Ahh, winter in Bend. When all the runners and cyclists morph into semi-professional cross country skiers and the snow sports people who’ve been moodily hibernating all summer run around town in their swishy pants giving a mountain conditions report to anyone that will listen.
I grew up in the midwest, where brutal lake effect winters shackled most (sane) people indoors from November until March. Winter sports? You mean watching football and spinning parking lot donuts? Got it. Even if you did want to hit the slopes, good luck – those flyover states are as pancake flat as you’d imagine. *just checked – the two ski resorts in Ohio boast less than 300ft of vert each.* That winter animosity drove me to a five year layover in Southern California, the land of perpetual sunny and 75, and by the time I landed in Bend last year I was a real winter weenie.
The murmurings of the mountain people, the powder chasers, rumbling through town were hard to ignore. My firsthand involvement with them though was limited to Mike’s (our shipping guy) Shred Count and when Anna (our graphic designer) got demolished by an out of control snowboarder and spent the next six months trying to mend her surgically repaired knee. Not super inviting. I’ll keep the snow capped peaks at a safe distance, thanks.
But when winter started knocking on summer’s door this year (we skipped fall, I’m pretty sure) I started feeling the itch. Suddenly it seemed everyone I talked to was a skier, snowboarder, or some-other-snow-sport-I-didn’t-know-existed’er. They debated when opening day would be, had shiny new gear delivered to the office, and talked incessantly about El Nino in ways I didn’t even experience in a college level weather class. Snowy jogs and admiring the blanketed mountains from afar just weren’t going to cut it this year – I needed to get out there and experience it myself.
If for no reason other than the après-ski tailgate beers.
Twenty five minutes outside of town is Mt Bachelor, one of the six largest ski areas in the country and with some of the most snow in the nation. I’d driven past it for summer hikes and long runs, but hadn’t considered using it for its prime purpose until now. The instruction program at Bachelor is top shelf, and a prime way to learn how to physically handle yourself with blades strapped to your feet pointing down the side of a giant mountain.
I signed up the day it opened.
…After double checking that my insurance policy was up to date and included things like “ski pole impalement” and “early onset arthritis.”
This isn’t a sales pitch for Mt Bachelor though. If anything it’s propaganda for trying new things, for being comfortable being uncomfortable. I’d never been on skis before my first lesson, which anyone who saw me walking out of the rental shop on day #1 would easily have realized. When I made my way over to the lesson area, awkwardly shuffling in my ski boots like the bastard child of a penguin and the Tinman, I was maxed out on all of those “I look stupid/everyone can tell I’m new/please let me curl up in a hole and die” feelings that people get when they’re doing something they’re unfamiliar with.
But I was there, I’d paid my money, and there was no turning back. “Just own it,” I told myself, “you’re walking into a safe place full of other beginners. They probably feel just as dumb as you do.”
With a newfound confidence – or rather, just less fearful anxiety – I marched over to the cluster of orange jacket-wearing instructors to announce my arrival for Ski Lesson #1.
… where 13 small children stood with them. Because obviously the prime time to learn a new skill is before you’re full grown, not at (almost) 30.
A few other adults showed up, and thankfully we were separated from those tiny fearless minions who got on their skis and to the top of the learning slope way before us. Show offs.
After introductions but before putting on our skis – which I was awkwardly still holding next to my body, unsure what to do with them – our instructor asked why we were all there. Some said they just moved to town, some were transitioning from snowboard to ski, one girl’s boyfriend had talked her into it.
I want to learn to enjoy winter,” I said. “And get to hang out with my friends when they do.
That was my motivation for signing up, for driving out, for taking a half day at work so I could take my first lesson when the mountain wasn’t crowded. I knew it’d be uncomfortable at first, but the investment (in money and pride) would pay dividends in fun this winter.
And it has, already.
It’d been a long time since I’d been a real beginner at something. It’s terrifying! Especially as an adult when we’re supposed to have “skill sets” and “experience” and know how to do stuff and stuff. But honestly, what I sacrificed in pride and ego was worth it ten-fold. Having a fun new activity that challenges me AND lets me hang out with my friends in new arena? Winwinwin. Plus tailgate beers? So many wins. Recommend it to a friend any day.
I’ve made it a goal of mine to try something new each month – Any sorts of things. Maybe I’ll keep writing about them here. But in the meantime, if you decide you want to give snow’y mountain sports a try, here are some things I learned:
Tyler Walsh, PSIA Certified Ski Instructor
Years skiing: Same amount of years walking