Fresh Powder.

Well, friends, it seems God wants me to be a skier. The very next weekend after my first time downhill skiing, some friends invited me along on a weekend adventure at Monarch Mountain, where it snowed 45 inches of fresh powder in the five days before and during our stay.

Monarch Pass

On Saturday, my wonderful friend Felicia strapped in for her first snowboarding lesson while I clipped in for lesson two on skis (our more experienced friends headed straight for the lift), and we followed our instructors out to the mountain.  There was only one other student in the lesson – so different from the eight at Breckenridge – and the ski instructor Mark was great.  He reminded me of all my coaches growing up: he yelled at us a lot, but it was all for our own good.  While those years of benevolent abuse may have done a serious psychological number on me in real life, in the context of the lesson, it worked out great!

While my lesson mate seemed to get more tired and timid as the two-and-a-half hours went on, I got bolder and better, racing down the mountain after Mark.  By the end, he told me I looked like a skier – it could have been empty flattery, but I felt like a skier, dammit, so I’ll take it.

Monarch Mountain

Ski bunnies

Sunday, Felicia took another lesson (during which she boarded down a green run like an old pro) and I rode the TERRIFYING CHAIR LIFT WITH NO LAP BAR OR ANY OTHER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS up the mountain with her fiance, Brian, who is awesome at snowboarding.  I’m not sure what happened during my sleep, but I awoke filled with anxiety in place of confidence, and it showed.  We tried a different run than the day before, and I ate it at literally every turn.  Thank goodness for all that fresh snow, because the falls didn’t hurt.

Brian generously offered to switch runs, even though a long flat stretch made it trickier for boarders, and he patiently encouraged me along the way.  We made it down several more times, each one getting a marginally easier.  I had a tiny emotional meltdown over pb&j at lunch – I was so disappointed for so many reasons: I was afraid, I once again didn’t trust or believe in myself, and I allowed all those fears to rob me of the liberating, exhilarating pleasure I’d felt only a day before.

Thankfully, Brian wouldn’t let us wimp out and made us do one more run after lunch – the boarders went down “Little Jo” and I stuck with “Rookie,” and it was actually a decent run!  Felicia reminded herself and me that even though we may not be awesome at it yet, we were getting ourselves down that mountain.  And then we ran into friends from Denver and laughed over beers in the bar while the pass was closed for avalanche blasting!  It was all very exciting and reminded me why it’s worth sticking this whole skiing thing out.

It’s such a fun part of Colorado culture, clomping around in big plastic boots with a helmet and goggles on, but somehow looking cool, or meeting friends for a drink in the hot tub after a day spent playing in the snow.  I might have more anxiety than your average bear, but I also have determination to match, and I want to give it a real try.  After the past couple hours of watching the Olympics, I’m excited to go back up this weekend – these badasses may be vying for gold, but I’m happy with green for now.  After all, blue is only a shade away…

Halfway to Sochi.

Well, friends – it only took me 15 months as a Colorado resident, but I finally joined the ranks of downhill skiers!  After a year spent watching my friends decamp to the mountains every weekend, I jumped at the chance to tag along with a few of my favorites to their condo in Silverthorne.

We loaded the rack with skis and boards and the coolers with beer and food and headed west on I-70.  Unfortunately, some guy thought Friday afternoon ski traffic was the perfect place to begin driving so erratically the cops were forced to SHOOT HIM, turning a 1.5-hour drive into a 4-hour crawl along the frontage road.  Fortunately, we had good CDs, great company, and some road sodas, so it felt like an adventure.

Ski goggles

Robocop: ski edition

Once we got settled into their sweet condo, we cooked dinner (baked lemon-ginger chicken, herbed quinoa, and kale with pine nuts: power food!) and tucked ourselves in.  We awakened at 7 a.m., drinking strong coffee while pulling on our snow pants and ski coats.  After stopping to rent my gear, we drove to Breckenridge, where I had booked a lesson at Peak 8 and my friends were going to ski Peak 9.  They dropped me off to ride the gondola, calling out the car windows for me to “have a good first day at school – make friends!”  (Like a true rookie, I forgot my poles in the car, and they had to drive back and drop them off…)

I struggled to keep hold of all my gear as I hopped into the moving gondola, trying to ignore the butterflies in my stomach by chatting with the guys next to me.  They, too, wished me luck as we reached the base of the peak.

Waiver signed and helmet on, the lesson began: we learned how to clip into our skis, slide around in a figure 8, and ride the “magic carpet” to the top of the bunny hill.  On the short slope, we learned how to hold our poles, how to slow down, and how to turn.  After lunch, those of us who had graduated to Level 2 (woo!) took the chair lift (a terrifying mode of transportation) up to the top of the hill, where it dawned on me that we’d have to ski back down.  A few panic attacks later, I followed instructor Art – a handsome and talented man – down the run.

Breckenridge Ski instructor

Art – the god of skiing

And it was exciting!  And terrifying!  And I did really well!  Until two-thirds of the way down, when I started going way too fast and ended up in a heap of skis and poles, yelling “shit” in front of small children.  Their instructor pulled me up, encouraging me like he would have one of his students, saying it was OK and skiing is really hard.  Even though class was over, Melanie – a snowboarder from Denver learning to ski – offered to ride the lift up with me for one more run so I could regain my confidence.

We hopped off the chairlift with ease (as opposed to my first attempt, which ended by landing on my butt) and set off down the mountain.  And it was exciting!  And awesome!  And I did really well!  I made smooth, wide turns with something like confidence, sliding up next to Melanie at the bottom of the mountain, where we high-fived and headed back to the lodge.  I met up with my friends and we traded stories from the day as we drove back to the condo, where the hot tub and Domino’s pizza awaited – a relaxing end to an exhilarating day.

Chair lift

Adventures!

We made it back to town in time to watch the bummer of a Super Bowl (you’ll get ’em next year, PFM), making plans to ski again in two weeks, all of us feeling so lucky to live in Colorado.  Hope you all had a chance to enjoy nature and your friends this weekend – happy almost Tuesday!