The 5280 Mountain Guide

November 2011

I Wedge Allegiance

Learn to leave fear at the bottom of the hill.

When you are 31 years old, staring directly up a mountain slope and contemplating your very first ski lesson, you feel like you’re back at your first day of school, a vast expanse of classrooms and intimidating cool kids stretching ahead of you. Let me put it another way: The idea of whipping down Beaver Creek’s cliffs (yes—in my mind, they are cliffs) for five hours seems like an eternity of humiliation. It’s enough to make me shake in my ski boots, despite the fact that I nearly broke an ankle trying to shoehorn them on.

I have lived in Colorado for almost a decade and have resisted the skiing culture. I told myself it was because I work on weekends. I rationalized that it’s too expensive. But, frankly, I was embarrassed that everyone else knew how to do something I didn’t. Like the popular kids in school, everyone seems to have the hot ski jacket I don’t have. So, I’m quiet with nerves until our veteran ski instructor, Todd James, affirms that we adult beginners won’t set foot (er, rear end) on a chairlift until we’re comfortable on flatter land.

After we scoot around on one ski and learn the word “wedge,” we line up at the gondola next to the three-year-olds who share our skill level. If anyone in their group falls, a dozen tiny bundled figures shriek “Wipeout!” at the top of their lungs. Super. We dismount near a “magic carpet”—a slow-moving rubber tread that carries you up a gentle hill—and I manage to stay vertical while I execute large, slow semicircles downhill. James skies among us, watching our form (“Quit looking at your feet! Don’t lean back!”). At one point, my husband, an advanced skier, glides neatly down to the edge of my beginner zone. “I can turn!” I yell gleefully, and promptly face-plant halfway down the hill.

Our lesson ends with a green run, and I’m humbled by my wipeout-heavy performance. But as I look up at the mountain that taunted me earlier, I’m not intimidated anymore; instead, relief sets in like it does after the first day of school: a heady feeling that comes from knowing that not only did I survive, but I also might have enjoyed it. Sassy new ski jacket, here I come. —Jennie Dorris

Try It

Where: Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School, beavercreek.com

Cost: Varies depending on rentals and lift ticket. Group: $131 (half day) to $150 (full day); private: $545 (half) to $745 (full)

Perk: The warm chocolate-chip cookies the resort hands out at the base work wonders to mend bumps and bruises.

Also Try: Keystone Resort, $98 (group, half day) to $625 (private, full day), keystoneresort.com; Snowmass, full day: $129 (group) to $655 (private), aspensnowmass.com