Hello Everyone –
First off – this week I would like to personally congratulate Mother Nature for finally waking up and declaring that winter is here. Even though winter was supposed to begin on December 22, the coldest temperatures of the season are with us for a couple of days. Some places will see lows in the low teens, perfect conditions for snowmaking, which if you haven’t heard is needed and great news for every mountain manager in the region. You will be seeing trail counts increase this week as the region’s snowmakers do their thing.
Time now to get to the subject of this week’s column – the National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month campaign. Since 2007, the ski industry has been using the first month of the year to persuade anyone and everyone to give skiing or snowboarding a try. This year over 300 resorts across the country are involved in the promotion, including every resort in the southeast region from Maryland to North Carolina.
This year’s theme “Humans were never meant to hibernate” is perfect. Instead of complaining about the cold, it’s time to figure out how to have fun during winter. Of course the best way to have fun in winter is to play in the snow and what better way than skiing and snowboarding. Yours truly learned to ski on New Year’s Day in 1986 at Massenutten Resort in Virginia. I went with my roommate, who already knew how to ski, but I didn’t want to learn his mistakes, I wanted to learn from a pro and his name was Andrew. My instructor made sure that by the time the lesson was over, I knew how to safely have fun on my skis. I have been having fun on the snow ever since. When I decided to give snowboarding a try in 1997, I again found myself a pro at Snowshoe Mountain and Rik made sure I was making my first turns in the correct fashion.
In my 20-plus years in the ski industry, I have always recommended that if you or a friend of yours is going to learn to ski or snowboard, learn from an instructor. They are paid to have patience and not to add peer pressure to the equation and attempt to get you or your friend to try something that is over your or their ability. Let me put it this way, one of the greatest hitters I ever saw play baseball was Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres. The Hall of Famer was a hitting machine. But even as good as he was, he took batting practice before every game and he let the hitting coach help him get better and didn’t just depend on his god-given talents. In other words, learn with best practices, not bad habits and it will make things go a lot smoother on the slopes.
Now the good news, most of the resorts in the region are offering discounted learn to ski and snowboard programs in January and, in many cases, throughout the season. The southeast region is one of the best areas in the country to learn to have fun in the snow. The beginner slopes are perfect for first timers and all of the ski and snowboard schools are accredited and ready to teach. To find out more about the national program go to www.learntoskiandsnowboard.org and pick a place to have fun. By the way, that includes you old timers also, because as they say, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.
That’s it for this week, just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.
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Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for skisoutheast.com and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.