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Skiing in Tahoe

February 24, 2011

POWWWWDER! That was the exhilarated thought that ran through our minds as we studied last week’s weather forecast. A week of gloomy rain in the Bay Area meant definite snow on the ski slopes in Tahoe. And for aspiring beginner skiers, what can be better news?

Snow capped mountains in Tahoe beckon

The drive from the Bay Area to South Lake Tahoe is approx 4 hours, as long as you don’t get stuck in heavy long-weekend holiday traffic. Heading out early Friday evening or Saturday mornings is the best bet. We hit the road at around 7PM on Friday evening and made it in good time at our cabin in South Lake Tahoe before midnight.

The plan was to learn skiing in Sierra-At-Tahoe ski resort, which has great reviews for beginners and intermediate skiers alike. They have some really reasonable packages for beginners as well as 3-pak deals for a great price!

Learn to ski in Sierra for $35

3-pak (all inclusive for 3 days) for $153

We went for the 3-pak deal – it includes lessons, lift ticket, equipment rentals and a guarantee that if you don’t learn to ski down the green slopes by the end of your 3rd lesson, you get a 4th lesson free! Isn’t that sweet? It’s important to get in very early at the ski resort, especially when signing up for lessons. There are options for a 10:15AM lesson and a 1:15PM lesson. The afternoon lessons are invariably more crowded, and the resort keeps getting more crowded as the day goes on. There is generally a lot of traffic enroute to the ski resort in the mornings, so head out early. Sierra opens as early as 8:30AM!

We signed up for the 10:15AM class on a Saturday morning. The weather was gorgeous, and it was perfect for sking. The instructors at Sierra are the friendliest, most jovial, fun people I’ve ever met! Once you’re all equipped with the ski boots (oh, get the right size else they’ll cause blisters and tears of pain rather than joy) and the skis and poles, you waddle out to the learning area and meet your group and instructor. Waddling around in the ski boots is the funniest thing to see when other people are doing it. But when those rigid boots are on your own feet, it’s a different story.

Group pic on the Sierra green slope with our instructor

Long story short, we made it to the learning area without toppling over. [Thank you poles!] Our instructor soon came along, and we all started learning about Level 1 ski 101 basics. Things like how to stand on our skis, how to hold our poles, how to balance ourselves, the correct form for skiing, and we did some mini slides down the gentle learning area slopes. It was such fun! Gliding along on the snow, no matter how level the ground, is honestly an exhilarating feeling. Feeling out of control on the slopes on the other hand is a real cause for anxiety but that’s where practice comes in. Practicing on the bunny slopes, letting go of the fear of falling, and assuming control of where you’re going. Well, it’s easy to preach, and this took well over a day for me to get right. I almost gave up during the first class on skiing because I kept falling and was afraid of going too fast on the snow.

The secret to gaining confidence when skiing is to learn how to make a wide wedge (pizza!) and SLOW down. The ability to slow down is in your control and gives confidence when going at breakneck speed down the slope. The lesson lasted for 2.5 hours (ours was shorter because the class started late), but the instructor was super nice and did great with our group. We all learned a bit of the basics and practiced till hunger pangs and tiredness beckoned us back to the cozy interiors of the resort.

Sunday was supposed to be our Level 2 class, but being the President’s Day long weekend, it was CRAZY at the resort. We slept in and headed to Sierra for the 1:15PM class and they had actually CLOSED the resort! The Fire department was outside the Sierra entrance, shooing people away, claiming that “We are running to full capacity. Go on, now. Sorry!” It’s apparently the busiest day of the year for the ski resorts in Tahoe! The rental places were even out of snowshoes! Disappointed but determined to make the most of our day in Tahoe, we headed to the sledding slopes, armed with a couple toboggans. Snow fights, sledding, making snow angels – there is never a dearth of alternative things to do when there are miles and miles of freshly layered snow around you and a fun, cheerful group of friends to hang out with!

Climbing up the slopes only to come rolling down

Our 2nd class was on the following Monday. The crowds had started the exodus out of Tahoe, and we got in early for good measure. Lesson 2 (Level 2) went much better! We got a different instructor for this class and the first thing they made us do was to give up our poles. Their logic was that without poles we would focus on balancing ourselves better and learn skiing faster than with poles. And it did turn out to be true! Yes, it was hard to not have a crutch to support oneself on, but with our hands free, we were able to stand straighter, and with better form on our skis and soon enough, all of us were able to ski down the bunny slopes – the same bunny slopes we were falling all over ourselves just the day before!

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Frozen in time

Once you are able to come down the bunny slope the first time, without falling, that is THE moment. THE moment of joy and realization that you can actually do this. Skiing is not something that is impossible to do or difficult to master. Getting to do even a teeny bit of it right gives one a great sense of accomplishment.

We soon graduated to the green slopes, we went on the lifts and actually came skiing down! We used wedges to slow us down, a couple topples here and there, even tried making a few turns to get that familiar S shaped descent, overall it was heaps of fun. The snow was fresh, the day was white, the sun was bright and the skies couldn’t have been a more blue. Add friends to the mix, and naturally a lot of laughter and joy, and learning the art of skiing together is a great way to spend the weekend.

The higher you go on the slopes, the better the views get. It’s such a peaceful world up there. At the end of the day, all of us declared we were now hooked onto skiing. Whether we will soon move to the blue slopes is of course anybody’s guess. But for now, just remembering that we were able to come down the green runs without falling makes me smile, every time!



From → Lake Tahoe, USA

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