For the first several years of my ski life I did the local hills in Minnesota near where I grew up, but never explored much beyond that. I would make it out about 3-5 times a season, and was pretty happy with my level of skiing. Yet the thought of riding down the side of a mountain out west scared the daylights out of me.
During my junior year in college I saw a sign for a ski club 5-day trip to Steamboat for a measly $450 and I jumped on it. During that trip I got my first taste of the mountains. My first feel for big skiing over huge terrains and long runs. Oh, how sweet it was! My legs were totally burnt out after the first day, and on the morning of the second day I could hardly walk. I was hooked, but still wasn’t trying super challenging terrain. Lots of blue groomers.
For way too long after that, I didn’t do much skiing. I took a few trips to Lutsen and Spirit, but nothing of significance that was going to push my boundaries. Plus I was feeling a little bit ruined by Steamboat, the hills back home didn’t seem to have the same thrills (go figure). However, in late 2009 I found out about a co-worker’s plan to fly to the east coast for a ski trip with friends, and I asked if I could join in. Soon I found myself booking tickets and traveling to Killington, VT for three days of fun.
My trip to Killington was where I really broke out from a blue groomer to a black diamond skier. First of all, when I went to Steamboat I was still pretty freaked out at the expert runs, and the trees scared me even more. I didn’t feel like I had matured enough to get daring. But the group of guys I was skiing with at Killington were good, and I felt pushed to go bigger and be more bold. What I discovered was that pushing myself was where the fun was at. The blue groomers were more of a relaxing scenic push, and the black diamonds to be where you put your skills to the test. I remember looking back at a few runs and thinking to myself, “Wow, I just came down THAT?”
It’s hard to explain exactly what change took place, but I think it was a combination of friends, good snow, and new terrain. I found it easier to push myself when I didn’t know what was around the next turn or where a lift would take me.
The most recent trip I took was a three-day hop of Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, and Breckenridge in early 2011. Three very different resorts with a broad range of runs, and an opportunity to do something new every day. I found myself getting even more aggressive with what I was willing to try, and suddenly I understood how Super G skiers are insane enough to go 70mph down a hill — it’s all about the progression of your skill and ability. And I flat out had fun doing new things like the single T-Bar at Copper, the East Wall at A-Basin, and coming down from Peak 8 through the Imperial Bowl at Breckenridge. Awesome.
Now I want to go bigger every time. I am definitively a black diamond skier.
I have three suggestions for those of you who might want to know how to move to the next level with your skiing:
- Ski with friends who are below and above you in skill level. It’s fun trying to keep up with the hard-core bombers, but just as satisfying sticking with a friend and watching them enjoy something new (and sometimes a well-needed break).
- Get adventurous, but know your limits. I still can tell when I’ve pushed myself too far, and this is mostly when I get into steep icy spots, areas with rocks, or inside the tree lines on well-worn paths. But there’s nothing like the feeling of dropping into a huge steep bowl and letting it rip!
- Try new resorts! Much of my recent enjoyment from skiing has been the variety of places that I’ve been able to hit. Resorts also rate their runs a little differently, and I’ve found that some double black diamonds don’t seem to bad compared to others I’ve been on. Going to a new place shoots up your excitement for what they have to offer, and what you might be able to master. Oh, and did I mention that Liftopia is a fantastic place to get your tickets and make this happen?
Would love to hear what helped you get to the next level. Please share your stories with us.