I have a dark history of traumatic downhill skiing experiences. My first time skiing was around 10 years of age on a church youth group trip. I was sent to the top of the bunny hill with no instructions about how to stop and was just told “it’s easy”. Yes, skiing was easy. Stopping wasn’t.
I sailed down the entire hill at high speed and crashed into a plastic mesh fence at the bottom. My ski penetrated the fence, still attached to my foot. I thrashed around like a fish caught in a net, my church “friends” nowhere to be found. Then a kind stranger finally released my ski and I spent the rest of the day in the lodge.
Over 10 years later, I tried again. My brother watched over me on the bunny hill, then I took some group lessons. I learned to snowplow on green and easy blue runs. Success!
Then, skiing at Anthony Lakes resort some idiot sped down a green run at high speed, clipped the back of my skis and then crashed into another lady further down the slope. She left the mountain on a stretcher. Once again, I decided I was done with downhill skiing. I love cross country skiing and snowshoeing. I’ll just enjoy those. They’re safer, quieter and better exercise.
Fast forward five years and I’m dating Brian, an expert backcountry skier. Backcountry skiing does sound like a superior way to ski. I like the idea of powder, exercise, the lack of people around to crash into me, or fences for me to crash into. I decided to give downhill skiing another go to try to learn enough to safely ski some backcountry powder.
There I stood at the bottom of the Park City Resort bunny hill, afraid to board the magic carpet. The magic carpet is a slowly moving conveyor belt which gently transports the skier to the top of a very small, almost horizontal slope. After five years away from downhill skiing, and two times of saying to myself “I’ll never do this again”, there was a big part of me that did NOT want to get on that magic carpet. Then I saw my double-black-diamond skiing boyfriend riding the magic carpet with a big, encouraging smile and I knew I had to try.
After I got over my initial aversion to the skis, things went pretty well. I began my bunny hill tour of all the famous Utah resorts – Park City, Canyons, Snowbird, with Brian at my side the entire time. I read a book called “Inner Skiing” filled with zen advice to feel at one with the slope, and it helped a little. I started to feel comfortable on the skis and began to practice some parallel turns. I took a two hour private lesson at Alta. Now I was actually skiing green runs instead of inching down the bunny hill in a clenched snowplow position. It felt great!
We skiied green runs at Brighton and I kept challenging myself to go faster and faster. I eventually topped out at around 10 mph and Brian and I celebrated my progress. We returned to Alta the next day and I felt better than ever about my skiing skills. So good, in fact, that we even went out of bounds and skied in a little bit of powder! It was just a small taste of the potential of skiing in the backcountry and it felt great, like skiing on a giant pillow.
After skiing the Alta powder and skiing all day at Brighton the day before, my legs were wasted. It was hard to even execute a turn on my way down the groomed run after the powder. My form looked terrible and my turns felt incredibly lazy, and who do I run into on the slope? My ski instructor from earlier in the week! I tried to explain the lesson had really helped but my legs were just tired at that moment. He didn’t look convinced and we laughed about the unfortunate timing of that encounter as we left Alta.
In case anyone wants to know which Utah ski resort is best for beginners, I would recommend Park City Resort. The approach to the two magic carpets was short and flat and the magic carpets were very gentle. The bunny hill had a friendly lift and two different slopes which made it easy to gradually progress to steeper terrain. For true ski chickens, Park City Resort offered the most comforting experience.