Before we even hit the slopes, friends had all delivered the same stern warning. Now, this advice wasn’t about the dangers of avalanches, wearing a helmet or the ill-fated decision of sporting jeans in the snow.
Over and over again we heard: “Don’t teach your spouse to ski if you want your relationship to survive.”
They said everyone just ends up frustrated, the newbie upset they aren’t getting it and the more experienced partner irritated they aren’t getting it. Before you know it, one stomps off the mountain, setting off a whole avalanche of problems.
I fretted and pondered, but finally resolved not to ignore the earnest advice of experience. While my partner had never skied, I wouldn’t let that stop me.
Granted, the first time out for anyone on skis or a snowboard yields one tumble after another.
Moreover, far steeper than the price of the gear, lift ticket and the stylish outfit is the cost to your pride during that first time out — the wipeouts, the humiliation, the misplanted pole, the popped-off skis.
When I learned as a tiny tot, I spent half my time studying the clouds and the other half held up by my father. Even now, 25 years later, I won’t venture down a black diamond or mogul run and still regularly trail far behind my speeding father.
So as much as I wanted to lend my support to my partner, I knew I couldn’t shoulder the burden of those early aggravations, groans and bewildered frustration. So I figured I’d spring for lessons, letting someone else watch the whole ugly learning process. I smiled, told him he’d do fine, dropped him off at ski school — and fled like a burglar.
When I picked him up an hour later, a magical thing had happened: He knew how to ski.
Now, he was no Shawn White — but then, I am no Lindsey Vonn.
But he had the basics down. He knew how to stop and it didn’t mimic a pizza. He had gone down a slope that didn’t have the word “Bunny” in the name and he could French Fry (keep your skis parallel). He was no longer a never-ever and didn’t even look like a first-timer.
In fact, he was having so much fun he didn’t want to stop for a cup of hot chocolate in the lodge, my favorite part of skiing.
So we continued to the lift, as my nervous sense of impending doom grew.
I wondered if the relationship would survive our first, shared lift ride and run.
Luckily, I knew I wouldn’t have to watch him tumble down the mountain for long. A thick blanket of wet, heavy snow had started to fall. Only a faint light broke through the gauze, turning the slopes a mushy white.
“At least he’ll have an extra layer of padding when he falls,” I thought.
Now, every year millions of people hit the slopes, a statistic that has remained relatively consistent for years. In 2011, five million people snowboarded and another seven million skied, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
Moreover, people have been skiing, in some form or facet, for thousands of years. One image of a skier etched in a Scandinavian cave dates back 4,000 years.
Today, the exhilaration of gliding down a mountain, weaving through a stand of trees on fresh powder or hitting a jump has broad appeal.
Most are recreational skiers, skiing a few times a year. Skiers go more often than snowboarders and are generally older, according to statistics.
While snowboarding swelled in popularity two decades ago, it has since stabilized and some experts say it is even declining.
While skiing is not the hip thing for guys to learn, I assured my boyfriend it is easier and less likely to add to his laundry list of injuries.
On the weekend we made our way to Sunrise, more people showed up for ski lessons than for snowboarding, perhaps because skiing is generally considered easier to pick up.
Innovations have made learning the sport mostly painless. Skis are shorter, easier to turn and rental gear has improved.
I watched Andrew glide down the hill from a safe distance, figuring I would need to swoop down and collect a trail gear when he fell. Instead, I stood amazed. He didn’t fall once and I could barely keep up.
Route after route, he skied better and better and we traveled further from the safety of the bunny hill. I started to smile and even crack a few jokes, my worry melting away. Each chairlift ride brought our relationship to new heights.
While I had worried skiing could be the death our relationship, our time on the slopes left me feeling more alive than ever.
The state’s two ski resorts are Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff and Sunrise near Greer. The White Mountain Apache Tribe owns Sunrise.
Snowbowl extends up some 11,500 feet and has 40 runs and six ski lifts.
Snowbowl lift tickets:
Sunrise (928) 735-7669; www.sunriseskiparkaz.com. Has terrain for all levels spread across 65 runs, seven lifts as well as a terrain park for snowboarders.
Sunrise lift tickets:
$28 for seniors
$51 for all-day adult
Lessons: $57- $73