A new year means new resolutions and new adventures to embark upon. As many of you sit down to contemplate your goals of the year, I would like to suggest learning to ski or snowboard on national forests.
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, which means that on many resorts learning now can be the easiest and most affordable time to head to a forest near you. The U.S. Forest Service is host to 122 ski areas. The most visited forest, the White River National Forest, has 12 ski areas.
Last winter, I ventured onto the Uncompahgre National Forest in Colorado as a true beginner to the sport of skiing. Even today, I can vividly recall the distinctive “click” as my boots locked into my rental skis for the first time. As I looked around at the other skiers and snowboarders effortlessly cruising on the crisp high-country powder I became excited. I knew I would soon be like them, schussing effortlessly down the mountain. Or so I thought.
As Colorado’s newest resident, I had to see for myself what it takes to be a skier. Looking around the ski area, I saw children fly past me without ski poles and seasoned experts sliding off the lift with a graceful ease before gliding down the slopes – backwards.
I could only imagine how they looked at me. I wobbled back and forth trying just to stand. At that moment I thanked myself for the wisdom to seek out lessons from a professional ski instructor. The slopes I envisioned conquering would have to wait.
“The first day is always the toughest,” said my instructor, Tammy Randall-Parker, a Forest Service district ranger and a certified ski instructor.
She promised to take me step-by-step through the process from basic mechanics to stopping at full speed, turns on one leg and seemingly endless trips up the magic carpet. Hours later, after getting the feel for it, Tammy finally gave me the clear to take on my first green circle, or the easiest terrain with a gentle slope. I remember that as I pushed off with my ski poles, held my breath and slowly made my way down. All the while, I kept repeating her advice in my head: “Shift your weight, roll your toes, pick up your foot, glide.” Sounds simple, but without her guidance and tips I would have never made it 10 feet.