● By Dan Greeson
Olympian Ann Battelle discusses the importance of keeping your weight on the center of the ski with participants in the women’s ski clinic following lunch at Hazie’s. Photo by Shannon Lukens.
I love going fast. Sitting on a plane hurtling along a runway, jetting over the ocean on a boat or sledding down our neighborhood tubing hill when it’s slick – yep, I love it all.
Careening down Rolex on skis trying to stay on pace with my hubby, children and our friends – not so much. There is something about strapping on skis knowing I will not be within arm’s length of an easy groomer that scares me. After 14 winters in the ‘Boat, I decided it was time to do something about this odd little fear I’ve been suppressing.
In February I signed up for the women’s ski clinic at the Steamboat Ski Area and it was the best thing I ever did. In fact, I’m doing it again this winter.
The clinic is three days of instruction, skiing in an assigned group morning and afternoon. Local gear experts kick off orientation with tips on boot fitting and equipment before skiers set off to make the first turns of the day. Everyone convenes daily for a buffet lunch at Hazie’s Restaurant, and optional happy hours at the Base Club bring the day to a close.
The lineup of instructors from the Steamboat Snowsports School is impressive, including Olympians Deb Armstrong and Ann Battelle. Most of them have been involved with the clinic for years and they’ve got it down to a fine art. “We’re always getting feedback on how we can continue to be relevant and evolve,” Armstrong says.
Walking into the breakfast room on the first day is intimidating if, like me, you are on your own and expecting a group of experienced powder fiends. Armstrong and Battelle’s modest introductions instantly break the ice. This clinic is about meeting women where they are at in life, at both a personal and skiing-ability level. As for my preconceived notions, I should have known better.
Women as a whole have an uncanny ability to doubt themselves. The walk to the gondola is filled with monotonous chatter of apologies and the sharing of nerves. Even the first runs produce more apologies as people strive to find their groove.
I start off in a large group of intermediates and by lunchtime we’ve been split into more manageable clusters. To my surprise all five of us are locals, with the exception of one veteran attending her seventh clinic.
We stop and start in strategic spots all over the mountain, perform exercises, take turns being videoed and push each other constantly to try something new. We chat on chairlifts, applaud achievements, commiserate over falls and laugh – a lot. We are our own advocates on skis.
We wave at fellow clinic-goers during two mornings of First Tracks, embrace advice from every expert and try with all our might to get to the next level. I crawl home at the end of each day, muster the strength for the kids’ homework and chores, then sleep like I’ve never slept (could be the Advil).
Did I improve? Yes, but in more ways than I could have foreseen. I no longer feel the need to apologize; it turns out I am not as bad as I always thought. “This clinic really moves people,” Armstrong says. “It is transformative in many ways on both a social and technical skiing level.”
She’s right, and it might be years before I will be ready to pick up the pace, but I’ve learned faster doesn’t equal better. The best part is my new skiing buddies, whom I will never have to apologize to again.