Updated: Sep 26, 2020
The following attempts to buck the "How I Taught My Significant Other to Ski" trend of articles full of puns about "Rules of Engagement" and explanations of how close the couple was to calling divorce lawyers. Our experience comes from the other side. I knew teaching my SO to ski was a must before even thinking about getting hitched. What follows is a compilation of memories of my (then) girlfriend's first time on the slopes and our first trips out to the Rockies.
Taking up Skiing in your mid-20s—The Full Story
I got engaged in December 2018 after dating for five years. In doing so, I sealed my fiancée's fate—skiing was going to be a part of our lives. While my family eagerly looked forward to our annual ski trip, her family (mid-Missouri based) thought ski trips were too cold, difficult and cost-prohibitive. In her words, a lack of athletic ability and the idea of spending hard-earned PTO at high altitude did not "trip her trigger." Were we destined to spend major holidays apart, with our own families? Happily, no.
Despite a fear of heights, some injuries and her lingering athletic insecurities, my future fiancée adopted the best attitude possible and dove in. Somehow, I convinced her to head to a “bump” in Wisconsin, where I got a taste of being a ski parent: I drove, carried skis, buckled boots, and made sure everyone had their gloves. I explained that there are few purer feelings than carving turns (followed closely by taking your boots off). With post-ski beers chilling in the car, she stepped into her bindings.
We talked through Skiing and then I pushed her over. Literally. After a dirty look and some choice words from her, I explained that a fall into soft snow is the worst it can get. This helped calm some nerves and we hit the magic carpet, navigating around 5-year-olds on the bunny slope. Mutual patience and understanding were vital, as were frequent breaks to discuss, explain and complain. By our third trip to the Wisconsin bump, she was taking the ski lift (the discomfort of using a tow rope was a strong motivating factor to push past a fear of heights) and enjoying a half-day private lesson. Then slept the whole way home.
Last Christmas was our first “destination” trip—to a Colorado resort, Keystone, with my experienced family. I felt for her, clearly the odd person out. Yet, she fearlessly joined group ski lessons and pushed herself onto more challenging Greens. I snooped from the trees and watched her progress but by the end of the day, I could read the tired and frustrated look on her face. While a family trip may not be the best way to introduce a new skier to Colorado, she took it in stride.
A few months later, she was rewarded with a calmer, late spring trip to Aspen/Snowmass. A eureka moment occurred when we discovered that my leading her down the slope allowed her to focus on her form and turning without concern for navigation or colliding with others. Suddenly she looked like a pro, plowing through my tracks and getting in line for the next lap!
Overall, I have never been prouder and the experience has been positive (I think she would agree). We were both patient (this is key) and she is making the slow but deliberate transition to seeing skiing as fun, not work.
The Highs and Lows (For the TL/DR crowd)
First time out? Head to the closest “bump” or even consider an Indoor Facility
You are not a ski instructor (even if you are). Pay someone to explain the finer points of transitioning from pizza pie to french fries
Find the salt-of-the-earth instructors. They have seen it all and have multiple knee reconstructions to prove it
Keep it light. Push as much as you can, but be sure to act like you did when you first started dating!
Pro Tips to get your Significant Other on the Slopes
1. Start local
Local slopes are great for getting familiar with minimal hassle (no airplanes, no multi-day commitments). When contemplating a bigger trip, think not only about shredding, but also familiarity with the lifts, walking in ski boots and altitude.
2. Get the right gear
Before spending tons of money, think about the essentials as well as what what also work off of the slopes. See our packing list, but at a minimum, you want to have:
Waterproof snow pants
Top/bottom base layers (think yoga pants)
Goggles/sunglasses (helmets are available to rent)
Ski socks (thickness is dependent on your preference)
3. Choose your first larger resort carefully
To become "hooked," it’s helpful to experience a larger resort. Try one with great lesson programs and plenty to do off of the slopes. Some of our favorites for groups of varying ability levels are Keystone, Deer Valley, and Brighton.
For further inspiration, check out our post on why it's never too late to learn to ski.
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