Seven years ago at a workshop in Santa Fe, I met a woman who had learned to ski when she was fifty. I loved hearing her story because she hadn’t ever skied and decided to learn for her fiftieth birthday. She took two weeks off to go and ski every day at a resort. I loved her story, was inspired and intrigued.
Fast forward to 2008, us moving to Whitefish, MT and living with a wondrous ski resort right up the street. I remembered her story and right away wanted to take up skiing. But no. It didn’t happen like that. As the winters went by, there were all sorts of reasons I did not learn. I had knee injury and knee surgery. I was working too much and no time. It was too expensive. On and on. Underlying all the reasons and excuses, I really wasn’t very confident that I would or could learn. Then someone told me about skinning up the mountain and skiing down. It sounded so awesome. As an avid biker, my love is climbing, so this skinning idea was just what I needed. Great exercise and something that didn’t involve lift tickets, fancy ski gear and played to what were my strengths – going uphill!
Now I really wanted to skin up the mountain. But that did mean I had to be able to ski well enough to ski back down. So there were some more stalls in my plan. Until CrisMarie simply stepped in with her Christmas present: a private ski lesson, pre-scheduled for December 26. Suddenly, there was no excuse.
I went, and I was hooked. It wasn’t pretty, but I started to get the basics. I went back and practiced on the beginner slopes, worked my way up to immediate runs and finally the runs from the summit. I was ready to skin up. I called a friend, Traci Stolte, who is a pro at skinning and has one of the most positive attitudes I know and asked if she would take me out for my first skinning experience. She agreed!
The first date set was icy and horrible and we didn’t go. I thought for sure I was going to miss my window as the temperatures warmed up and we were getting busy with work. But I scheduled another opportunity, rented the skins and skis and got my butt to the meeting point.
Now, I will say skinning up that mountain was hard. Like I mentioned, I like biking up mountains, and I imagined it might be similar. But honestly, it was much harder. I got a blisters from the rental boots and was a touch humbled by the speed and quickness of my follow skinners. Traci had invited another newbie skier, Laurie, like me, to join our expedition. I had not problems with that. In truth, I think we helped each other along the way when Traci was easily going up, up, up – we’d take a break and complain about our blisters or share some tidbit about our lives that allowed one of us to catch our breath (usually me, but she graciously said she needed the break as well) and off we’d go, back up the mountain. Yes, I thought about dropping off and just skiing back down. But no, I did not stop. Instead, I humbly acknowledged that this skinning was hard and put one foot (well ski) in front of the other and kept going. I learned and I found my rhythm (which involved various stops along the way). I made it to the summit!
I was thrilled!
That thrill was awesome and lasted minutes. I soon discovered that skiing back down with my longer, heavier skis and tired legs was – well- let’s just say, not the picture of grace I had imagined. Traci and Laurie were great. They would ski down a ways and wait for me when I took a fall or two (okay three) and struggled to get back up. It was so like my life. Not pretty, but determined. Again humbling, but I was also proud of myself. I did it! Up and down!
I felt like a rock star when I took those skis off.
I will hope for a more graceful experience when I do it again. But right now I want to acknowledge my victory and enjoy checking learning to skin and ski off my bucket list. Thanks Traci, Laurie, Linda (my ski instructor) and pf course CrisMarie who got me that lesson!!