So here’s my deal, I’ve gone skiing twice before. I’ve gone snowboarding once. But my short trips (2 days tops in duration) have always been a minimum of 5 years apart. Consequently, while I had fun on these trips, I never got beyond one blue run to my name and kept basically being a recurring absolute beginner.
After this past weekend I think I can finally say I’m beyond that.
My ski return to Big Bear Mountain, which is in the Big Bear Lake area in Southern California, came about because my Brother in Law asked if I wanted to go ski the week after Christmas. I emailed Big Bear Mountain Resorts (which runs Snow Summit and Bear Mountain) and was happily surprised to get an email back inviting me to check them out, noting that they noticed Rockgrrl.com had had it’s 10 year anniversary and Snow Summit was celebrating it’s 60th Anniversary and Bear Mountain it’s 10th Anniversary too (under Snow Summit).
So… I was set. My Brother in Law, who had been waffling on the idea of skiing was now “in” since I was committed too, especially since I was able to get a 1/2 price deal for him. This was a good arrangement I thought, without my sister’s house to sleep over at the night before and after skiing, and my Brother in Law’s driving skills I would not have gone either.
So here’s how it went, after about a 2 hour drive, my Brother in Law and I arrived at a busy Snow Summit. We checked in at Guest Services then went on to rentals, where I got my first look at the “new” skis… the last time I skied was over 16 years ago! The skis they gave me were really short, shorter than me (I’m 5′ 4″) I seem to remember always having skis taller than me in the past. I then went with my Brother in Law on the Bunny Slopes, luckily I didn’t fall getting off the lift, and I didn’t fall on the short run either. Apparently I remembered how to Snow Plow. After one more run, we decided to go up to the Family Fun Park area of the mountain, hoping for shorter lift lines, and also knowing that that area had green as well as green and blue runs.
The weather was great, much warmer than the 42 degrees we had thought it would be. There was a lot of ice on Big Bear Lake though which was quite pretty.
I spent the rest of the day on the various runs up there, I fell at least once on each run. Sometimes I’d fall on the blue sections but towards the end of the day I seemed to only fall towards the end of the run when I’d get nervous about all the people at the bottom. My falling was definitely related to how many people were around me. It seemed on the start of many of the blue sections there’d be a littering of snowboarders and skiiers on the ground. They were like mine fields to me, and I couldn’t do my slow, wide, sometimes snow plow, sometimes close to real turns, style of skiing. I did on occasion go fast down the hill, somehow not falling, but I was always kind of surprised when I made it out that way.
Oh, if folks have tips on how to get up after falling on skis, I can use them. I found it much easier to stand up after falling when on a snowboard. But maybe that’s because I’ve fallen much more while snowboarding.
All in all though, I had a great time. We met a local woman and her daughter who said that it was a pity we were’t skiing Sunday, as it was going to be less crowded, she said, “Historically tomorrow will be the least crowded day in the park, because it’s the end of vacation and kids have to go back to school”. She then added, “For example they sold 6000 lift tickets today and tomorrow it’s only 2000”. My brother in law and I were pretty surprised by that and I started day dreaming about uncrowded slopes and lines with fresh snow (the forecast called for snow Saturday night). In my past ski experiences I’ve always been on icy snow. And when I snowboarded I had one day of decent snow and the second day I had slush.
The upshot of this is that at the end of the day my Brother in Law went straight to the office to sign up my two nieces to Little Bear Ski Camp. He was committed to returning.
The drive home was much longer than the drive up due to traffic, at the end of it my Brother in Law starting questioning if he could just get a credit for his daughter’s ski camp since he didn’t relish the idea of waking up early again and driving back. But in the end we decided to do it anyway (partly because my sister had told the girls about the plan so they would’ve been disappointed).
“It’s snowing!” I said excitedly as I saw the first flakes falling as we drove up the mountain a second time, this time with my five year old nieces accompanying us in the back of the car. As a born and raised Southern Californian (even one with outdoor experience) it’s still an out of the ordinary occurance for me to see flakes coming down. I’ve been in snow plenty of times but actual snowfall was rarer. My nieces were also excited. They at first didn’t believe that the white dots were snowflakes.
“Snowflakes are big,” one said.
We figured out that she had this impression because of the snowflakes they made in school. My Brother in Law explained that those were giant snowflakes but if you looked at the ones outside with a microscope they would look like that.
My niece said, “Maybe if we were nice to the teacher we can borrow her magnifying glass and look at the snowflakes.” My Brother in Law tried to explain the teacher would not have a magnifying glass (or a microscope) and that they would be busy skiing but my niece remained optimistic.
When we arrived in Big Bear we could tell right away that it was going to be different than Saturday, where on Saturday we had to wait in a line to park at Snow Summit (and in fact ended up paying $20 for VIP parking), this time we were able to drive right up to the free parking area and find a spot quickly. We breezed the girls through rentals and got them to their class (we were a little late but it seemed to be ok since the first part of class was indoors). After we got squared away with Guest Services (who graciously extended us the same deal we had on Saturday) we went straight for the top of the mountain. The plan was that we’d go down the long green Summit run from the top and my Brother in Law would give me pointers on how to do proper turns as we made our way down.
At the top my Brother in Law said, “You kind of kick out your hip and dig in with your ski.” He demonstrated. I tried to follow suit. “That’s good!” he said.
Once I understood the second concept about keeping your body facing downhill, things seemed to click for me. I made a quick turn to the right, trying to also get my uphill ski to unweight. I suddenly felt like maybe I was one of those people I see in ski commercials kicking up powder. “That’s great!” my Brother in Law said. Apparently I wasn’t just imagining it. I actually did kick up snow!
After lunch at the summit my confidence was high enough that we decided to split up for the day, just to meet up in time to watch my nieces at their school. Snow had continued to fall throughout the day, even though the initial forecast was that it would only snow in the morning. I felt really good and this time I didn’t fall at all, though this may be partly due to the fact that there were a lot less people about than on Saturday.
Riding up a lift by myself I suddenly thought, “I get it. I see why folks buy season passes. This is fun!” I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride that I had progressed quite a bit in my two days. I couldn’t get my turns to the left as good as the ones to my right, but I was actually able to stop without snow plowing (or falling) and I could carve in the snow!
I had one moment of pause though when I was at the top of a run and the sky was particularly overcast and grey with clouds and snow. I was wearing sports glasses which had worked great but they weren’t goggles so I did get some snow spray under them. I did the run without falling though it was a bit scary. All my skier and snowboarder friends can laugh at me now. I’m sure you’ve all skied in worse conditions.
Towards the end of the day I found that I was reverting back to Snow Plow like turns, especially if I was going left. But the skies were getting darker and darker so I was just glad I got down the long run without falling.
Be finishing a little early I was able to watch my nieces go on their first real Bunny Slope runs (in the morning they had only done the tread mill thing) they were so cute doing their snow plows, or, as they later told me “the pizza slice”.
I wish the day had ended there. But unfortunately we ended up in traffic purgatory. It was still snowing. We saw police cars and ambulances go by. My brother in law stopped his engine more than once. I got out and walked the side of the road a few times.
There was some humor in the drive down though, at one point (during one of the first long stops – but not one where folks had turned off their engines yet) one of my nieces said, “This is like the longest red light ever.”
At any rate, we ended up spending nine hours getting down from the mountain (the police eventually forced everyone to put on chains). In total my Brother in Law figured out we’d spent 10.5 hours in the car. Fortunately my nieces slept through a lot of it. We got to their house at 3am.
In the parking lot of Snow Summit, as we got in the car, both of my nieces declared that it was, “The Best Day Ever!” I can’t quite agree with them, but I’ll have to say it was certainly a banner day for me. I finally “got it” and while I need a lot of practice I think I could become a pretty good skier. I’d even like to give snowboarding a second try to see if I can get a similar “a ha!” moment.
As it so happens… apparently my Brother in Law and nieces were so happy with skiing that the whole family (including my sister) will be going back to Big Bear this weekend. This time they plan on spending the night Saturday night and on leaving early on Sunday. They’ve invited me to go with them.
I said, “Yes!” I gotta at least keep up with my nieces right?