A Sunday in November at Mammoth Mountain
After a Saturday snowshoe to TJ Lake in Mammoth Lakes we found ourselves at a coffee shop. Hot drinks inspired energy levels so we decided Sunday would be a day of skiing. Well, skiing for Dikko and our friend Dave, and a huge learning curve for me…
Things that went through my mind before I skied…
- I am going to end up on YouTube as a gumby who can’t get off the lift chair, my jacket being caught somehow, carrying me back down the hill like a kitten in its mother’s mouth!
- Am I going to be able to feel my feet by the end of today?
- I grew up in a part of Australia without hills let alone snow, I have no expectations.
- What will people be like on the slopes?
- Oh please don’t let me do a Bridget Jones!
- How on earth do people walk in these boots they’re worse than cycling shoes!
- Ohhhh, I finally get what bindings are!
- Why are all these parents yelling “PIZZA! PIZZA!” at their kids?
I stood and people watched as Dikko organised lift tickets. Then he and Dave kindly showed me how to snow plough to slow down and stop. Oh, and snow ploughs are also called pizza (as it makes a pizza slice shape with your skis). Before I knew it we were on the lift. Uh oh.
I swear every muscle in my body was tense as we topped out the kiddies’ run and the seat skimmed over a small rise, I focused on a spot in front of me and hoped for the best. I remained upright! I did it! Relieved, I unconsciously let out a “Woot, I survived the lift!”
Without much instruction it was going to be a case of learn from observation. I watched other people, how they skied, positioned their bodies, used their weight. Okay, I can do this…
The first run – bunny slope hero!
Down that glorious green run I went, almost in a straight line, just wanting to stay upright and in control without bowling over small children or snowboarder beginners who stuck out of the slope like wafers in icecream. Then I did the lift and run again, and I tried turning, this time pressing with my lower foot to turn. I’m sure I was going walking pace but hey, I was skiing! Then I did it again.
Some bonus tips from a friendly local who taught school kids how to ski and I found myself gaining some rhythm, and hey, I was yet to fall over…
Dikko and Dave said I should go on a bigger run. Figuring I had nothing to lose we chaired Thunder Bound Express where, at the top, I became a rabbit (not a snow bunny) in the headlights. Skiers and snowboarders whizzed by, swooshing and styling all the way down the hill.
I felt anxious (not intimidated, hey, who’s first day was it again?!) because I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way and cause an accident. I remembered the rules: you’re responsible for people in front of you, anyone behind you is responsible to maneuvre around you. That said I still wanted to be predictable!
The second, longer run and stacks on!
It was going great until I got too fast and didn’t turn! My snow plough turned into some pretzel and before I knew it I was on the snow. A soft landing and my skis and poles had come off. It wasn’t so bad, my first stack! I later learned I had delivered a classic “yard sale” meaning I had strewn gear behind me like a yard sale. Oh dear.
Dikko and Dave patiently waited downhill, their bright jackets like beacons. I quickly found it’s hard to get skis back on when you’re sliding. I dug in a little step for my ski and tried again. No click. I couldn’t get my boot in! Again and again I tried. Turned out there were two problems: one, there was a ball of ice on my boot from standing around trying to put the ski on. Problem two was I wasn’t stomping my heel in hard enough. Lessons learned.
Sliding slowly past a group of learner snowboarders I managed to navigate a couple of intersections where blue and black runs merged. Finally I reached the base, a couple more stacks on the way for experience. Poor Dave must’ve got hoarse from shouting, “parallel skis now turn, turn, turn, TURN!”
I also learned I didn’t want to fall over, not because of the actual fall, but because getting up wearing skis was tricky. Like I was wearing flippers but worse and it was tiring. Taking a break I returned to the shorter slope, leaving the boys to enjoy harder runs. No bad feelings, I wanted everyone to get the most out of the day and I was happy solo, relaxing and focussing.
On my last two runs I actually got some rhythm and a little bit of snow even puffed up when I turned! I felt in control, smooth and able to move around people, I just had to put this all into practice on a steeper slope.
Things that went through my head after I skied…
- I don’t want to leave.
- When can we go again?
- I wonder if I can do contract work and live in Mammoth?
- I wonder how much skis, bindings and boots cost?
- People were really friendly and helpful and everyone was smiling!
- Why didn’t I try this years ago?
- With all that PIZZA! PIZZA! We’re so getting pizza in Lone Pine on the way home to LA!
The following week I dreamed of alpine ski touring as that’s what appeals to me most. Tioga Pass in California, Wapta Traverse in Canada, Haute Route in France/Switzerland, so many classic options and goals to work toward…
Note: Dikko and I hired skis, boots and poles from Mammoth Outdoor Sports. The guys there were super friendly, helpful and our gear fitted perfectly! Highly recommend going there to hire gear plus all your details are recorded for next time! Sweet!