Hitting the Slopes

Chris Sinclair | Staff Photographer—This winter, hit the slopes, not the stairs!

It seemed inevitable; for once, each and every weather report had predicted the same thing for the San Bernardino Mountains. Yet, once the storm hit, it was unbelievable that it could ever be that strong.

At the time, I’d never experienced anything like it before. The snow came at full force and, together with the wind and fog, it became a full-out, powerful winter storm that sent even the most adventurous people straight towards the comfort of their homes. The masses of white flakes billowed down from the sky and nobody dared to brave the winding mountain streets.

I was with a bunch of figure skaters at our coach’s house, which was the only place that had a wood fireplace. Since we continually lost power, a wood-burning fireplace was crucial. It was Friday night, and the plan was to stay the night, practice the next morning and drive back down the mountain in the afternoon.

Once Saturday afternoon rolled around, graceful snowflakes danced all around us, falling quietly and elegantly from the sky. Sure, the storm had weakened since the night before, but the main highway was closed due to falling rocks and debris, so there was no way we could drive down.

We could, however, drive a few miles up toward Snow Valley Ski Resort in our heavy-duty, four-wheel-drive truck, equipped with those handy snow chains. I was absolutely thrilled at the idea since I had never even tried skiing before. What should have taken only 20 minutes instead took us an hour’s drive, but it was worth it — in front of me stood mountains completely covered in pure white, fluffy flakes. It was beautiful and simply breath-taking.

After renting some equipment and purchasing our lift tickets, I suited up. If I was nervous to ski downhill, I was even more apprehensive after I tried walking around. I could not figure out how to maneuver my skis and it took me forever just to get to the ski lifts. I felt like baby Bambi as my skis continually tangled up and I was often caught off balance, something that is even more embarrassing as a figure skater.

Breathless, I finally made it to the lifts and hopped on. Already trembling because of the difficulty getting to the lifts, I decided to take it easy and try skiing down the beginners’ slope. As we neared, I regained my initial excitement and couldn’t wait to try my hand at the slopes. I didn’t think it was possible that anything could be as hard as walking on skis.

Well, I was absolutely wrong. Getting off the chairlift was by far the hardest thing I would do that day. I was extremely grateful that my friend was sitting next to me and knew that I wanted to get off. Who knows where I would have gone had he not been there? I was at the chairlift’s mercy and I didn’t like it one bit.

My friend grabbed my arm and literally had to pull me off of the chair or I would have continued on up and up and up. True, it is quite the funny story to tell now, but, at the time, there was only horror and frustration. My heart was practically beating out of my chest and I didn’t know how I would survive skiing down a mountain slope. Clearly, skis were not my friend as I had experienced nothing but trouble since I first put them on.

After seeing children buzz by me with smiles lighting up their little red faces, I knew I had to at least try. My friend gave me some pointers and, with a final deep breath, I was ready to ski for the very first time.
With a small push, I was sent flying down the slope, the wind pressing against my face and snowflakes swirling around me. I began slaloming to slow down, but, in actuality, I loved the speed. I was balancing and, suddenly, I loved my skis and all that they could do.

Unfortunately, since I was on the bunny slope, I reached the end of the run in no time. I wanted to do it all again, but this time on a steeper slope. I was ready to tackle the mountain, one slalom at a time.

Of course, after my magnificent bunny slope run, I was greeted with the hassle of walking to the ski lifts again. With some help from a friend, I managed to get on. I decided to go higher to experience the spectacular, albeit freezing cold views of the slopes and snow-covered trees. Skiers and snowboarders alike littered the mountains and their exhilaration was evident.

With more practice, I became confident. I tempted with fate, going straight down the steep slope as fast as I dared or even slaloming around trees. The latter was probably the more dangerous of the two since I nearly skied straight into a few of them, so I wouldn’t exactly recommend trying that.

The feeling of skiing was surreal. My adrenaline was up, my face was frozen and bright red, my fingers and toes were completely numb, but I overlooked all that. Going down run after run, I felt free and surprisingly very calm. It was glorious and the only thing I could do was smile.

By the end of the day, I was skiing down Black Diamond trails, although I still had not successfully mastered the correct technique of dismounting off a chairlift or how exactly to walk to the lifts in skis. Aside from these minor, and very basic, details, I had the time of my life skiing down those snowy slopes. I can’t wait for what is in store this winter season.