Backyard Olympics: Get ready, it’s all downhill from here
I took a downhill ski lesson about six years ago. It was miserable.
I felt really unstable on the slippery skis – probably because I kept falling – and none of the advice from the instructor made any sense. There was a lot of talk about a mysterious “fall line” that did more to confuse than clarify.
So it was with some hesitation and a lot of trepidation that I signed up last month for the second ski lesson of my life.
I chose Diamond Peak during the Learn to Ski and Ride week because at $29, it was a great deal – even if I walked out in the middle of the lesson like I did the first time.
And it’s so close. Just up the hill in Incline Village.
To my surprise and delight, it was a completely different experience.
I think I may have actually learned to ski. Maybe because I lucked out with instructor George Postgate, who’s been teaching at Diamond Peak for 20 years.
He broke down the movements into smaller, more comprehensible segments.
He advised that any first-time or novice skiers take lessons rather than trying to figure it out on their own. He suggested students take notes and review them before skiing again.
“People need to be instructed in skiing because the movements are not natural or intuitive,” he said. “Most of the movements are in fact the opposite of what your body wants to do, like leaning forward going down an incline, for example.
“People who do not take lessons may make it down the runs but they usually are employing very inefficient techniques that limit their potential to become good skiers. They are also more prone to injury and fatigue.”
He also warned against learning from a friend.
“While one’s skiing friends might mean well, they are not trained to teach and they also want to have fun themselves, so when they try to teach their friends to ski they often take them to runs that are too difficult,” he said. “This often leads to a very frightening experience for the beginner. Many more would-be skiers never come back after such an experience.”
Milena Regos, marketing director for Diamond Peak, said the resort hosts two Learn to Ski and Burton Ride Weeks in the season.
“We want to make it affordable for beginners to see if they like it,” she said. “Hopefully, they stick with it.”
She said they are scheduled in January and March when snow conditions should be at their prime.
“We want to make sure we give people the best possible experience they could have for their first time,” she said.
Burton Snowboards has teamed with the resort and provides a specialty snowboard that makes it easier to learn, she said.
Whether learning to board or ski, Postgate said being in good physical condition helps, and age is fairly relative to physical condition.
“I have taught people in their 80s but that is the exception,” he said. “I would say that people from 7 to 60 are good bets with exceptions several years on either side of those ages.”
Postgate can list the correct movements and postures when it comes to skiing. He can tell you what conditions are best and how to perfect your form.
But when it really comes down to it, it’s something that has to be experienced to be understood.
“I can’t really describe adequately the sensations – physical, visual, and auditory – I enjoy on a powder day as my skis slice through fresh snow while I guide them through the trees,” he said.