I Hated Winter Until I Learned to Ski

This article originally appeared on Outside

There's a line of toddlers riding the magic carpet to the top of the bunny hill in front of me, and I feel out of place. I'm six times their age, and I probably know less about skiing than they do. But I don't feel comfortable riding the lift to a green run yet, so I stagger into line, crossing my skis as I go. Being a beginner at 30 years old and learning to ski as an adult is slightly embarrassing, but I've been cooped up in the cabin for way too long.

For most of my life, I've sprinted inside at the first sign of snow, knowing that I'd spend the coming months living at a slow pace. But last year, after a few weeks of hibernation, I decided I needed a hobby that gets me outside if I'm ever going to tolerate the sub-freezing temperatures of the Rocky Mountains. I headed to Eldora--the closest ski resort to my Colorado cabin--on a warm winter morning.

I'd been hesitant to get into skiing after watching friends rehab serious injuries for six-plus months, and I wasn't sure the fun was worth the risk. However, as a rock climber, I knew that risk is often calculated and that I could take my time on the slopes.

The snow was like glass, glimmering under the sun and causing me to gain momentum faster than I wanted to as I attempted my first run down the bunny slope. Unsure how to stop, I bailed and fell on my side. My face turned pink when I noticed a few adults looking at me, but I managed to swallow my pride and go again. After a few runs on the bunny hill, focusing on balance and making mellow turns around the kids, I started to get the hang of the motions. I decided to test myself on a green run soon after, managing to ride the lift without incident. Peering down the slope, I wasn't so sure I could make it to the bottom in one piece. But I had committed to giving it a shot, so I started sliding. I made my first turn, looking out for speedsters behind me. Then I made another, and started to catch some speed as the wind whipped through my hair. After just a few minutes, I had done it, and I was over the moon. For the first time all day, it felt like I was in control of the skis instead of the skis being in control of me. Just like that, I was hooked. And I suddenly understood exactly why Coloradans can't wait to see the sky erupt with flakes of fluffy snow.

Over the following months, I went skiing as many times as possible. Whenever a friend asked, I tossed my gear in my rooftop box and headed to the resort, where even on the busiest days I found joy on the mountain. Mountains have always brought me solace, and I felt so lucky to learn a new skill among the pine trees.

With every visit to the resort, I fell down less. I started to love the perspiration that beaded on my forehead in between runs. The ice that formed in my hair made me feel like a mountain goddess. I started to recognize the workers at the resort, waving as I swiped my pass. By the end of the winter, I was also way less fatigued from each day of skiing.

I never expected to find myself here, in love with this sport. I was also surprised by how comfortably I adapted to the culture of skiing. It feels like my skis are a secret key to a community of people that prioritize fun and exploration. While some people use the weekends as a restful opportunity, skiers recharge by hitting the slopes. And I just feel like a strong, happy version of myself while on my skis--even when it's freezing. I still don't care for the cold, but I can tolerate it if it means that I get to participate in an activity that I like. And, while I never expect to master the sport, I know that it gives me something to look forward to doing when the temperatures dip again. This winter, I'll see the snowflakes falling from the sky as an opportunity instead of the bane of my existence.

Learn to Ski As an Adult: 3 Tips to Get Into It

Getting into skiing as an adult is really hard. Most of my friends were either already competent skiers or they had no desire to ski at all, so being a beginner definitely felt lonely at first. But it was so worth it--becoming a skier has totally shifted my perspective on the winter, giving me something to look forward to doing instead of preparing to hibernate. Here are a few strategies I implemented to make the process easier.

Don't Underestimate the Value of Ski Lessons

Adults simply aren't as fearless as kids. While you can spend many hours learning about the basics of skiing on YouTube or TikTok, how-to videos won't replace the one-on-one engagement a ski lesson provides. A single ski lesson will teach you the basic movements required to get you down beginner slopes safely. And it'll likely dive into control and teach you how to slow down. While some athletes may be able to learn some of these key movements outside of a lesson, it typically takes longer and can result in poor technique. Buying a package of lessons could be a good strategy if you're truly looking to become an expert, but most people find that just one lesson does the trick.

I didn't take a real lesson before my day of flailing around the bunny slope, but after that I harnessed a friend who'd previously taught ski lessons to help me get the basics under control. And I would absolutely recommend working with someone who knows what they're doing to avoid injury.

Get Proper Ski Gear

Skiing is expensive. If you're not certain that you want to dedicate the next decade to improving your skills, renting your gear can be a good strategy. This also allows you to try out multiple models of boots and skis, which can also be helpful if you decide to get your own setup.

Just because older generations suffered through ski days while wearing jeans and cotton T-shirts doesn't mean that you have to. I started to ski with the intention of making my way to the backcountry once I felt competent and safe, so after I knew I was committed to skiing, I splurged on gear that would keep me warm everywhere and last for many years. My first shell and pants set was the JackWolfskin Alpspitze 3L jacket and pants, which easily function in both a resort and backcountry setting and weigh much less than the similar options from competing brands. I also found that investing in an extra-warm pair of mittens like the Dakine Baron Gore-Tex Index Mitt went a long way when it came to staying comfortable in extreme temperatures.

A helmet like the Sweet Protection Looper MIPs Helmet is a must-have asset for those who want to protect their most valuable resource. This helmet uses a lightweight protective system to disperse energy away from the head in the event of impact, while also optimizing comfort during use. And, of course, there are goggles. As one of the more affordable pieces of ski gear, most new skiers are quick to buy a pair of these (even if they intend to rent everything else). The key is finding a product that doesn't fog up, and that protects your eyes no matter the weather conditions. One good entry-level pair of goggles is the Dragon DX3 OTG Spyder, which comes without the frills, and gives you that well-loved anti-fog coating. While fancy goggles might give you better optical enhancement and more versatile lens options, the Dragons are all that most beginners need to get started.

Eventually, I also landed on the Elan Ripstick Skis for the same reasons that I gravitated towards backcountry-enabled clothing. This is a ski that can handle both resort and backcountry skiing, which was my priority. But if you simply want to get really comfortable skiing at a resort, you might opt for a slightly more affordable but bulkier clothing setup and a sturdier ski. Don't be afraid to find an expert in a shop to answer any additional questions you might have. Ski shops are great resources for those who feel overwhelmed about finding the right system to accommodate all-season use.

Skiing Has a Steep Learning Curve. Don't Get Discouraged.

Not everyone is quick to fall in love with skiing. It's a really challenging sport, and adults have a tendency to think they're terrible at something if they don't get it the first time. While you don't necessarily need to become a ski master to enjoy recreating in the winter, I found that skiing felt more gratifying that dabbling in sports like snowshoeing because of its fast pace. Before you know it, you'll be riding the lift from first thing in the morning until the resort closes, leading you to liking (or even loving) the winter.

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