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By Joe Stevens

Hello Everyone –

To this day I can still remember my first turn on skis. That day was on January 1, 1985 at Massanutten Ski Resort in Virginia. I have to admit those so-called turns weren’t very graceful as I was in a ski lesson, trying to learn a new sport that I would learn to love and look forward to as the weather gets colder in the fall and then into the winter.

My wife will tell you I have a memory like an elephant, but being a typical man, it is probably more selective than wide ranging. With that said, I probably can recount every first turn of a season since I entered the sport, so, so many years ago.

The first dozen years of those turns came on skis and most on opening day at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, as I was employee there and it was special occasion at the resort every year and as you can imagine still is, not only at Snowshoe but every resort that provides fun outside when the temperatures get cold.

Starting in 1998, those first runs have come on a snowboard. By the way, my son Christian’s eyes got as big as saucers earlier this fall when I announced I may try out skiing again sometime this season. The reaction I got was something like when my generation learned that Bob Dylan was going to start playing an electric guitar. Please indulge me here as I have traveled around the sun a few more times that most of you reading this column.

Now back to those first turns. If you have pushed yourself over the edge for the first time this year, congrats as you are on your way to another fun season. If you haven’t, you are missing out on some of the best early season conditions the southeast has seen in recent memory.

Now getting to those of you who haven’t made those first turns as of yet and you are looking to do so during the holiday period we are now in, please, and I emphasize please, plan ahead. Due to COVID-19, most resorts are either encouraging making advanced lift ticket reservations or just flat out requiring it for you to ski or snowboard.

If you have a day on the slopes planned coming up in the next couple of weeks, you need to go online and get up to speed on what your favorite resort is requiring from you to play on their slopes this season. Many of the resorts are conducting capacity management this season, which basically means the limiting of how many skiers or snowboarders are being allowed on the slopes on any given day.

If you haven’t heard, these next couple of weeks are probably the busiest times of the season for every resort here in the southeast. This is the time of the season when a chunk of change is made and it is a time when the cashflow goes into operating costs when days are as busy these. It also helps in infrastructure improvements. But this year, it means getting through a challenging year and looking forward to a more normal season, next year. We can just hope, can’t we?

My first turns this season came on the opening weekend of Winterplace Ski Resort in West Virginia. It helps when you have a nice place to play outside only 90 minutes from your home and 95 percent of the travel is on an interstate. Christian and I, along with one of his friends, ventured off to Winterplace in search of those first turns and came away with sore legs and smiles on our faces.

My particular first turns this season were done by myself as my traveling companions headed straight to the top of the mountain, while this old snowboarder decided to warm up some on the mid-mountain trails. I have to admit, I felt a sense of pride as I saw both of them from my lift chair, making their first turns of the season, knowing that the tradition continues in a fun and exciting fashion.

Each time I got off the lift and before heading back down the trail, I just stopped and thought about how lucky I was to be outside playing and doing something I love during this crazy time we are all living through right now. I got to thinking back a year ago and if somebody would’ve told me that every employee would be doing their job with a face covering on, I would’ve looked at you like you had a third eye. But that is the way things are right now and we just have to push forward and get through it, don’t we?

Before we got to the resort, I sort of knew what was going to be happening as it pertains to the COVID-19 guidelines for the resort, but I didn’t know how everyone was going to respond and play safe in the sandbox so to speak. Sure, there were some that still want to be mavericks and buck the system, but I was pleasantly surprised that the majority understand, rules are rules this season, just deal with it and we will be able to keep on having fun on the slopes.

There are a lot of eyeballs on the ski industry right now and if everyone understands that just one miscue could ruin it for everyone, we will be fine.

Well, another year of first turns are in the books and you know what, I will remember these too.

That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly thought process. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we will weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. I still believe this season is going to be a lot of fun but challenging. Remember, Mother Nature provides the best social distancing these days.

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