A Day of Pizza

Despite enduring the brutal dumping of lake effect snow and freezing winters every year of my life, today was the first time I strapped on a pair of skis. As I stood in the ski rental shop, my first thought was, these boots make my shins feel like I’ve slammed into a small coffee table…multiple times. My second thought: dang this sport is expensive. When you add up the boots, skis, helmet, lift ticket, and the obligatory hot chocolate at the ski lodge, you’re looking at a $100+ kind of day. Not to mention the cold weather clothing necessary to keep you from freezing your buns off (thank you, Nanu and Anna for lending me your gear). Plus, since I am a total novice, I needed some kind of instruction to avoid 1. Completely annihilating my body and 2. Violating basic skiing rules. This means you must also purchase lessons or the lift ticket of an experienced and willing friend. When all’s said and done, your day of skiing could total around $200. As I swiped my debit card, it became abundantly clear why I had never skied before. My third thought: I hope this experience is worth it. It was.

With my crew of experienced and enthusiastic friends, I headed to my first slope – Whiteface’s Mixing Bowl. To get to the top of the slope, I had to conquer the chairlift. Well, actually, first I had to ski over to the chairlift, which involved me repeatedly stabbing the ground in an attempt to propel myself forwards…eventually I got there. I stood at the front of the lift loading area, nervous that the continuously rotating contraption would knock me down and run me over. Instead, the lift scooped me and my friend Nanu up, and carried us to the top. Skis planted at the lip of the hill, I was terrified. Nanu patiently coaxed me down, carving a wide S-shaped trail for me to follow. We slowly wove our way down the hill along with the other skiers – parents with their 5-year-old children. When we reached the bottom, I proudly pizza-ed to a stop (a beginner way of stopping in which you place the front of your skis together, forming a pizza shape). My other friend, Anna, filmed this experience for your viewing pleasure:

A few more runs down Mixing Bowl led to some perhaps unwarranted confidence, and I felt ready to take on a new green (the color denotation for easy) route. We hopped on what I can only describe as the “big kid chairlift,” and headed on a five minute ride partway up Whiteface Mountain. While on the lift, we passed multiple snow machines – large hoses that blasted tiny flakes into the air. It looked energy intensive. So did the chairlift. It was no wonder skiing was so expensive.

It would be an understatement to say the top of the run was intimidating. The gradual slope of Mixing Bowl was a distant memory as I stared at the steep drop. The 5 year-olds were replaced by 15-year-olds whizzing down the mountain. Perhaps this was a green plus? Did that exist? It doesn’t…in fact, it was a blue (the color denotation for ‘something you would generally not take your first time skier friend on, but circumstance, aka the closure of all other routes down the mountain, has forced you to’). I found this out halfway through the run. Only one fall later, panting from exhaustion and adrenaline, I arrived at the base of the mountain thanks to the help of my pizza stops and turns. It was a terrifying experience that demanded laser beam focus, so obviously we did it four more times. It wasn’t until we paused to eat lunch that I noticed the dull throb my boots left in my shins. I was occupied by other things.

After lunch it was decided that I was ready for another blue: Excelsior. This route required a gondola ride all the way to the top of Whiteface, and I could feel my ears pop as we gained elevation. Mixing Bowl appeared flat from this height. The top of Excelsior was unlike any other run. It was quiet, and the snow covered conifers looked like those sand dripped castles that you make on the beach. The rhythmic, curved movement down the mountain felt right. It was in that moment that I recognized the beauty of skiing. I wasn’t in love with it, but I definitely had a crush. It’s that awkward stage where you’re trying to be smooth, but instead your actions come out all clumsy and desperate and pizza shaped. That stage. On a sunny December day, surrounded by snow and friends, swerving down a mountainside, my mind was nowhere else. It was amazing.

Quads burning, shins bruised, and spirits lifted from a day of exhilaration, we stuffed our steaming bodies in Nanu’s Volkswagen. For dinner, we grabbed a most appropriately themed meal – a slice of pizza.

A special thanks to Hamilton College’s Casstevens Fund for making this fantastic (and expensive) experience possible. Without your support, I could not have done this or developed personal insight in my other skiing posts.

Photo and Video Credit: Anna Mowat

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