By Wild Bill Kelso, PSIA Certified Ski Instructor
Skiing and boarding is fun. So much fun it is hard to describe for skiers and boarders who enjoy the sport. You get to explore and experience the mountain outdoors with your family and friends with the thrill of skiing or boarding. However, some people new to the sport cannot experience the joy of skiing or boarding because of fear. It’s fear of falling, and fear of getting hurt or injured.
The fear and anxiety can be so consuming that it blocks the ability to learn and progress. The signs are manifested in stiff legs and body, leaning up the hill, clenched jaw, death grip on poles, and mental reluctance. Those traits block learning. Sometimes the fearful person didn’t want to come skiing but were brought there by family or friends.
Wait… there’s hope! “Never-ever” skiers who experience fear need to spend at least three days on the flat beginner area before they venture out to the green (easy beginner) runs. Not all green runs are the same… the beginner area is so flat and easy that it would bore 99% of the skier/boarder population.
If your partner/ski buddy is an experienced skier, they will be bored in an hour. They want to have fun and may lose patience ruining the experience for both. Also, here’s some news… falling doesn’t hurt and the chance of getting injured is slim. Injuries are rare on the beginner area.
Do not fall into the trap of leaving the learning run/area to soon. It will take a couple days or more to get used to skiing or boarding. I repeat… allow two or three days on the beginner runs to experience a lifetime of fun. Ski instructors are paid to spend the day with beginners and get them going without fear. The instructors overcome this issue every day and have a lot of tricks of the trade. Invest in three days of class lessons which are reasonable in cost and well worth the investment in the long run.
Overcoming fear has a lot to do gaining experience and being comfortable with the sport. Stay on the beginner area until the new beginning skier is having fun and wants to move onto the bigger mountain green runs.
Falling doesn’t hurt. One of the first things the beginner has to learn that they are going too slow and the run is too flat to hurt themselves. Your ski equipment is designed so you won’t get injured. The worst thing about falling on the flat beginner run is getting back up. That is a topic for another day. For now, let’s just say your skis/board have to be below you on the hill (not above you) and perpendicular to the downhill slope (not pointing down the hill when you are getting up).
When first learning to ski or board, people say “I can’t stop”. You can’t learn to stop until you learn to go. Stopping is a more advanced move that is taught and learned on day 3 or 4. First, you need to learn how to move in balance on a gentle slope; control your speed with a snowplow (also called a wedge); learn to turn using a turning wedge; and generally, control your speed and direction so you can safely navigate the hill. For the initial couple days, if you need an emergency stop, lower yourself on the uphill side and sit down. Later on, you will be able to learn the hockey stop like hockey players do.
If you get stuck on a run that looks to steep, try “Chicken turns”… technically called Garlands. A chicken turn is a half turn in one direction allowing you to lower yourself down the run in that direction without ever facing directly down the hill. Eventually however, you will run out of space and have make a full turn to proceed in the opposite direction.
It is difficult to ski if you are timid and afraid. You have to be bold and aggressive and assert yourself.