Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Challenge 1: Become a Better Skier and/or Snowboarder

As I noted in my last post of 2010, 2011 is going to be the Year of the Challenge. This means that I am identifying 12 areas that I started in my Year of New Things that I'd like to improve and push to a different or higher level.  I'm also not giving up on New Things, and plan to do (and chronicle) at least one of those each month as well.

As usual, I owe both the inspiration and means to the first step on my first challenge, improving as a skier and snowboarder (both of which I sampled in last year's New Things) to other people.  In this case, those people are two of my former (Drisk) and current (Josh) students and friends.  It all started when Drisk surprised me with a fabulous Christmas/New Year gift--new skis!  Of course, Drisk is the one who gave me a ski lesson last year when I tried out skiing as a new thing, so it made it all even more cool that he has now provided me the means to keep going with skiing as a challenge.

Last year, Drisk took me on my first ski trip ever in Vermont. This year he gave me skis to keep going.

Naturally, I was beyond excited and told Josh about the gift when we met for coffee earlier this week.  He suggested that I should try them out without delay this week, and so today we did.  And in doing so, I took another step to being a real member of the Saint Mike's community by finally, in my twelfth year at the College, going skiing at Smuggler's Notch.  Those outside of the Burlington area may not know this, but one of the many perks of being a student at Saint Michael's College is a free season ski pass to Smugg's.  Obviously, this make the resort, which is about 45 minute's drive from campus, the ski destination of choice for our students.  It's more than a bit crazy that I'd never been, but at least I remedied that today.

Standing above the Saint Michael's College banner outside the lodge-- can't believe it's taken me over a decade to do that, but better late than never

It was a great day to try out my new skis.  It was a Wednesday, and the local public schools have all gone back to class, but the colleges haven't started their semesters, so the college students aren't around.  So, it was quite uncrowded, and although it was pretty cold, and it snowed during parts of the day, thanks to Drisk and Josh, who loaned me goggles and some extra stuff to keep warm, I was in good shape.
Yet another thing to thank Drisk for -- the goggles he loaned me definitely came in handy

In case there are other people associated with Saint Mike's who have yet to ski at Smugg's, here are a few tips:
  • It's a great mountain (actually three mountains) but it really is cold and pretty windy at the top.  Dress warmly, and then add some more layers to that.  You can always take them off later.
  • If you should happen, as I did, to have problems getting your ski boots on, here's something I learned today.  Let them heat for five minutes next to a heater.  Once we did that, I was fine.
  • If you're a newby, don't be afraid to fall.  It's how you get better.  That's something I learned in last year's New Things generally, and I'm still finding it to be true.
  • Don't be afraid to fall, but hope your friends don't feel the need to document it -- .Josh kindly waited till I was back on my feet and moving again before snapping the photo above
  • Go with someone who is better than you.  Josh is an excellent skier (and a great instructor), and the desire to keep up (or at least slow him down less) really helped push me to do better.
  • Josh getting ready for the first run of the day after we had resolved my minor boot crisis
  • Whatever you do, just go.  For years I had lots of excuses -- it's too cold, I'm too old to learn, I don't want my students to see me, it costs too much.  From the top of the mountain all of them seemed pretty silly.  With a little research, everyone can find discounts and ways of making skiing more affordable, and clothes to make it more comfortable.  And drawing on lessons I learned last year, I now know that you're never too old to try things that look interesting and everyone that is doing something had to be a beginner at some point.
So there it is.  Thanks to Drisk and Josh, the new year of challenges has begun, at a place that I should have gone to years ago.  Can't wait to go again!


  1. Good for you! You look incredibly sporty in those goggles too. The snow is beautiful.

  2. Next time, I am coming with!! Great pictures, you look like a pro :)

  3. As an artist myself, I enjoy reading Philip Koch's sensitive writing about Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, who along with Whistler and Rothko, are my favorite American painters.
    I don't live in the United States but have traveled and passed a short time there. But even with the little time spent in your beautiful country, especially in small-town America, I can relate to some of the poetical feel that Hopper and Wyeth had captured in their art, which is for me part of the attraction of their paintings.
    Browsing at the other day, as I do now and then, I find a good selection of Edward Hopper's work, ,in the big archive of Western Art, that customers can order online for canvas prints and even hand-painted, oil-painting reproductions can be made and sent to them.
    Hopper's surrealistic and depersonalized world is there again. Timeless, yes, as it is still there now in the roadside cafes and diners that I ate at all over America.