Gold Stars and New Onsets

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Hello skiers and riders of the Southeast!

If you are a regular reader of the stories we share here, you are most likely an adult that has been skiing or snowboarding for many years and has a genuine passion for the sport.  It could be the thrill of the descent down the trial, perhaps the mountainous views, or simply by being outdoors for some fresh air. Many other reasons exist, and a combo of all of the above plus more is plausible.

At some point you got talked into heading down the road in order to head up a mountain to a place where this kind of freedom exists. Some of you were very fortunate that this event occurred at a young age in your lifetime while others waited until they were older and larger.  No rhyme or reason as to exactly when, but nonetheless and more importantly, it happened.

One of the most genuine yet taxing times during this transition from “Never done it” to “Let’s go back” is that first time ever. I was fortunate enough to be a part of that moment in a young man’s life at Appalachian Ski Mountain last weekend, when a family member of mine brought his six-year-old son for an experience they both will hopefully hold onto going forward.

Our day started out in Charlotte with a less than two-hour car ride up past the beautiful town of Blowing Rock. On the trek I shared a classic Disney video with the kid of Goofy hilariously attempting to ski but always creating a disaster. This short animation is called “The Art of Skiing” and it was created over eighty years ago in 1941. Let’s just say it got our special star of the story excited for what was to come.

Our mission was a simple one that his mother laid out in a text to both of us which concluded with “He better come home in one piece.”  We knew that she was not being overly aggressive about it, but yet knew that the responsibility was ours to do.

Oh boy.

A quick side note about Appalachian Ski Mountain is that they draw a unique crowd of ski enthusiasts, especially those with RV’s and vans. While they were not full-blown tailgating, it was apparent that people were happy to be there with these kinds of toys. We happened to park our vehicle next to a Sprinter Van that had been converted into a livable space with a sink, cooking area, sleeping quarters, and even solar panels on the rooftop for electricity. The gentleman’s name was Richie, and his company is called VanFair out of Brevard, NC.

Let’s just say the sight of seeing this firsthand added to the quirkiness of the day, but also served as a reminder of how accommodating our technologies can be.

Another highlight was how helpful and knowledgeable the staff was throughout.  If memory serves best, Kaitlyn in the rental area did a phenomenal job with the process, and these two had all necessary equipment such as skis, boots, and helmets within ten to fifteen minutes at most. A+ customer service earns a gold star for sure.

Once geared up with RFID cards in the pocket it was time to hit the bunny slope. Past experiences have dictated that genuine newcomers need to start out on the hill serviced by these magic carpet rides.

I’ll never forget the time when a different adult relative got taken to a slope far too challenging for their abilities, and the verbal consequences that ensued once it was apparent that this was a big whoopsie.  Sorry about that.

Thankfully for this day there would be none of it. In fact, this kid never whined, complained, or had a meltdown that is somewhat common for this age bracket. Bonus for the two of us teaching him.

He earned gold star points for learning how to put ski boots on properly on the first try, and then deciding to repeat the process over-and-over again with confidence. Same holds true for clicking the boots into the ski binding before taking those first turns ever.  So far, so good with a lot of optimism that he will master all of this soon.

Did I mention that this was also a taxing thing to go through?  I think I did, and a reason why is because of how physically demanding of an ordeal this can be to oneself.  I might have decades of extreme terrain checked off but providing a lesson to a young child brings forth a different kind of black diamond experience that is a test of patients and physicality throughout. I used muscles that have not been stimulated in quite some time due to constantly bending down, picking the child up, and assisting with clicking back into the skis.  Phew!

Fortunately, his father was there as well to have a sizable share of that plus the other aspect of taxation, which is the listening skills. Please note that I am not a professional psychologist at all, so this is strictly my opinion, but kids have very strong imaginations that get in the way of their attention span. As best as we tried to get him to simply stay still and pay attention to our valuable pointers, we could not.  He just wanted to point the sticks and have at it.

That leads to multiple trial-and-error-like errors throughout.  Not blaming him whatsoever, because we all were probably like this at that age. Learning is a repetitive thing in which the exam sometimes occurs before the lesson.

What all three of us gained though was witnessing the progressions the young lad was making with each trek down the Appaltizer green slope serviced by the “D” conveyor Lift. We pointed out the “Pizza and French-fry” method that other kids were mastering, and at times he incorporated it into his own skill set.

Then there were the times in which he did not…

It happens when more comfortable habits take over, but if you are able to keep up while the beginner surges to the bottom in a straight line with little to no resistance, then you have a good shot of stopping them before something severe takes place. Another gold star for the “Save of the day” goes to the father for skiing ahead and backwards nonetheless to provide a backstop (or in this case the Dad-Stop) for one of these missile-like moments.

I wish I had gotten it on video, but I was not filming then.  However, here is a crash to supplement that for your amusement.

Kids are like rubber bands though when it comes to ski crashes.  They bounce back quickly and tend to put that memory in the rear-view mirror almost immediately. They just want to keep going until it is time for a lunch break, and it was at that point that I took a few runs by myself to explore around.

Appalachian Ski Mountain was more packed in the morning, and that was due to a Junior aged ski race being held on the Big Appal trail. Racing teams from nearby locations such as Sugar and Beech were present too, but I made some turns on there after they had concluded. I can attest that the snow was in great shape throughout with zero icy patches, bare spots, or holes to report.

This is when I shared a few lift rides up random strangers and got to talking about the joys of skiing.  One occasion was with some guy that I unfortunately cannot remember his name, but can recall him saying that his K2 skis were from the late 90’s that had that old-school shape and skin on them.  He said they were a set he received as an employee of App back then and that the design had a stunt racer on it that caused the remaining inventory to be removed due to a lawsuit from Evel Knievel.  He obtained these prior to litigation and still rocks them now while earning the Vintage gold star.

The gold star trail of the day goes to the appropriately named Hard Core black diamond run.  It was shaded, slightly bumpy, and uncrowded.  This allowed my normal muscle memories to feel familiar sensations as I got a full body workout in. I am telling you now that once you get to that expert level of skiing or snowboarding, you will enjoy the sense of accomplishment.

Another gold star that occurs much sooner than that accomplishment is when a novice finally graduates from the bunny slope to their first chair lift ride ever. I can confirm that extra excitement filled his flare when we did this, and that notion was solidified on the drive home when he identified this as being his favorite part of the day.

It is worth repeating a quote from the famous ski filmmaker Warren Miller that said, “Once you take your first ride up a lift your life will be changed forever.” We can’t argue against that notion whatsoever because we know that the lasting impact from that incident is a transition into lifestyle while creating a legacy from one generation to the next.


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