Colorado has to offer. Truth. And what views! I’ve got plenty of pictures of snowcapped peaks in winter, but mostly from valley floors. We were fortunate to get a bluebird day at Copper—all the better to savor the unbelievable contrast of Colorado’s snowy summits thrusting up into the cerulean sky. If I weren’t so worried about falling on my face at the top of every run, I’d have taken more photos. Instead, I made Josh do it.

No. 3  Exploring the outdoors cements lifelong friendships with the kind of glue only fresh air, adrenaline, and (mis)adventure can provide. To be determined. It certainly cemented my appreciation and respect for Josh’s patience, kindness, and selflessness, but since I've agreed to marry him, I pretty much already had that part figured out. But we did make some friends on the lifts. And I’ve already roped a few of my other ski-averse acquaintances into future trips. Plus, the experience provided me with the confidence to push myself a little harder next time, maybe amp things up to 5 miles per hour or tackle a blue run. Maybe.

Follow senior editor Kasey Cordell on Twitter @KaseyCordell.