By Brian Holt
This story was originally published on 1/30/15.
In September I moved to Wenatchee from the Southeast. Growing up in South Carolina, there was little opportunity to go skiing. Every year, however, my dad took my older brother and me skiing on the Martin Luther King weekend at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. This was something I keenly anticipated each year — this was a sport we all enjoyed and an activity that bonded our family. This was especially important to me because I did not spend a lot of time with my dad and it was hard for me to relate to him. Skiing was one of the few fun things we did together. Unfortunately as my older brother and I grew older, our family skiing trips grew farther apart and, by the time I was in high school, they quit happening.
When I arrived in Wenatchee, one of my first quests was to research different ski resorts around the region. It didn’t take long to discover Mission Ridge and, once I did, I got extremely excited about skiing again. Leading up to the ski season, I checked Mission’s website every few days to see when they would open and how much snow they had received. After the December holidays, I decided that although the ski area had less snow than normal there was plenty of skiing for an advanced beginner like me who hadn’t skied in nearly a decade to get going. It was time to get up there.
As it turns out, my first day at Mission had childhood significance. It was the MLK weekend and it was dumping snow the entire day. Both of these things brought back many memories of enjoying time with my father during the same holiday.
On that Saturday morning I woke up super early because I was too excited to sleep and nervous about skiing again after a ten-year lapse. I was up there before the mountain opened to get set up in the resort’s Learn to Ski in 3 Program (3 lessons, 3 lift tickets, 3 days of rentals for $100) which everyone was telling me was the sensible way to get going (or get going again) in skiing. The staff at the ski school went out of their way to get me properly outfitted; then they helped me decide which group to join for my lesson by watching me come down the bunny slope once.
My first lesson lasted two hours and I was grouped with six others who were of similar ability. I was surprised to learn skiing is a lot like riding a bike. As a beginner I can’t adequately explain the mechanics of skiing but, between what my body remembered and the tips from our instructor, the feel of it all came back to me. I still remembered how to turn, slow down and stop!
In about an hour, I went from being fearful that everyone else in the class would be angry at me for holding them back to realizing all of them had that same fear. In fact, my fellow beginners were rooting for me as I was rooting for them.
After my first run down from Chair 1, I was triumphant. I was excited to get back up the chair to reinforce the feel of it all. After the lesson I kept making laps of the chair to anchor both the subconscious feel of what I had learned and to more consciously think about what I was doing and why that worked.
Later in the day, I headed down the mountain feeling pretty full of myself. I had gotten through the fears most of us beginners probably wrestle with (the fear of the unknown, of getting hurt, of embarrassing yourself, of being cold or uncomfortable). Now I was just excited about what lay ahead. I wondered how soon I’d be able to ride every lift and explore the entire mountain on skis. I wondered about the feasibility of developing enough skill to join friends who raved about backcountry skiing. Most of all I marveled over how one sport changed everything. With skiing to look forward to, winter already seemed to be speeding by too fast.
Brian Holt is an AmeriCorps volunteer serving in Wenatchee. As a beginner, we’ve asked him to write several articles describing what he experiences and what he gains from skiing. We hope these stories will motivate other beginners to take up a new wintertime activity.