A Climber Learns to Ski – Weekend 2 with a First for Me During Snow Summit’s 60th Anniversary

I got longer skis this time. Just a tiny bit longer, they were still shorter than me though. For some reason I felt more advanced this time. That’s right, it was my big ol’ ego saying, “I’m going skiing two weekends in a row, I can’t possibly use the absolute beginner skis again, I’m a bad ass now!”

Yeah right.

I was up at Snow Summit, near Big Bear Lake, California again, this time with my sister’s whole family: herself, her husband and their 5 year old twin girls. It was Snow Summit’s 60th Anniversary weekend and while the females of our group were waiting for my Brother in Law to return from storage locker stuffing, a Snow Summit employee came up and offered us free 60th Anniversary pins, which my nieces liked immediately.

There was going to be a fireworks display at night, but I had hoped my nieces would forget that since it was going to start at 7pm, which would be pretty late for them to still be on the mountain.

The weather forecast called for a high of 23 degrees Fahrenheit, below freezing and pretty cold for Southern California, but I was comfortable with my selected layers plus a pair of bib pants I borrowed from my sister. My nieces were bundled up well too, but were already complaining about cold hands and I doubted they’d last until fireworks time.

This weekend the girls were with us adults, so first we all went on the bunny slopes, one of my nieces would go with my Brother in Law while my sister (who is also a beginner skiier but has gone cross country skiing) and I would take the other one, between the two of us we would hoist our selected kid up high enough so she could sit in the “flying chair”.

Going down the bunny slope for the first time that day I had a moment of doubt about getting the longer skis, they didn’t seem to turn as easily into a snow plow position, but I reminded myself that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that anymore anyway.

My nieces, of course, did very well. What is it with little kids and skiing? They just took off like cute little ducks following my Brother in Law, they seem to like to go fast too. I was playing “sweeper” so I was nearly left behind a few times.

Thea, Me and Bev at Snow Summit on the 60th Anniversary Day
Thea, Me and Bev at Snow Summit on the 60th Anniversary Day

During the lunch break I called up Thea, my Big Bear Resorts Public Relations contact and she invited me to do a run together from the top of the mountain. I accepted and was thinking, “I hope she remembers I’m a beginner!”. It turned out that Thea was there with an associate of hers named Joie, who was also a beginner skier and with Bev Oster (President of the PR company) We all went down Summit Run, which is a green run that goes from the top of the mountain to the base. Thea and Bev pretty much gave Joie and I a mini lesson as we went down. I appreciated it because I felt a bit squirrely on the longer skis. At the bottom of the run Thea told me they planned to take Joie up to the Family Fun Park area. I told her I’d check in with my sister’s family because there had been talk about us all going to that area (which consists of multiple runs that do not go all the way down the mountain).

When I rejoined my sister’s family it was decided that we’d all just do Summit Run once as the girls were getting tired. The girls wanted to go fast but of course Summit Run, though an all green run (which my sister would disagree with even though she didn’t fall once) is quite a bit longer than the slopes my nieces were on. Unfortunately we had a few mishaps. At one point a boarder crashed into both my Brother in Law and one of my nieces as they were getting up. My niece, surprisingly didn’t seem alarmed, didn’t even cry. Maybe this was because she had just been getting up herself so didn’t notice the extra tangle of arms? At any rate, I found it hard as a beginner to go slow enough to stay behind everyone, especially on the steeper parts. I found myself snow plowing like crazy. Eventually we got down and rushed off to find dinner and to get the tired girls to bed. While at dinner my Brother in Law mentioned night skiing. I said, “I’ll go!” feeling like I had not skied enough yet.

This seemed reasonable to say until I saw the slopes as we drove back to Snow Summit after we all checked into the motel. The slopes seemed kinda dark. I felt my confidence waning, I was still a beginner and I had never night skied before! “OK, I’m a little scared now” I told my Brother in Law. “I”ll stick with you,” he said.

Night Skiing

Well it turns out that the slopes had looked dark right then because they had turned off some of the lights in the Bunny Slope area for the fireworks display, which I managed to catch a few of as we were driving. Once we paid to upgrade our tickets to an all day and night ticket (I had gotten free rentals and a free lift ticket but it was only for the day) we headed to the top of the mountain. It was cold. I think the low was supposed to be 0 degrees Fahrenheit and I know that it had been 4 degrees at 8 am in the morning so I figure it was in the single digits when we started night skiing around 8 pm. My Brother in Law stuck with me but managed to convince me to take an alternate section of the Summit Run trail that was Blue. It was steep but there were so few people about I decided to just go for it. I felt I wasn’t carving as nicely as I was the second day of last weekend, but I was getting it done. However I did do a pretty fast end to the run, which caused my Brother in Law to yell, “It’s this way!” afraid that I was heading off into the Blue / Black area. I was actually just trying to burn off speed before turning left (which I still find harder to do than to turn right).

I did four runs that night, each time taking the alternate route. I fell on three of those runs… but only at the bottom! One time I was so close… I came down in style, and then tried to stop. I saw the net and the lift line coming up. I was spraying snow like crazy but suddenly I realized I wasn’t going to stop before I hit the net. I decided to fall.

My Brother in Law said I had looked really good, and was really kicking up snow and then it looked like I had just decided to lie down.

I laughed when he told me that. I laughed each time I fell down too. On one occasion a guy near me said, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” I said with a chuckle. I am so not a bad ass.

I also began to have trouble with my head gear, my knit hat (a gift from my sister this Christmas) had apparently stretched out from use and kept falling into my eyes with no sunglasses to stop them. I kept pushing it and my ear warmer wrap out of my face, I even tried different combinations of the warmer on top of the hat, the hat backwards, etc. I’m surprised I didn’t crash during one of these adjustments.

Eventually, after one of my falls and when part of the fabric of my Buff had frozen stiff because of the condensation from my mouth, I told my Brother in Law I’d wait for him in the pub. They had deals going on as part of the 60th Anniversary celebration and I could warm up while he did his last runs before night skiing ended at 9:30 pm. It was a pretty laid back atmosphere and it was fun to people watch as I warmed up. The crowd was really mixed, I heard different languages and saw a pretty racially diverse crowd. A bit different from skiing many years ago.

I felt it was a pretty successful first time night skiing. It was kind of eerie (and very cold on the lift rides up, especially since I had no eye protection — no sunglasses at night) but there were very few skiers and boarders so I felt more free to try stuff without fear of causing a crash. My Brother in Law said his last two runs of the night were done without any one else on the run at all!

Live Band During the Day Outside Slopeside Pub
Live Band During the Day Outside Slopeside Pub

Sunday

The plan for Sunday was to leave early so we would not get stuck in traffic. My Brother in Law suggested that my sister and I go off to the Family Fun Park area to ski while he stayed with the girls in the Bunny Slopes area but my sister declined. We all did a bunch of runs on the Bunny Slopes but this time mixed it up by taking a different lift which had a slightly steeper start to it. The lines were very short, most of the time we got done and were at the front of the line again. My nieces were in a better mood and when we asked them if they wanted to eat at the restaurant at the top of the mountain, they both eventually said they did, even though we explained that they would have to ski down.

Eating at View Haus at the top of the mountain was fun. I snapped a pic of a thermometer gauge which indicated the outside temperature was 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

The run down this time went much better than on Saturday. The girls did great, falling sometimes but for the most part getting up with out help or too much fuss. I still found it hard to follow them though.

We got down in time to beat traffic and ended a great weekend in the mountains.

I’ve since used some of my credit at The Clymb to buy some snow goggles. No, I don’t expect to become a ski bunny, they’ll be useful for snowshoeing. Really.

Um, anyone free to ski sometime during this coming week?

By the way, Snow Summit is doing a Learn a ¬†Snowsport Month deal until the end of this month, if you sign up for a beginner lesson you get free rentals. If you’ve never skied or snowboarded I recommend trying it out, though I warn you, you might end up like me.