This is Lindsay, here to fill in for Nancy and share my first Sundance Ladies Day experience of 2014 (Nancy will post next week).
I am excited to be participating in Ladies Day for the third time. I have been snowboarding for about 9 years and really love it. However, my children (ages 4 and 6) are learning to ski and I want to be able to ski along with them and help them to progress, which is hard to do on a snowboard. I also like the versatility of being able to choose my sport based on weather and conditions. My family has been coming to Sundance regularly since moving to Utah 5 years ago and I love everything about the beauty and peace of the land. I had a wonderful experience learning to cross-country ski at the Sundance Nordic Center Ladies Day a few years ago, so when Nancy suggested that I join her for downhill ski lessons, it didn’t take much to convince me.
Last winter I had a great time learning to ski and found that my downhill experience, combined with the great learning environment of Ladies Day, made it easy to progress in my skiing ability. After a month of lessons, I skied a few times on my own, then signed up for another month of Ladies Day instruction to advance my skills. However, a fall on an icy patch in the second week resulted in a knee injury that cut my ski season short.
So, it was with some nervousness that I approached my first ski day of 2014. I was not afraid of an injury, but I was worried that after going 9 ½ months without practicing my newfound skills, they would be lost. Utah was treated with some great early season snow, but each time I went to pack up my gear I regarded the skis with wariness (do I even remember how to put those on?!) and instead chose my old standby, the snowboard. I remembered that I liked skiing and it felt very natural to learn, but that seemed so long ago. My snowboarding skills are much stronger than my skiing abilities. I thought, “What if I get up there and forget everything and waste a great snow day?” Thus, the skis stayed packed away.
The morning of the first Ladies Day arrived and after the usual frenzy of getting my kids to school, I began the 30 minute drive to Sundance Resort. As I entered the gorgeous Provo Canyon, my nervousness began to dissipate as I let myself be calmed by the natural beauty. The drive to Sundance is lovely in any season, but in winter the snow on Mount Timpanogos and the surrounding peaks make it difficult not to feel at peace. But, the butterflies returned when I struggled getting into my boots and tried to remember the right way to carry my skis and poles through the parking lot (one board is so much easier to manage!). By the time I got to check-in I was unsure how to identify my skills to the Ski School staff since I had convinced myself that I was likely a Beginner again even though I ended last season in the Advanced group. I settled on Intermediate, hoping not to embarrass myself too badly if I was wrong.
As I checked in with the Ladies Day staff, I was greeted by the friendly face of Kelly. Kelly introduced me to my instructor, Cody Hale, who is the husband of the awesome Linda Hale. Nancy and I had the pleasure of being in Linda’s class for Ladies Day last season and had a wonderful time. I also heard great things about Cody from Nancy, who was in his class during her first experience with Ladies Day, so I was excited to get to work with him, as well. Also in my group were two other women, Gayelynn and Becca. I expressed my concern to the group about not remembering all that I learned last season and Cody gave me a reassuring smile, saying it was just like riding a bike. I wasn’t convinced, but I was committed.
To my delight, I did remember how to put on my skis and made it onto the lift without falling. The time on the lift was used to talk about our skiing experience, but for Cody the best assessment was to watch us ski. We got off the lift at Mid-Mountain and he allowed us to ski for a bit without interruption so that he could determine our individual skill level. He quickly noted our strengths and weaknesses and we began to work on edging and turning. With some new techniques from Cody and echoes in my head of Linda’s past advice, it did not take long for me to feel the confidence return to my body as I made my way down the mountain. Even though it had been many months since making the same movements, the skills came quickly back to me and it felt GREAT!
After making our way to the base, we rode Ray’s Lift to the top and worked on some different techniques while heading over to Jake’s. We were happy to find that the conditions near Jake’s lift were great; the sun was shining and the trails were perfectly groomed for working on our turns. The pitch of the hill allowed for us to work on our edges and practice using our speed, which the speed-demon in me loved. After a few runs at Jake’s, I was really happy when Cody said we should go to the Back Mountain, via Flathead Lift.
One of the great perks of Ladies Day is riding the lifts with the other women in the group. I enjoy getting to know them and finding out what has motivated them to learn to ski. For Becca, it was to catch up to her 5 children who have all learned to ski at Sundance and are each becoming very skilled. She wants to be able to ski with them and feels she needs to improve her skills to match theirs. Becca’s 4 year old son was taking a lesson that day with the same instructor, Rebecca, that my son worked with a few weeks before. Rebecca is a new instructor to Sundance and Becca was happy to hear that my son had a great experience with her. She was glad to be able to bring him to a lesson while she was enjoying hers, which is another benefit of Ladies Day.
The view from the top of Bearclaw is one of my favorite spots on earth. This was the first time for Gayelynn to be there and she seemed very open and relaxed, which was inspiring to see. We took advantage of the crystal clear view and took a photo from the top. After the photo, we put together all of the skills we had been working on throughout the morning for the last run from the top of the mountain to the base, taking Bearclaw to Round Up, a diverse and scenic trail which is a family favorite.
We made it to the base exhilarated but disappointed that the lesson had come to an end. It had been a great lesson to review and to build on my previous skills. It was hard to recall the doubts I had just a few hours before. Cody’s easy reassurance was right. Once you learn to ride a bike, you cannot un-know it. Now that I have learned to ski, I am a skier. Though I cannot change that my first love was snowboarding, I’m grateful for the experiences at Sundance Ladies Day that have provided me with yet another way to speed down a mountain.