The background: As a teenager, I let my friends convince me to just “follow them” the first time I went skiing. Never mind that I had never stepped into skis, and they had been schussing since they could walk. Not surprisingly, I had a spectacular crash and still cringe at the memory of being chewed out by the ski patrol because I was an out-of-control menace.
The result: Although I’ve tried skiing a few times since, I’ve never felt confident enough to join my enthusiastic family on the hills. My last attempt was about eight years ago.
The solution: I decided to seek professional help. Sarah Foslien, supervisor of the Afton Alps Ski School (aftonalps.com/ski school), told me my story is all too common. Rather than try a less expensive group lesson, she convinced me that a private two-hour session was the way to go. Foslien matches students with instructors, and she promised to set me up with a teacher “who will not push you further than you want to go, whether that means you never get past the base of the bunny hill.” But I still had butterflies in my stomach on the days leading up to the lesson.
What happened first: True to Foslien’s word, my teacher, Kelly Bort, had the patience of Job. She assured me that we weren’t in a hurry. On flat ground, she had me push off with a booted foot, sliding on one ski, then we took short steps with both skis, then we slid around a little more. She showed me the snowplow, or wedge, the critical move that leads to a gradual stop. Then we got on the conveyor belt-like lift, which took us halfway up the bunny hill. There, Kelly skied backward down the hill, holding her ski poles out so I could hang onto them as I practiced wedging my way down the hill. Eventually, I skied by myself.
What happened next: I graduated to the chairlift. On the ride up, Kelly told me she learned to ski at age 47, and at 73 she’s still loving the sport. “Any day out here is a good day,” she said. Getting off the chairlift was, well, exciting. But I didn’t fall, and I made it down. Pretty soon, I could do a wedge-zig/wedge-zag combo. By the end of the lesson, I was even able to keep my skis parallel as I traversed the slope. I felt calm, proud and unafraid — a breakthrough!
Who private lessons are for: People who need to boost their confidence, confront their fears and take it slow.
Who it’s not for: Daredevils and speed demons might find it hopelessly boring to take such small steps, but they also might progress faster than I did and graduate to a bigger hill.
Details: Private lessons cost $95 at Afton Alps. Equipment rentals are $35 (aftonalps.com/tickets-rentals). Afton also offers daily group lessons for adults ($45) and a four-week, adult beginner program (aftonalps.com/lessons) where you take home a season lift ticket, skis and bindings at the end ($349). Other area slopes offer a similar range of lessons.
Sue Campbell • 612-673-4032