Ski Joy

Yesterday, my dear husband and I went up to Alpine Valley to ski. This was to be our last ski trip to Alpine before our “big” trip to Devil’s Head with friends next week, and it was also quite likely to be our last trip to A.V. of the season. Now, some of my readership knows from other means of communication, that I have so far only skied on the hills accessible by magic carpets. A.V. is awesome because they have 3 magic carpets. Magic carpets are conveyor belts that run through the snow, so you just kind of stand on them and slowly move up the hill. They’re only good for true beginner hills (they can only be so long and not very steep, for obvious reasons). If you go to this link, you can view a trail map of Alpine Valley, which will really assist you to understand what I’m talking about in the following history of my skiing this year.

Jan 12 – First Chance: took lesson for an hour, did a little bit on Soft Landing but mostly just fell…it was really icy that day, and I hadn’t figured out how to steer very well
Jan 26 – Soft Landing, First Tracks, Strawberry, Raspberry: I managed to get steering down pat. Click here for my mad steering skills. Strawberry and Raspberry are slightly narrower and steeper and are pretty much as steep as any green run at A.V. I also got complimented by my Jan 12th instructor. At this point, Scott and I started trying to get me onto a lift, but by the time I was feeling confident in my skiing, it was pretty late. We were there with a friend, and she needed to go…and I was already tired from a long day of skiing.
Feb 2 – Strawberry, Raspberry: This was our first real attempt at getting me on a ski lift, but I was very panicky about it. 2 different times, Scott and I stood in line for the lift, only to have me back out at the last minute. The first time we stood in line, I’d just gotten to a point where I was horribly tired of standing on the magic carpets. The magic carpets are really easy to mount and dismount, but they go horribly slow, and they get stuck pretty often by ice/snow building up at the base. Ski boots and skis are very comfy to ski in but not so comfy to stand still in, so just standing on the carpet can be frustrating. Plus, when the run is a short beginner run, it’s like you stand on the carpet for 5 minutes to do a 20 second run. I got tired of standing, so I psyched myself to go on the chair lift…and then bailed and bawled. I did one more run and then we had lunch and tried the lift line again…but then a nervous stomach foiled me. So, instead I spent the day getting really confident with my turns, although I did crash into someone at the end of the day (because I couldn’t decelerate quick enough…not entirely my fault but hard to explain why it isn’t without you knowing the precise setup of the place).

Now, you’re caught up to the near-present. After the 2nd, we’d planned to go again the next two weekends (the 10th and the 16th). We’d planned a ski trip with friends for the weekend of the 22nd, and the resort we’re going to (Devil’s Head) doesn’t have much in the way of magic carpets. So, I needed to get over the fear, hence the ski frenzy. Unfortunately, the weather ended up being uber-cold on the weekend of the 10th (subzero at times), so we bailed on that weekend. That left yesterday as my last chance at getting my rear on a ski lift before Devil’s Head.

You might be wondering why it was so important to do it at A.V. My fear is generally compounded by the unknown. The more I know about the place or thing, the less I fear it, and the easier it is for me to get over it. In prep for getting me onto the chair lift, I’d watched youtube videos of people getting off ski lifts and jumping off early (to prove to myself how hard it is to get off intentionally, much less fall accidentally). I’d also researched the specific lifts at A.V., how they work, etc…I’d watched them run a ton of times and familiarized myself with what to expect at the top. So, I really felt more confident in my ability to get on the lift at A.V. than at Devil’s Head (which would be complete unknown).

We went yesterday, and our options were threefold:
Attempt 1: First thing, go to lift line.
Attempt 1a: If step 1 seems to be failing or uncertain, do test run on Soft Landing, then go to lift line.
Attempt 2: Hire instructor. Have instructor bump us to front of lift line, see if that works. (Waiting in the line gives me time to panic)
Attempt 3: Get drunk. Walk down the ski hill afterward if needed for safety, but get drunk and inhibition-free, as that should do it.

Attempt 1a was successful. It took roughly 90 minutes from the point of being geared up to me being on the lift, specifically the EZ-Rider lift.

As for getting off, I totally wiped out. I felt backwards trying to slide off, and I banged my head on the ground. I was, however, wearing my brand spanking new helmet…I was very glad for that, because the next chair was coming right toward me, and I actually banged myself pretty hard on the ground. The helmet had gripped the top of my glasses, though, and so, not only was I all laying on the dismount hill, I couldn’t see! The rim of my glasses was in front of my eyes, and it was jammed onto my head in such a way that I couldn’t get them off easily, especially while panicking and trying to inch my way away from the chairs. And I was just like calling out “hey, help me…I can’t get up, and I can’t see what I’m doing!” The guy who had been on the chair with me and Scott worked their way back to me, and the lift operator stopped the lift long enough for me to get out of the way. Once I hobbled away, I got my glasses and helmet situated and then all was cool, and I was ecstatic I’d made it up alive and well.

The people waiting around on the flat area were totally cool about it all. The guy who helped me up (an older man on a snowboard) told me that he’s been skiing thirty years, and that the dismount for that particular lift is just nasty right now, because it’s so icy, and that it’s a tough one for anyone, especially a first timer. So, that made me feel better.

Then, I weaved my way down EZ Does It. Scott contends that EZ Does It is steeper than Raspberry, but I disagree. It’s definitely wider than Raspberry, which helps, because you have more room to turn (and thus slow yourself down)…plus more room to avoid other people. After a brief break and survey of First Adventure, I went down that one (with Scott behind me helping to make sure that I was okay and basically there in case I fell or had trouble). First Adventure was fine right up until the last bit. You can kinda see that it merges up with Strawberry…well, the end of First Adventure is the steepness of Strawberry but twice as long (two strawberries!). The steepness is fine, but by then, I was worn out (fear had made me tense up more than needed, so my muscles were tired), so I just kind of did a survival run at the end…wedging/snowplowing/pizza-ing (it goes by many names) my way down, just keeping my speed low and avoiding people. Next, we went up the First Adventure lift, which is an older type. EZ Rider is a high speed quad, which means it goes really fast up the mountain but really really slow when it’s picking you up and dropping you off. First Adventure and other older style lifts move at a constant speed. The ones like Lodge and Broadway go really fast the whole time (being aimed at advanced skiers), but First Adventure goes pretty slow. It also has less padding on the chair and isn’t quite as stable-feeling, but I was fine on it. I needed to do that one, too, because the Devil’s Head beginner chair is like First Adventure.

At the top of the First Adventure chair, I fell again. This time, it was because I didn’t quite get myself off the chair fast enough, and so the chair kind of pushed me off balance and I tumbled over…much easier to recover from and not as painful as falling backwards and conking my head. (My neck is still sore from the head-conking today, I should add.) On the way up the chair, I’d looked at Timber Gulch, as my impression from the top of the hill was that it looked easier…and that impression held up while going up the chair. So, we tried that one next…and even though it’s marked as a Blue, it’s pretty easy. The entry point that is Timber Trail is pretty steep for me, but Timber Gulch is easy as pie and dumps out on my old friend, Soft Landing.

We did one more trip up EZ Rider and down Timber Trail and then had my reward: a girly cocoa drink at the lodge! I had a “Ski Lift” (of course!) which is peach schnapps, cocoa, and rum. It was dee-lish. I also had some diet coke. We sat for awhile to drink and so I could call and text everyone I know, just about. 🙂

I spent the rest of the evening taking the EZ Rider chair and going down Timber Trail. So yeah, I even did night skiing, which is freaky as all get out. I’m told that Timber Trail isn’t normally so dark…they had a spotlight with a burnt out bulb, I guess…but it had one section where you could see the snow and shadows and not much else. I did 5 more runs and called it a night. Going down the long hills is way more strenuous, especially because I haven’t quite figured out good technique yet so I’m working my legs harder than needed.

Today, we played bridge. It would not have been a good day to ski today, as it rained for most of the day. But, bridge was fun…we played in a Swiss team and placed 2nd overall and tops in the “B” flight.

Overall, I can’t wait to ski again, and I promise that I’ll have pictures and videos from Devil’s Head. This week is going to feel so slow!