Praveen's Blog

An Eternal Quest for Incremental Improvement

Beginning Alpine Skiing


This winter, I decided to give Alpine Skiing a try. As I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe is the natural choice for me to go for skiing. Me and three of my friends went to Tahoe the Christmas weekend. We stayed in The Ridge Sierra at Stateline, NV.

I had never skied before. So, I decided to take beginner lessons. We were considering two resorts, Heavenly Ski Resort and Sierra at Tahoe. Heavenly was located very close to where we were staying and Sierra at Tahoe was a 30 minutes drive. As some of us felt that Heavenly is expensive and we got good recommendation about Sierra at Tahoe from a ski rental shop, we decided to go for Sierra at Tahoe. They had a 2.5 hour beginner lesson, ski rental and a full day restricted lift ticket for $89.

We reached the resort at 10 am on the day after Christmas and the resort was crowded. It was a sunny day. We first had to check-in at their computers, pay for the package and proceed to the ski rentals. I got a 153 cm ski. It was awkward for me to walk with the ski boots in the beginning. The lesson started at 11:00 am. We had an instructor named Scott. We were taught about how to put on the skis, how to remove it, how to get back from a fall, wedging (French fries and Pizzas), stopping using wedge, climbing up hill without lift, getting on and off the lifts, making turns, stopping using C turn, slowing down using S turn, etc. I fell down a few times. Soon, I grasped some of the basics and managed to avoid falling by stopping using a turn or slowing down using a wedge.

After the first day lessons, we took the lift to the bunny slopes about 10 times and applied some of the things that we learned on that day. I was able to appreciate some of the things that I didn't quite get during the lessons. There were a few times, I fell when I get off from the chair lift. One thing that I noticed was that the times that I fell was only when there were four people riding the lift. When there were lesser people on the lift, I didn't have an issue in getting off the lift. At the end of the day, we were so happy that we did reasonably well for the first timer. We wanted to come on the next day as well. But, my friends were warning me that we will feel so tired that we won't be able to make it. So, we decided to defer the decision until the next day morning.

The next day, I didn't feel a thing. Two out of four of us opted out. Myself and Riaz Khan decided to head out for the second day lessons. It was bright and sunny when we left Stateline. However, once we crossed South Lake Tahoe, it was snowing heavily. We were wondering if we should turn around and call it off. But, we were too super enthusiastic to turn around. Finally, we got the message that it was an awesome day to ski from the ticketing lady. Also Sierra at Tahoe was running a promotion and upgraded our previous day ticket to a 3-pak at just $61 more. This time, we opted for the afternoon class and took the lift to the bunny slopes quite a few times in the morning. I got a chance to talk with various strangers while I was on the lift. One of such strangers was a Australian named Mark. He said that he will travel to the North America this season and will go back to Australia when it is winter there as he loves skiing. He identified me as an Indian and asked me why most of the Indians are either Software Engineer or a Doctor!

I liked the teaching style of Scott and opted for his class on the second day as well. But, he insisted that I get a different instructor to get another perspective on the skiing basics as everyone has a different teaching style and approach. However, we anyway went ahead with Scott. The second class was all about making turns to slow down. We were taken to a higher slope, a 5 mile trail marked as green circle. We were coming down this slope using S turns to slow us down. We were still skiing wedged at this point. We did quite well for a beginner on his second day. I fell only once the entire stretch and I slowly gained the confidence to negotiate steeper slopes using turns. We then completed another very satisfying day at Tahoe.

We (Riaz Khan) are planning to go for another trip soon to get our next level lessons. Scott told that we were ready for parallel skiing and turns in our next lessons. I am very eagerly looking for our next trip to Tahoe.

I didn't take any of my cameras to the ski resort as I don't want to get side tracked into photography. So, there are no pictures of me at the ski resort.

I want to share some thoughts for the beginners about the gears. Buy a snow pant. It is a very good investment. I am happy that I bought Coumbia Titaninum snow pants. They make to feel very comfortable and warm. Invest in a branded water/wind-proof gloves. I bought North Face Montana and it was really awesome. Some of my friends got cheaper gloves. But they were complaining that their fingers were freezing after they fell a few times in the snow as water went inside it. Look for pockets in the gloves to use hand warmers if needed. Next, get good goggles. You might need it on a very sunny day and even more on a snowy day. You might want to get one with good UV-A/B protection. So spend those extra dollars to get a branded goggles, because the last thing that you want to compromise is on your eye sight. Get a beanie.

Keep some energy bars and water with you. Going to the restaurant on a crowded day will waste your time that could otherwise be spent in skiing. If you have energy bars, you can finish your meal while you are on the chair lift.

Finally, keep snow chains in your car as the weather might change drastically and there are some parts of the highway where they might make snow chains mandatory. Even though we had a FWD sedan (Nissan Altima), we didn't use snow chains during this trip. But, we carried the chains in the car.