The beginners experience . . . kind of

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Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I rented skis. Over the years at various jobs, I’ve tuned and waxed rental equipment, drilled holes in them (to install bindings), and taught many folks how to ski on rentals. So I figured why not go to Cataloochee on one of the busiest days of the year, a.k.a Presidents Day, to redeem the second of my Indy Pass days. With nothing but the clothes on my back, I figured it would be a great opportunity to re-create the beginners experience.

On the approach up to the ski area, my partner and I saw some magnificent elk . . . a good omen to a good day ahead.

Elk: The mascot for Maggie Valley

Getting ‘Suited and Booted’ 

Arriving at Cat, I went to the window for lift ticket PLUS rental. After that I was directed towards STEP 2: The Boot Barn. *Here’s a tip, the top buckle has a sliding tab that allows you to adjust the tension and shin pressure on the top of the boot. This is the ONLY adjustment you can make on these HEAD boots.* Don’t forget your rental helmet inside the boot barn as well.

STEP 3: It’s time to head into the ‘ShredQuarters’ and get your skis/board.

Here, I was outfitted with the skis and the DIN’s set accordingly. I claimed ‘expert’ on my release form along with age, height/weight, and the technician adjusted the release values on the bindings (more on this later). The skis were rather short for someone who is 6’1″, but I guess it is pretty much one size fits all.

Suited, booted, and ready to go

Hitting the slopes

I took a couple warm-up runs down Easy Way and Rabbit Hill to get used to my new kicks and sticks. Not to get too ‘inside-baseball’ but each ski boot model has a certain flex value associated with it. Like the skis, since there is only one ski boot model, there isn’t really a way to adjust the ski boot flex pattern.

Nevertheless, I discovered that these skis had a nice snappy turning radius, because of the short length. This does help in my short-radius turns, along with weaving in-‘n-out of the crowds 😉

These skis almost resemble SnoBlades

Overtime, I got used to the slalom-type skis and progressed up the mountain.

Onward towards Upper Omigosh

Remember those DIN settings . . . whelp the spring tension on my left ski must have been a tad loose. I tried a 50-50 grind and the ski popped-off while I kept going. Luckily, I stuck the landing on one ski as you can see below. I hiked back up for a second-go and got redemption.

I took the park-runs up a notch, and moved to Richards Run where the park is set up with some spicier features.

After quite a few more runs I got to ride up the lift with a ski patroller. We chatted, and I got the inside scoop . . . he pointed out some ‘mounds and snow whales’ (that I hadn’t seen) where they can move some snow around as the weather gets warmer.

I finished off the day with some cool down laps, and jibbed on the side-hills. The crowds were getting a bit thick, so I called it a day.

All in all, I had a great day. I came in with zero expectation, and skied away after having a GOOD time. I wanted to re-create the beginners experience, and I can happily report that it’s still fun to be a beginner again.

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