Editor's Note: The Joy of Learning to Ski (as an Adult)

Written and Illustrated by Diane Rudholm

I grew up (mostly) in the desert. Not the desert east of the Cascades where powder snow can often be measured in feet—but in the neon desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, more than 1,100 miles south of Seattle, Washington, where snow occasionally falls but rarely sticks.

As a kid, the closest thing I’d done to skiing was gliding around on inline skates on flat sidewalks. I was barely aware that there were ski resorts within driving distance of my home.

Words of Wisdom

The first time I clicked my boots into a pair of downhill skis was at Stevens Pass, about 35 miles northwest of Leavenworth, Washington. I was 24 years old. While I’d gone Nordic skiing, I had not yet been introduced into the pure stoke of bluebird and powder days.

My then boyfriend (now husband), Leyland, had learned to ski long enough ago that he didn’t really know how to teach me to ski. In fact, he was warned against it by his dad (a patient man who knows best about many things): “Let someone else teach Diane how to ski.”

So, of course, Leyland did his best to teach me.

Pizza! French fries!

We started with the mellow green runs that branch out from the top of the Daisy Chair. He and a couple of our well-meaning friends floated along with me, occasionally shouting “Pizza!” or “French fries!” as small children zoomed by us.

In no time, we were speeding up the Hogsback chairlift and skiing down what would become my (temporary) arch-nemesis: the Rock ’N Blue. It’s not that this blue run was all that difficult (it wasn’t), but it had a stretch of slope that didn’t just go down the mountain but also tilted to the left toward trees … in a way that was visually mind-boggling to me.

I stalled, sidestepped, crashed and cried. I stomped back to the lodge, where I spent the rest of the afternoon nursing my bruised ego (and bottom).

Learning Takes Time

Here’s the thing. Learning to ski as an adult can be frustrating and hard. I had to get used to falling down (a lot). And, despite my best efforts (and the efforts of my loved ones and friends), my early attempts at learning to ski left me feeling lost about how to get better at the sport.

So, it was a huge relief when Leyland’s mom offered to take me to Loup Loup Ski Bowl—22 miles southeast of Winthrop, Washington—for lessons from a ski instructor. The idea of getting lessons eased my anxiety, and my instructor had experience teaching adults to ski.

Totally Worth It

The instructor and I rode up the beginner Poma (both wearing super short, super light skis that were easy to control), and he explained the mechanics of what I was about to do, making sure to relate downhill movements to my Nordic skiing and inline experience.

I didn’t glare. I didn’t cry. I didn’t stomp my feet. I zoomed along like a happy little kid, and I loved it.

Had I not taken lessons, I could have easily given up the sport. But, I would have missed out on some awesome experiences in the years that followed: tumbling through my first deep powder day at Mt. Baker, skiing with Leyland through glittering snowfall during quiet evenings at Stevens or seeing my son giggle down a mild slope for the first time.

While my desert upbringing left me skiing later than a lot of Northwesterners, I’m glad I stuck with it. And, believe me: Lessons from a pro are well worth it.

Diane Rudholm is the managing editor and social media manager of OutdoorsNW. She and her preschooler—already a cheerful skier—spend autumn hopping around their living room (ski jumps!) to get strong for winter turns.

Letter to the Editor:

Nice article, Diane.

I was a ski instructor for a year, some years ago in Colorado before moving here last year.

It’s amazing how many adults are put off from learning to ski because of getting hurt or scared when a well-meaning friend attempts to teach them to ski.

Thank you for putting the word out.


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