Column: Entertainment editor skis for the first time in 10 years | VailDaily.com

Column: I skied for the first time in 10 years and didn’t fall on my butt

Haymeadow at Beaver Creek, renamed last year, is full of green runs, and, thankfully, has large signs saying "Easiest Way Down."
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

If someone miked me up and recorded audio of the things I said to myself as I coached went down Haymeadow at Beaver Creek, listeners might think they were listening to a woman having contractions in labor.

“Woo, okay, breathe, you’re doing great, you’re killing it, oop okay, that was scary but look you’re totally good,” and variations of that ran through my head and some of it slipped out of my mouth too.

Readers that have met me or have read and remembered things I’ve written in columns before know that I haven’t been skiing since I was a little kid. My grandparents had a cabin near Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and my parents and little sister would make trips up there once or twice a winter. That cabin was always more of a summer cabin for us: I have many more memories of gross lake floor sliding through my toes than I have of the place I learned to ski. My grandparents sold the cabin when I was about 10 years old and that remained the only mountain I had skied until Wednesday, Dec. 11.

This might have something to do with the fact that I’m the same age as a typical liftie and I live and work up-valley, but in Eagle County, people who have limited experience skiing are rarities. Hi, how are you, nice to meet you.

I’ll admit that I was putting the whole ski-for-the-first-time-in-10-years thing off a bit: I was excited to go skiing, but wasn’t excited for the nerves that inevitably came with. Situations where I could easily fail in public have always freaked me out a bit: public speaking, leading groups and asking for help come to mind.

It was definitely more so the mental than physical block that kept me off the mountain for almost a month. I’m athletic and at least had muscle memory going for me. The problem is that skiing isn’t really something you can do in privacy, unless it’s backcountry skiing and only prepared and capable skiers can do that safely. It’s not like getting in shape at home on your own before buying an actual gym membership. You have to learn to ski in public, with other people potentially – probably – looking at you, watching you be a newbie.

Realistically, I know that’s a silly thing to be worried about, because plenty of adults older than me come here and learn to ski for the first time, even if they’re vacationers. I at least have experience, and that’s invaluable.

And honestly, I was surprised at how much my body remembered. I’ve always been a decent ice skater, but every time I step on the rink for the first few minutes, my legs get super wobbly. When I stepped off the Haymeadow Gondola and snapped my boots in, I was surprised how stable my legs were and how quickly they remembered how to ski. I moved like I knew what I was doing, or at least like it was a second or third time rather than a first. I maybe, just maybe, smiled a little bit when I was going fast enough that wind whistled through my ears: I wasn’t exactly itching for speed, but at least it meant I hadn’t fallen on my ass.

Physically getting to the gondola was the hardest part. At first I snapped my skis on near Centennial Express and started sliding my way over towards Haymeadow. “Would all the locals be calling me a dumb tourist in their heads because I’m headed over to the kiddie area?” I thought.

I had made it about halfway to the gondy. My feet were dead asleep in my new boots and I was putting in way too much cardiovascular effort for the distance I’d moved. Plus, I didn’t have any poles to push myself along. If anything, this was the one time people were probably watching me be a newbie.

I asked one of the Beaver Creek cookie deliverers for a cookie because treating stress with chocolate is one thing I have done in the past 10 years, and I’m pretty good at that, at least. Happy to report that it did help a little.

I looked around and noticed I was the only actually trying to move on skis to the other gondola. I snapped my feet out and walked but by the time I made it over, I was honestly a bit upset. I couldn’t feel my feet and that was freaking me out. I sat down and snapped the clips open. I was bummed that I was alone – it meant I had no audience for sarcastic, self-depricating jokes I always use to relieve tension. I told myself my feet were asleep because new boots are always a pain to break in, regardless of if they’re ski boots or thigh-high leather heels.

“Okay, you have to do one run, just one. You came all the way out here, you’re going to have to pay for parking anyway, and you’re not a baby.”

I did it. I made it up the gondola and down the mountain. A whole two times. That sounds much less impressive on paper than it feels to me, but it felt good and with practice I’ll feel much more comfortable on skis.

Driving away, some old school jazz I’d found earlier on Spotify humming along at a reasonable volume, only one thought ran through my head, and that’s the thing that matters much more than only getting in two runs and internally freaking out.

“I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for.”

Casey Russell is the arts and entertainment editor and make sure to @ her next time you subtweet or grumble about idiots on the mountain. She can be reached at crussell@vaildaily.com.