Monday, March 08, 2010

Blue Mountain Ski Area, PA

I had gone skiing once or twice back in middle school/high school, mostly sticking with the beginner slope, or the “bunny hill”. All I remember was the whole-body aches days after the experience. It’s no wonder that I have not volunteered to go skiing in the past few years.

Fortunately, I was able to start refresh yesterday at Blue Mountain Ski Area (website directions) K. and C. are planning to go to Lake Placid for a few days next weekend so this is just a warm up run for C. who has never gone skiing or snowboarding before.

Arrival
We pulled into the Valley Lodge parking lot around 8:30 AM, half an hour after the place opened. The weather was warm sunny (in the 40-50s) and the sky pretty clear. After figuring out equipment rental, lessons, and lockers, C. and I went ahead to our perspective lessons that started at 10AM.  C. was snowboarding for the first time. I wasn’t skiing for the first time but it’s been a long time and I figured I can use the lessons again. K. went ahead and warmed up on some more difficult trails before meeting up with K.

Lessons
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I will refer to the trail map above for the different locations in this blog entry. You can follow along if you’re curious. Our lessons took place at the lower part of the Valley school hills. I had a great instructor for the group lesson (7 people, 3 of which haven’t skied in years). Besides teaching us to ski, stop, and do basic turns, he also led us down the valley school hills twice, with individual attention. Apparently my problem all along was I couldn’t focus on my foot movement when I had two ski poles. After the instructor took my poles away, I was skiing just fine. The lesson took around 1.5 hours. I went down the two valley slopes a few more times since the lift had no lines. Smooth course, not too many people, such wonderful conditions! I was also happy to be free of crashes and falls. Photo below was taken on top of the valley school slope.
top

Lunch Break
K. is much more experienced with ski lounges’s food offerings so packed our lunch in advance. He bought and brought a loaf of sliced white bread, 1 pack of Canadian bacon (ready to eat kind), 1 pack of deli ham, and 1 pack of sliced white American cheese. He then made us double layered sandwiches. Since I was pretty hungry after a light breakfast, I managed to eat the entire sandwich (3 slices of bread, a ton of cheese, ham, and bacon). We also had a bottle of orange gatorade each. An tip that K. gave us was to carry one bottle of gatorade with us while skiing (to be placed inside the jacket where there’s a little pocket for goggles). At first I thought it was bulky but after a few times down the slopes, the gatorade idea proved to be ingenious. 

Paradise
After lunch and some rest, C. and I felt pretty good about our progress and wanted to try some other beginner (green) slopes. I’m not sure how K. convinced us to brave the Paradise, which is the longest and most difficult beginner slope. We took the long challenge express lift, which wasn’t very long at all, to the top of the mountain. Overall I thought Blue Mountain’s ski lifts were quite fast and incredibly scenic. Here’s a photo from the top before the descent.

top 2
Although Paradise had amazing views, the first two or three hills were incredibly steep compared to the valley school hills that we started on. In fact, C. and I were a bit frightened by the fact we couldn’t see all the way down, just a little in front of us. K. carefully led us down, making sure we stayed alive in the process. Maybe 1/3 of the way down, I started regretting tackling such a long trail without perfecting my skills. If it had been a shorter trail I could have taken a few tumbles and came down already. But since this is a long one, I couldn’t walk back up or anything…I had to finish! At least it was a lesson on falling and getting back up (apparently harder than I remembered, how come they don’t teach this in the class?). When I finally got down Paradise, I looked up at it and was wondering how K. convinced us to go up that steep thing. If you look at the photo below (taken at the bottom of the hill), Paradise is the left-most slope.

 ski trails

First Blue
Paradise proved too much for all of us. C. and I rested for quite a while and waited for K. to go down a black trail. After he came back, C. announced that she was done for the day. K. and I decided to go to a few other trails before heading home. I figured if Paradise was the hardest beginner trailer, surely I can do the other beginner trailers with ease? We took the challenge express lift to the top of the mountain and went on Tut’s Lane. It was my first blue (intermediate level) trail! Tut’s Lane was actually not quite a blue difficulty because it’s relatively flat). This whole trail was great for sight-seeing. and since I wasn’t going down a steep hill, I stopped and enjoyed the view without skiing down too fast. We quickly came to the end and got on the Connector, a small green trail that cuts through a bunch of other trails. We spotted the Summit Lodge but didn’t stop there. After the Connector, we started down a winding trail (Vista and Burma). Since a lot of people go down the beginning trails, by the afternoon the slopes are no longer smooth but has a bunch of snow forming uneven surfaces. I did ok but had trouble with some of the turns because huge groups of people always gather at those turns, making it nearly impossible to turn. I tried my best to avoid people but still crashed into an unlucky skier.

The Home Stretch
Going from end of Burma to the other beginner trail Terrain Run Park was difficult because most of the way was flat and slightly uphill. I spent a lot of energy trying to move forward with the help of ski poles. When I got on top of Terrain Run I nearly fainted—There were tons of sloped hills for jumps!? Well, there was no going back. K. advised me to stick to the left side, since the middle had the hills for jumps. I sarcastically replied that if I had the skills to stick to the left side without crashing into trees or fences, I wouldn’t be afraid of those jumps. So I went down Terrain Run, carefully going down the left side, avoiding the big hills in the middle. At times I probably was lifted above the ground for quite a few seconds, but the feeling of flying was much much better than the fear of falling. I was getting close to the bottom of the mountain! I survived! It was such a great feeling of accomplishment and I regained the confidence that I had lost after Paradise.

K. and I regrouped with C. and headed home. I said I’d take up on their offer to go to Lake Placid if I can still feel my muscles after a few days. While I’m waiting for the muscles to recover, I started looking into Lake Placid. I have to say that it looks amazing! If I go I will definitely write down my experience.

1 comment:

therelic said...

Since ski poles were the problem, you should try snowboarding next time! Yay for you hitting the blue slopes; I'm still freaked out by those hills.