The day I became a skiing snow bunny at the top of Vail Mountain in Colorado

Note: Excuse the lack of my usual high-quality photos a la my Nikon D7000 – all of these photos were taken on an iPhone 4s due to the sketchy weather conditions on the mountain. Stay tuned for a slew of the usual photography during upcoming posts that explore Vail Village and more!

After an unpleasantly exhilarating drive into the mountains with whiteout snow conditions, a handful of hours spent snoozing on the plush pillows of the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, and a massive breakfast feast at The Little Diner, the time came for me to finally learn how to ski.

I think my favorite aspect of Vail is the accessibility of absolutely everything. The main mountain gondola, ticket area, and rental centers were situated amongst numerous restaurants and quaint shops sitting a short five-minute walk from my cozy hotel room. The more historic and happening Vail Village was settled a few minutes up the road, but all areas on this mountain are easily accessible via complimentary shuttle services.

I scoped out the crowd of eager early bird boarders and skiers before wandering around the square in search of what I needed to do to secure a beginner lesson and some sweet ski gear.

While being outfitted for my skis and boots in the warm rental facility, I bumped into another woman, Kelsey, who was also gearing up for the beginner course – instant friends, thanks to our common I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing perspectives.

My fellow snowy ski-mates included my comrade Kelsey from San Francisco, a Tampa chick who had never before seen snow, a friendly married couple, David and Michelle, a funny man named Jeffrey who had already taken a lesson the day before, and Karen, our fearless leader on the bunny slopes. We quickly lost Natalie from Tampa, as well as the female half of our married duo, but the remaining bunch stayed together for the remainder of the day.

Unlike my uncomfortable slope fumbling that I struggled with while snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, skiing came naturally and flowed like an activity I had know how to do all my life. After Karen taught us the fundamentals of our new winter hobby, the real lesson began on gently curved miniature slopes.

I am proud to say that I only fell a total of three times during my entire day – if you don’t count two incidents where my unstoppable speed caused me to just kind of sit on the snow to slow down. Where snowboarding left me feeling anxious and uneasy, skiing was a snow sport I could actually excel in. Picking up speed wasn’t a harrowing rush of adrenaline, turning was a fluid, controlled process, and by the end of the day, I had learned how to come to a safe stop on my own accord.

There’s really only one thing I can say:

I love skiing.

The weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal on this day, with gusty wind that left me flabbergasted as Karen bellowed instructions to “keep your eyes where you want to go,” while the gray snowy winds were entirely destroying any visibility in front of me. Regardless of the iffy mountain conditions, our group had a fantastic day learning the ropes and putting our newfound skills to the test.

Plus, occasional periods of particularly ugly bouts of weather offered an ideal excuse for our crew to take a break and warm our fingertips in the dining hall area.

By the end of the day, I was skiing laps down the big beginner slope and sharing the lift back to the top with my fellow skiers Jeffrey and David over and over again. Kelsey was a bit shaken after a high-speed crash into a crowd of us waiting at the bottom of the bunny slope conveyor belts, but she eventually braved a run down the beginner terrain as well – largely because I kept motivating her with the promise of free drinks if she stayed with me all day.

At 3:30, Karen reminded us that our long lesson was finally over, and our group rode the gondola back down to the Vail courtyard area. We bid our farewells, and then Kelsey and I returned our rental gear before indulging in those highly anticipated libations.

We shared tequila and whiskey shots at Garfinkles, a casual dive bar conveniently sitting right next to the slopes. Her boyfriend and his cohorts had gotten a hefty head start on the drinking, so Kelsey and I worked to catch up. We exchanged battle stories of our respective days, downed wine and mai tais, and although I can’t quite recall all the details, I remember there was a lot of boisterous laughter being exchanged.Effectively hammered (that high elevation will get ya), I returned to the hotel room where my parents were waiting to head out to dinner. We journeyed to Moe’s BBQ, which happened to be featuring a live banjo band. The funky music combined with extra tall 24 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbons, and savory bites of saucy ribs provided the perfect way to top off an extraordinary day.

I’m telling you: If you ever find yourself taking a lesson at Vail –

Ask for Karen!

She was the best instructor, and I honestly give her full credit for my success as a novice skier. Her gentle demeanor combined with a relentless motivation helped to develop my skills and foster my confidence on the mountain. Our group planned to reconnect the next day for a second lesson, but my toes once again bailed out on the cold, and with painfully swollen feet, I was unable to make it back for another early morning session.

Karen, if you’re reading this – thank you a thousand times!
I had a phenomenal experience braving the brutal weather with you
and our little crew, and am already eager to get back on the slopes.

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