It’s sometimes easy to forget that New York is home to 50 different ski resorts – no wonder the state hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice. As January is officially National Ski and Snowboard Month, Adventures by Daddy is pleased to welcome Nikki Lynn to the blog to share her experience learning the sport at New York’s Greek Peak Mountain Resort. This is Nikki’s first in a series of posts for Adventures by Daddy, and hopefully not the last.
Growing up in Central New York I was never more than 2 hours away from several ski areas. Each winter on trips to and from my grandparent’s homes in the Finger Lakes we could see the chair lifts and lights on Song and Labrador Mountains from the road. My school had a large ski and snowboard club that offered many opportunities to go on trips. Despite this access to one of the most popular cold weather hobbies, I kept my winter sports pursuits indoors watching figure skating and the occasional winter X-Games if there was nothing better on TV. In 2013 I turned 30 and decided this was the year to try new things, step out of my comfort zone and take advantage of the many opportunities right in my own backyard. With some help and encouragement from my boyfriend (who, in the interest of full disclosure is an avid snowboarder and instructor) I stepped into my very first pair of ski boots last weekend.
My good friend wanted to join me in this adventure, and since everything is more fun with a friend we drove out to Greek Peak (located in Virgil, NY just outside of Cortland) on a clear and sunny Sunday morning. We had signed up for the Mountains of Fun program, a promotion that is geared toward first time skiers and snowboarders. More details about the program can be found here, but in a nutshell just pick up a coupon at a Tops super market, McDonalds or other location and for $25 you get an hour and a half group lesson, rental equipment and a lift ticket for the beginner hill. You can take advantage of this deal up to three times in one season, and with each lesson you get to build on the skills you learned previously.
The first time group lessons begin every hour, so we arrived around 11 am in order to make the noon group. First you need to park, walk to pay and get your vouchers at the ticket window, stand in line to fill out the paperwork at the rental shop and then get your boots, skis and poles. If the resort is busy on a holiday weekend or when the weather is perfect for snow sports, this process can take a while. We were there on MLK weekend and while the rental shop felt a bit crowded at times we were set up with our equipment in about half an hour. The friendly staff in the rental shop will take your shoe size, height and weight from paperwork you fill out beforehand to provide the right equipment whether you are learning to ski or snowboard. It was really helpful having to take the guesswork out of what size to get or style of ski to use. Having never worn ski boots before, it is an awkward feeling that’s slightly similar to strapping on rollerblades. It took me a few minutes to adjust walking around in them, but after that I barely noticed.
Once we were set up with all our necessary equipment, it was almost time for our lesson to start so we walked across the bridge from the rental shop to a clearly marked meeting place. At Greek Peak, they separate children, teen, and adult lessons, so any earlier worries we may have had of being shown up by an 8 year old were quickly put to rest once we saw that the other group members were at least old enough to vote. Our instructors were Tyler and Mark, and throughout the entire lesson they showed so much encouragement and patience with us awkward and nervous first timers that I felt more comfortable and confident as the lesson went on. For those who have never been skiing before they teach you the basics anyone would need to get by on the bunny slope and the beginner hill. The lesson started with Mark and Tyler teaching us how to put our boots in and out of the binding of the skis and some basic safety tips. We then spent most of the lesson in an area of the bunny slope with a very slight decline to get used to the sensation of gliding and sliding on the snow, as well as how to turn and stop. We gradually made our way further and further up the hill and eventually took the “Magic Carpet” (a conveyor belt similar to the moving walkways in airports) to the top. Like any group made up of varying ability levels, some caught on more quickly than others. I really appreciated that our instructors never made us feel rushed or pushed anyone too hard that they felt uncomfortable or unsafe.
After mastering the basics on the bunny hill, we were free to work at our own pace and toward the end of the lesson Mark or Tyler gave us the OK to try the beginner slope directly off chair lift 3 if we felt comfortable. I think I was more nervous about getting on and off the chairlift without falling and making a fool of myself than I was about getting down the much bigger and intimidating beginner slope in one piece. The beginner slope doesn’t look that bad from the bottom, but the view from the top was a different story for me. It was difficult to control my speed, and I did end up falling a couple times, but just like learning anything new practice, repetition, and experience helps build confidence. By the time I had taken my fifth run down the beginner slope I made it without falling and still smiling. I am also proud to say both my friend and I made it on and off the chair lift with grace!
We are headed back to Greek Peak for our second lesson this coming weekend. I am excited to get back on the hills and keep learning about this fun and engaging wintertime sport. January is officially Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, but the learning will continue for me all winter and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with Adventures by Daddy’s readers. Feel free to leave any comments or ask questions! Until next time, Nikki