Easing back into Alpine skiing
By Cindy Brown
I love to downhill ski — really I do. I love to be outside in the winter with the sun shining, turning down a nice groomed slope surrounded by evergreen trees. But, I’ve been away from skiing for many years — too many to count. I used to live in Colorado and skied a lot, especially while my son was growing up. But after he got better than I ever was and I moved to Taos, I haven’t skied. And, embarrassingly enough, I’ve never skied at Taos Ski Valley. Not once.
My friends in the ski industry say that women like me are a challenge for them — women who used to ski when their kids were young, but have given it up. In general, fewer women than men ski and ride. Across the country and at Taos Ski Valley, women make up about 40 percent of skiers and 32 percent of snowboarders. The average age for skiers is 34 years old.
Last year, I took a cross country ski lesson and that helped inspire me to try downhill again. This is the year I get back into skiing. I asked the experts at the Taos Ski Valley what I could do to get ready for ski season. I’m the hiking columnist for The Taos News, so I spend most of the summer and fall hiking the trails at high altitudes — so that is a good start.
Burt Skall, director of Snowsports at Taos Ski Valley, advised me to keep hiking. He says that anything that gets you moving is helpful when preparing for ski season. He adds that core strength is especially important and recommends yoga and bike riding, including spinning classes. There are also ski conditioning classes at many gyms. Locally, High Altitude Fitness is offering a five-week class that helps improve strength, balance, agility and endurance, with a focus on core strengthening. Crossfit Taos (soon to be Crossfit Free World) will also be offering classes that help you get in shape for the best ski season ever.
Conditioning can help prevent injury and make you feel more relaxed when you look out over the slopes for the first time in many years, ready for your first run. And surely my muscles will remember what to do. Right?
“Definitely take a lesson and try some new gear,” says Skall. He points out that ski equipment has changed so much in the last few years that bringing out the old skis is like playing music on an eight-track tape deck. “It still plays music, but not the way we are used to hearing it today; same thing with skis.”
By the start of the season, the rental shop will be open in the new hotel, The Blake at Taos Ski Valley. You can sign up for a package that includes a 2 1/2 hour morning lesson in a small group, with ski rentals and a pass to ski for the rest of the day. By taking a lesson, you can learn how to work with the skis rather than wrestle with them. Skall calls it “flowing with the mountain rather than fighting it.”
One of the advantages of taking a lesson is that not only do you get acquainted with new gear and remember how to ski, but also you learn your way around the mountain so that you feel confident when you go off to ski in the afternoon. “The lesson will allow you to go and explore on your own, so that it feels safe to you,” Skall says.
Ski school also allows you to connect with other skiers. Skall points out that although skiing is an individual sport, it is really highly social. Just like hiking, it is so much more fun skiing with family and friends than going alone, not to mention much safer.
And what about Taos’ reputation for being a super tough mountain as in “tall, dark, and scary” or “Taos Ski Valley — a four letter word for steep?” Skall promises, “There is a groomed moderate slope off every chairlift, except the new Kachina lift, and lots of green runs as well.”
Ok! I’m ready to get back on the skis this year and remember how to flow with the mountain. Next year — snowboarding!
Ski school is available at Taos Ski Valley for adults and kids. For more information, visit skitaos.com/lessons/.