Monday, December 21, 2009

12-21-09: Skiing at Okemo

For the first time since January, I was able to hit the slopes to get back into skiing.

The lady and I spent the weekend up at Okemo in lovely Ludlow, VT. It was quite a time, indeed. I have, as would be expected, never been to Okemo before. In fact, I'd never been to any ski resorts in the entire state of Vermont before. The only skiing I consciously remember doing has been in New Hampshire (when I was four and five years old, if that counts) and in Connecticut in January. This was quite new to me.

We stayed overnight, heading up on Friday evening. That turned out to be a very good decision, as we missed all of the storm. Though it was frigid up in VT (four degrees Fahrenheit on Friday night), we didn't see any snowfall. Our hotel room at the Best Western, just a two or three minute drive to the resort, was quite warm and cozy.

My buddy Tom's family has a condo at Okemo in the Trailside complex. Very, very nice. We hung out there on Friday night and during lunch on Saturday. One of my other buddies, Kevin, and co-worker George and members of his family stayed there overnight. It's in a great location along the Sachem trail; ski on, ski off.

Saturday morning started off with a quick test of my "new" skis (they're used, but new to me). I am still very new to the sport, so I hit the bunny hill. Let me say this: going from skiing on a dull pair of rental skis to tuned, sharpened skis is a steep learning curve. I nearly ate it right away, and immediately thought: "Oh shit, this is going to be a long weekend." Fortunately, I got a little more confident after a couple more runs down the bunny hill, and the lady left me in good hands as she split to meet up with Tom and the others while I went to my 10:00AM group lesson.

The lesson was pretty good. The instructor, Deb, was certified, and definitely knew how to get the best out of even the most novice of skiers. My lesson group, all Beginner Level 3's, was distinctly divided: two high school freshmen girls, and two guys in their early to mid 20's that have played hockey for most of their lives. The other guy, who I believe was named Matt, was a Canadian who played prep hockey at Berkshire Academy and is now a med student at Dartmouth. He was fun to talk to on the lift. The girls were very nice, and did quite well, but I was surprised to be asked what grade I was in. But hey: I'd rather look younger than older.

The lesson began on the bunny hill, with a couple trips up and down using the "magic carpet," which I did not like. I prefer the lift, mostly because whenever they stopped the magic carpet, I nearly fell over. Very annoying. But, after a couple easy runs down that, we moved on to the beginner lift and down the "Open Slope" to work on our turns.

The things I learned quickly, and worked on for the rest of the weekend:

- Relax the upper body
- Keep your hands forward
- Keep the shins in contact with the boot
- Don't hunch forward; stand up straight
- Be patient with the turns

After my two hour lesson, I was feeling good. The lady and my buddies cheered me as I maneuvered around a fallen child (she was OK) at the very bottom of the hill. We took the lift up to Sachem and skied down to Tom's for lunch.

The rest of the day was spent on the Green trails with the lady, who helped me work on my turns. I noticed right away that I had a far easier time turning to the left than I did to the right. It was the same phenomenon I experienced back in January. But, over time, I was able to turn to the right better and better. We went to the top of the mountain, and I had my best spot of skiing on Easy Rider, turning in both directions with relative ease, and minimal "pizza-ing" (wedge turns). We then headed down Mountain Road to finish the day before heading back to Tom's. A very encouraging day. That night we met up with Tom and Kevin at the "Cool Moose Cafe" across from the resort. Tom was upset that Archie's, which had been at that location, had closed, but we still had a good time. I think he was more upset at his injured finger, which we believed to be broken, and are awaiting word on the x-ray results.

On Sunday morning, I awoke to very, very sore and tired legs. In fact, my calves are still killing me. This was mostly due to a lot of "pizzas" I did to slow myself down when I went down steeper inclines. But, nevertheless, I wanted to work on my turns. We did a quick run down the Open Slope, then headed to the top to do Sunburst, then to Coleman Brook to Mountain Road to Village Run. We then arrived at Solitude Lodge, where we took the lift up and then dared to try a Blue Square run: Upper Arrow.

Mind you: this was my third day of skiing as an adult. And I found myself on a Blue Square trail. Let's just say I was scared shitless at certain times. The lady was, for the most part, puzzled and bored, considering the terrain pretty flat. I didn't blame her, and appreciated her sticking with me. While on Upper Arrow, she captured my likeness on video as I made my very, very elongated S turns across the trail, no doubt frustrating the more experienced skiers as they zoomed by me. By the end of that run, my legs were nearly done. They were definitely done later in the day when we did Sachem again, and I ate it a couple times. After a while, I just got tired and lost the fundamentals. But overall, I was much improved. I had survived a Blue Square.

The next trip is Sunday River, Maine, for early January. I definitely plan on doing another lesson, probably more advanced, but still well within the Beginner range. I'm much more used to the skis, and can do a hockey stop (to the left) like it's my goddamn job. But overall, I had a blast, and very much look forward to heading back out there for more tumbles and turns.

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