Falling down is easy with enough practice and hard work | SierraSun.com
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Falling down is easy with enough practice and hard work

JOHN BAYLESS, Sierra Sun

It’s good to have the support of your friends when learning a new sport, and my friend Elizabeth Stonecipher from L.A., who persuaded me to try downhill skiing, was right there with words of encouragement when I hit the slopes for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

“I’m going off to do a blue run. If you’re not skiing when I get back, I’m going to pelt you with snowballs every time you fall down.”

Well, maybe you wouldn’t call them words of encouragement. But believe me, she was trying.

She’d already watched me fall down a few dozen times, and heard my instructor, Mike Leary of Tahoe Donner, tell me I had a special aptitude for getting back up on my skis.

Considering my overall lack of progress at learning the snowplow and turns, it was about the only compliment he could give me.

Liz told me later that she would have thrown snowballs at me when I fell during the lesson, but was afraid the instructors would take it the wrong way.

She picked up on skiing quickly and whizzed down the green slopes at Tahoe Donner while I was still tripping over my skis. I fell down so many times that day that laying prone on the snow seemed to be a perfectly natural thing. But something changed after that final snowball threat.

I rode the lift up a couple of more times and experimented with the partially inverted face plant and a particularly painful move I called the “Split Scream.” That’s when your skis spread too far apart and a really awkward fall ensues.

After that bold statement about her blue run, Liz left and had a spectacular yard sale in the middle of the Face and Bowl – it took her a long time to collect her gear and get back down the hill. When she returned in a much subdued and less threatening mood 45 minutes later, I was finally getting the hang of it and connecting my turns.

We headed to the Mile Run at the back of Tahoe Donner and I discovered something -I liked speed. On the second time through the run, as Liz described it, I powdered her with snow twice and disappeared in a tuck around the corner. She didn’t see me again except on the lifts and the beginning of each run that day.

The next day at Northstar we tried the green runs and actually skied some light powder – about four inches of snow fell during the day. I had discovered speed, but control still eluded me, resulting in a couple of NTEs (Near Tree Experiences) and one fall on Lumberjack where I tumbled and then grabbed my wayward ski as it passed me headed down the mountain.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable couple of days, and I realized that I’d been really stupid not to try downhill skiing earlier during the year and a half I’ve lived here.

Liz has always been able to persuade me to do things that defy common sense – I’d always lumped downhill skiing in the “too risky” category.

And thanks to her I have a new addiction.

In four days, I skied more than 26 hours at Tahoe Donner and Northstar, before contracting a raging case of bronchitis that kept me off the slopes last week, and still threatens to leave me housebound this weekend.

In retrospect, skiing with a fever and a bad cough seems like a bad idea, but it didn’t at the time.

Many thanks to Mike at Tahoe Donner, who helped get me started, and also to a fellow skier (whose name I don’t know) who gave me some really useful tips on my first day on the slopes.

I also have to say thanks to everyone who veered out of my way for the past two weeks – and warn you that I may be back this weekend.


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