Every year, when snowflakes begin to fly, people have very different reactions. Some are giddy with excitement and impatiently check their winter gear; others are packing their bags for a seasonal migration to a place with warmer weather. For many of us, the ski season is a major reason to be happy in winter.
Why do we love skiing so much? What is it about sliding down a frozen mountain that so enchants us? I admit, not everyone feels the same. For some, it’s a terrifying experience. But so many of us love it! As I asked different people about their experiences, some common themes began to take shape:
Skiing is a perfect moment that defines us. Bliss. Ultimate freedom. Self –expression. Renewal. It feels like flying. Happiness. Best feeling ever!
For me, skiing is the icy wind in my face, my muscles tensing and pushing against the snow, controlling my descent, my boots and skis connected to the mountains. I feel like a race car, banking my turns. The smell of the trees. The view.
I have to ask myself, why doesn’t everyone do this? Why don’t I do it every day? Skiing is simple. You just throw yourself down the mountain and let your skis catch you.
Megan Collins, Communications & Events Specialist from Snowbasin, grew up skiing here in Utah. She began at the tender age of 18 months. Her dad said, “Maybe we should make sure the kids can walk before we put them on skis.” Megan said that she’s always been better at skiing than walking.
Her youth was packed with skiing. As teenagers, she and her friends walked to catch the bus, meet in the lodge at 9 a.m., and ski all day together. When they turned 16, they took turns driving each other to the mountain.
When Megan moved on to college, one of her professors advised her to plan for a career in something she was passionate about. She loves skiing and she loves talking to people, so she decided that working in public relations for a ski-resort was the job for her. She’s been at Snowbasin for seven years now and loves it.
Megan has skied all sorts of terrain, from the groomed resort slopes, to the high-adventure backcountry. “You can experience the same feeling of bliss at any level of skiing,” she says. “It’s all about enjoying the mountains with friends. It’s the same no matter where you go.”
Kory Davis, founder of OgdenAvalanche.org, is an avid backcountry skier. His website was created because people wanted a local source of forecasts, education, and events. He loves adventures in Utah’s backcountry. His goal with Ogden Avalanche is to provide education and information for our local winter recreationalists. His purpose is to make sure that everyone knows what they need to know in order to be safe. He provides wonderful classes on avalanche safety. Check out the website if you want more information.
How do you know if you’re in a danger zone for an avalanche? You can check the forecast online before you head out. Experts are constantly monitoring the snow conditions, and if the danger level is high or extreme, it’s great to know; in those conditions there might be danger even at lower elevations. Based on the forecast, you can make an educated decision on where to go.
Kory also suggested that for those who want to try a new adventure, Weber State University rents ski gear and snowshoes if you just want to try it out. They also have classes. These options are open to the public; you don’t have to be a student. So tryout some new winter sports!
A couple of Kory’s favorite backcountry areas in the Wasatch are the North Fork area and all around Ben Lomond Peak. The best things about the backcountry are the quiet and solitude. “After a fresh snow, everything is smooth. Being out there is a kind of meditation.”
Kory loves skiing with friends. The conditions don’t have to be perfect to have a great time sharing the mountain with friends. He loves skiing with his kids; they have become good skiers. As a family, they’ve skied in lots of different places around the world and had memorable times. “Every day is the best day when I ski with my kids.”
There is a great connection between the people who love the outdoors and volunteer, live, and work in the area. Kory loves being a part of the community here in Ogden. “People in Ogden love the community. Ogden is blossoming into a city with a beautiful art and outdoor culture.”
Brittni Thomason, a third-generation member of the ski-patrol, followed the career path of her mother and grandfather. She’s been skiing her whole life and doesn’t even remember learning to ski. With family members working at the resort, she was on the ski race team as a kid. She formed life-long friendships on the slopes. “There’s such value in young people skiing,” she said. She has coached the kids ski team as well.
As part of the ski-patrol, it’s her job to keep everyone safe so they can have a good time. They are responsible for medical response on the slopes, avalanche mitigation, putting up signs and marking obstacles, assessing the terrain, and keeping the resort safe. The patrol members are all very experienced; they are very deliberate, thorough, and put a lot of thought into what they do as they mark the runs. They are very careful about picking the safest place to enter a roped off area and they watch the snow conditions constantly.
“Being a member of the ski patrol is a really hard job,” Brittni says. But she loves it. There is a strong group of female patrol members at Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. All of the ski patrol members do a great job. “It’s a privilege and an honor to work with such experienced people.”
What Brittni loves most about skiing is being completely in the moment.“When I ski, I feel like I can really express myself.”
A sense of community can be found at any level of skiing. Brittni recommends finding friends who ski at the same level and enjoying the same kind of terrain. Stay connected! “Skiing is a huge part of the community here in Ogden. Localbusinesses support the ski communityand enhance the ski culture.”
Julie Gray of Pleasant View moved to Utah from sunny Arizona a few years back. She had always wanted to try skiing. So, at age 50, she tried it for the first time. She took some lessons and skied several times. She can execute beautiful parallel turns, but she confessed, “Skiing scares the bleepity-bleep out of me!”
Skiing is more challenging to learn as an adult. Maybe as kids, we aren’t worried about what might go wrong. Julie said, “At 50, I was picturing all the bones I might break.” It’s always a good idea to be careful, sensible, and to stay in control while skiing. Editorial note: None of Julie’s bones were broken during her skiing experience.
“Some people make it look so easy!” Julie said. She watched a man cruising down the slope, with one hand holding up a child between his skis and with the other hand holding a video camera. Sometimes it’s not as easy as it looks.
The sensation of sliding can be very uncomfortable for a lot of people. And our steep Utah terrain can be very intimidating. It takes time and practice to prepare to take on the harder runs. It’s best to increase gradually. Start with easy terrain and work your way up a little at a time. Make sure you are equipped to handle the terrain you are on.
Julie’s advice for beginning skiers:“Make sure to avoid any trail names that mention death: Widow-maker, Slaughterhouse, Tombstone etc.”
Julie skied for about two seasons before giving it up. “I’d rather watch other people ski than do it myself. It scares me. The best part is the hot chocolate at the end.”
Ted Dumont of Salt Lake City has become a die-hard fan of skiing in the Ogden area. “I used to think it was too far away. Then I realized that it only took ten more minutes of driving than the Cottonwood Canyon area resorts.” He’s been driving north to ski ever since.
His parents put him into ski lessons at age 4 or 5, and he grew up skiing. “Skiing is a great way to connect to your family roots,” he said. Ted’s grandpa was on the ski patrol at Sun Valley, and one of his favorite childhood memories is being in their condo with a balcony, looking straight up the ski hill. At night, they could watch the groomers coming down the hill.
“The mountain recharges your soul.” Ted feels like skiing is an escape, and a great way to get away. He loves to completely disconnect from the world, from all the hustle and pressure of reality.“Sometimes, on the mountaintop, you’re above the clouds, and it feels like you’re in heaven.”
Ted is very passionate about the outdoors and our amazing Wasatch mountains.“It’s sad how many people in this area have never gone to the mountains in winter or summer. They are right there!”He encourages all of us to take the time to visit them.
“Once you take your first ride up a lift, your life will be changed forever.”Warren Miller
If you’ve never skied before and you want to try it, here are a few tips:
• Make sure you don’t have any health concerns and check with your doctor, if necessary.
• Being in good condition is a giant help for skiing.
• Get yourself a lesson from one of the wonderful instructors in our area. They will start you out on very gentle terrain as they teach you. This is a much better plan than letting a friend take you, especially if your friend can ski and you can’t.
• Make sure you have clothing appropriate for the conditions. It is not fun to be cold or wet in the mountains.
• Skiing is fun at any level. Go at your own pace and stay on terrain that you can handle. Increase the difficulty level gradually.
• Have an amazing time!