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Hello everyone –

The other day on the slopes at Winterplace Ski Resort in West Virginia I heard the ten words by a skier, that makes everyone in the snow sports industry stop and just shake their head, “I have no idea what I am doing out here.”

I then heard all his friends laugh either with or at him and say, “Don’t worry we are all good skiers and will make sure you don’t get hurt.”

All I can say to both of those statements is, “Please, for the sake of all of us on the slopes, head directly to the ski school counter, do not pass go, do not collect $200 and sign up for a ski lesson immediately.”

When I was touring the slopes at Snowshoe Mountain, I used to carry coupons for a free lesson and when I came up on a skier or snowboarder who was obviously in way over their head, I would offer one. May I just say, the most lessons I gave away were when I rolled up on a couple who were having a very stern disagreement on one of their abilities to learn the art of sliding on snow. One was blaming the other that they weren’t listening and the other was saying they shouldn’t be where they were, since they had never skied before.

After stopping and figuring out the situation, it wasn’t hard, I mediated by telling the skier or snowboarder who was experienced to take off and meet up with their partner in about 90 minutes at the ski school desk. I would then give the inexperienced visitor the coupon for a free lesson and stay/help them down the rest of the trail and get them to ski school to learn the proper way of having fun on the snow.

I guess what I am trying to get across this week is, there is a right way of doing things and definitely a wrong way.

Relying on friends or relatives to teach you how to ski or snowboard is the wrong way of learning the sport. I know there are some of you out there who say, “I have been skiing or snowboarding for years and I can teach anyone on the slopes.” I am here to say all you are doing is teaching your friend or partner your bad habits.

Now on the other hand, relying on a professional ski or snowboard instructor is, in my opinion, the correct way to learn to have fun while sliding on snow. Not only is it the right way of learning, but it is also the safe way of learning.

What a lot of skiers and snowboarders take for granted on the slopes are things like being able to avoid other skiers or snowboarders, stopping correctly (yes there is a right and wrong way, which doesn’t always occur around lift lines) and most importantly, getting on and off of lift chairs. Raise your hand if you have been in the lift line and know without a doubt that the group in front of you were helping someone get on the lift for the very first time. Not a pretty sight, whatsoever.

During my visit to Winterplace, I watched four skiers try to get on a triple chair lift. Yes, you are correct the numbers just don’t add up there, do they? The lift attendant was able to get everything stopped before someone was injured or even knocked over, thank goodness. All four of the skiers acted like they didn’t know what they had done wrong. Probably a missing lesson was in the equation.

I have taken a number of first time participants to various resorts and before we even leave home, they all have understood that a lesson was waiting them on arrival.

By the way, that initial learning process is also correctly getting the right size equipment and have it properly applied to one’s extremities. This is actually where that experienced skier or snowboarder can be of assistance since they have already gone through the boot fitting exercise and can help to make sure the right boot is on the correct foot. Don’t laugh I have seen it happen, more than once. Also, that first time putting on ski boots or and to a lesser extent snowboard boots can be a very frustrating experience and that is even before the first timer starts sliding on snow.

A beginner group lesson is the easiest way to go in most cases, when hitting the slopes for the first time. The first timer is learning the sport with others who are also learning the sport for the first time. I don’t know if the saying “misery loves company” applies here, but then again it just might be appropriate at the end of the day.

After that group lesson and a break, if you are meeting back up with your friend or partner who just learned to be able to stand up in Frankenstein boots on two (or one) pieces of equipment that are supposed to not be in the same place for a long period of time, please, please be patient. Do not try and take them on slopes that are above their newly learned ability. I have numerous stories I can tell you that don’t have a good ending in those cases. One of the last things we need on the slopes is peer pressure.

Now a word of advice to you so called future Olympians, it is never too late to learn how to enjoy your sport even more, even though you consider yourself an expert skier or snowboarder. Hey, try stepping up to the ski school desk and sign up for a one-on-one lesson with an advanced instructor. You might learn a thing or two that will even make you day on the slopes a bit more fun.

Another thought in that area, the best baseball hitter I ever watched play was the late Hall of Famer, Tony Gywnn. You know what he did before every game, he had a coach watch him take batting practice so that he would fine tune his ability to hit the baseball. In other words, even the best want to get better.

At the end of the day, it’s all about time on snow and more time on snow just means all the practice will pay off and fun will be had by all involved.

That’s it for this week, so thanks for joining me for my weekly ramblings. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Be safe and “Let Gravity Be Your Friend.”

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