hit the slopes this winter

Craig DeSilva
January 20, 2016

During Christmas week I said aloha to sandy beaches and hello to the powdery slopes of Whistler, British Columbia in Canada. It was only my second ski trip, an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone to accomplish a completely different outdoor activity in (much!) cooler weather and unfamiliar territory.

And I’m not alone. Places like Lake Tahoe in Nevada, Big Bear Lake in California, and Park City in Utah are favorite skiing and snowboarding vacation destinations for kamaaina.

But like many sports, skiing puts you in an awkward position. It’s not easy moving with a long, narrow flat appendage on the bottom of your foot. I’m dazzled by little kids zooming pass me as if they live in the snow. Unlike me, they have little fear, are more agile, and fall closer to the ground.

So why, as an adult, would I risk injury to learn how to ski? Hawaii skier Toby Kravet said it’s no different than conquering any other sport, like surfing, sailing, or rock climbing. “It’s you trying to master the elements with nothing but your own skill and experience,” said Kravet, president of Hawaii Ski Club. “It’s about having confidence in your physical ability to conquer something.”

You don’t need special athletic ability to ski. Take it from me. I don’t have super speed, strength, or flexibility. But with a little balance, timing, and mindfulness, you’ll be on your way to an excellent winter adventure. Kravet jokes: “Skiing is 90 percent psychological. The other 10 percent is in your head.”

If you’re a beginner like me charging the runs for a ski trip, consider these tips: 

1. Take a lesson. Unless you’re a naturally gifted athlete, don’t expect to swoosh down the slopes on your first day. (And if you do, I don’t like you already.) Stick to the bunny slopes with other beginners going at your pace. A qualified instructor knows how to teach proper technique and can evaluate your progress.

2. Start slow. As with anything, learning something new takes time. So be patient. If you fall (and you will fall) don’t be so discouraged. Just get up and pop your skis back on. Celebrate little victories like learning how to turn. Don’t compare yourself to others coasting down the hills. They most likely have been skiing for years.

3. Learn to stop. If someone yells “pizza,” they’re not inviting you out to lunch. Also called snow plow, pizza is a stance to help you slow down. Face your toes toward each other to create a pizza slice formation with your skis. I pizza often. It’s my friend both on the plate and in the snow.

4. Ski with a partner or group. If you master the bunny slopes (i.e., get bored) and feel adventurous to go on a trail, don’t go alone. A group can motivate you. Make sure they don’t mind going at your pace. Otherwise, you’ll be left in the dust (or in this case, powder).

5. Know your colors. Trails are marked based on your level of ability. Green is the easiest, blue is intermediate, and black is advanced. Stick to the trail that you’re capable of doing. Ask your instructor if you’re ready to advance.

6. Stay warm and dry. Layer your clothes by starting with thermal undershirt and pants. Keep in mind that you’ll probably eventually start sweating from physical exertion. Just wearing jeans and a sweater won’t do. Wear a ski jacket and snow pants. I sprayed them with Scotchgard™ before my trip for extra waterproof protection. To save money, I borrowed snow pants from a friend and wore a ski jacket from Savers thrift store. Wear thick wool socks, gloves, a snow cap that covers your ears, and goggles to prevent snow from hitting your eyes. Tip: buy hand warmers (available online) to keep in your pocket. They’re lifesavers!

7. Have fun. Enjoy the fresh air, spectacular snow-capped mountain views, and the whispering sound of your skis gliding on the ice under you. There’s nothing better than being outdoors navigating natural terrain. I guarantee that you’ll have an uplifting, satisfying feeling of accomplishment when you reach the end. The lifts close before “wine at five” so treat yourself to an après ski fondue and hot toddy in front of the fireplace back at the lodge. 

Photo courtesy of Hawaii Ski Club

Interested in skiing?
Experienced and beginners are invited to join the Hawaii Ski Club. The 65-year-old club has about 100 members and organizes ski trips wherever there's fresh powder on a mountain, including Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and U.S. Mainland.
Are you a snow bunny? Tell us about your skiing experience in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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