Ski

Learning to ski as an adult is worth the trouble

Prepare to be built up then torn straight back down again—and again, and again

January 11, 2016

By Jenni Elliott / Photo: Big White Ski Resort

You can’t ignore the mountains. Whether it’s your friends disappearing to exploit the fresh powder every weekend, or that friend who’s always trying to organize hikes on a Sunday morning, the mountains are our backdrop to daily life in Vancouver. Constantly there, silently judging your lack of skiing ability. If you’re not a Vancouver native, there is a fairly high chance that you have never skied before. And by ‘never skied’ I mean literally never skied, not like the majority of Vancouverites who claim they don’t ski only to later admit, “Oh yeah, I skied when I was a kid for sure, but that doesn’t count,” as they zoom past you on the bunny hill.

For the rest of us, it takes a lot of bravery to strap two planks of wood (or whatever they’re made of) to your feet and throw yourself down a mountain. Here, our recommendations for the perfect (legitimate) rookie skiing experience.

The Hill

Start at the deep end with a three-day ski trip. You might think Whistler is the biggest and best choice, but many newbies find Kelowna’s Big White a less intimidating starter option. As well as pleasing those who prefer to challenge themselves on black diamond runs, the Okanagan’s champagne powder also makes for a comfortable landing cushion for beginners. Go for at least three days—you need that learning curve to make it worth your while. Also, walking in ski boots is hard. No one tells you that, but it is. The ski-in ski-out lodges on Big White are close enough to the main village that you can limp there in ten minutes flat. Win.

The Company

Prepare to ditch your friends and sign yourself up for morning lessons—you’ll see them in the afternoon for some après partying anyway. Keep your phone on you (preferably in a Ziploc in your jacket’s inside pocket so the battery doesn’t die from the cold as soon as you take it out of your pocket) so you can meet your friends for lunch. If you’re feeling confident, hit a green run with one or two other newbs, but don’t get carried away and try anything harder.

Your friends are not ski instructors. Heck, most of them won’t even wait for you to slowly but safely zig zag down the hill. So cut your losses and wait until you’re good enough to handle yourself before you start taking group selfies on the chair lift.

The Lessons

If you’re going to do it, do it properly and book a private lesson for at least one of your three days. Group lessons are good as you can share your experience with fellow try-hards, but obviously you are not going to get the one-on-one attention your heart so desires from the red jacket [note: cool ski lingo for your instructor]. Skiing is, at first, more user-friendly than snowboarding, and you’ll be on your feet and sliding down a green run by the end of day one—with your instructor’s blessing, of course. But many rookies find their skills begin to stagnate on day two.

I may or may not have hit my lowest point on the dreaded day two. After the success of day one, I decided to ski down a green run to my lesson’s meeting point. There had been six inches of fresh snow overnight, which people seemed really buzzed about. Within 10 minutes on the run (with minimal visibility, might I add) I had lost both skis and my eyelashes were frozen with tears.

Nonetheless, day three brings newfound joy. Expect parallel turns, increased speed, and, what’s that, actual fun? You will begin to crave the sound of the snow as your skis slash through it on your expertly-controlled journey down the mountain.

The Cost

Group lessons on Big White start from $69, with a beginner’s package that includes gear rental and your lift pass for the same price. Private lessons start from $255 for a two-hour lesson and go right up $469 for a full day. Add in gas for the drive or flights to Kelowna, plus accommodation, and you’re looking at around $1,500 all in.

If the price of a weekend away sounds too steep to you, the option is there to skip the crash course and take weekly lessons on one of the local mountains. The results will be slower, but so will be the draining of your bank account. Cypress offers full-day weekend group lessons including your lift pass for $119 ($69 if you have a season pass) with Seymour offering the same goods but on a two-hour basis for $74 (or $99 with gear). If you barely want to leave the city, check out Grouse’s ski school offers: lessons and lift pass for $93 (or $126 with gear).

5 Things No One Tells You

  1. There’s only one way down: No mid-mountain temper tantrum can change that
  2. Don’t tuck your socks into your long johns: Or if you do, expect blisters and scarring
  3. You don’t fall as much as snowboarding: Just nail the pizza-stop and keep in position
  4. You can get too dependent on your red jacket: Remember you need to be able to do this on your own
  5. Turning up the hill slows you down: It’s easy to forget this in moments of panic, but there’s a really simple solution to flying off the edge of a run

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