“Do you know how you get these things apart?” queried the man, in a soft southern drawl. I turned around to see a man holding a pair of downhill skis. As is often the case, the skis were slapped together, tip to tip, tail to tail – held tight by the interlocking of the ski binding brakes. Ski brakes are these metal prongs that come down on each side of the ski from the binding. The man and woman were obviously from some place far from here, probably Texas was my guess. And they obviously were newbies to the sport of skiing.
“Sure, let me help you out” I responded and showed them how to unlock the ski brakes from each other, allowing them to lay their skis down on the snow. I wondered if they actually knew how to get into their skis, and stuck around to offer further assistance, but they thanked me for my help and moved on.
Spending a lot of time at Winter Park Ski Resort, I tend to run into a lot of beginner skiers. Being a popular destination for vacationers from Texas, Louisiana and Florida, it’s not surprising. Neophyte skiers tend to sport a certain look that is easy to spot from afar. Typically, they don some sort of colorful hat with a pom pom on it, rather than the helmets that the seasoned skiers wear. For some reason, they tend to tromp around, schuss the slopes and ride the lifts with their jackets unzipped much of the time. Riding the chairlifts above the green beginner runs, I spy them zipping around, wind whipping their jackets. And underneath those jackets — what else, but a pair of standard black bib overall ski pants.
Other signs of newbie skier status are the classic inability to get to the lift line, awkwardly shuffling (with jackets open wide) — signalling their discomfort with those stiff ski boots. And of course, nothing signifies beginner skier than seeing them wedge or snowplow turn, weaving unpredictably across the slope. Because beginner skiers are still figuring out this strange sport of sliding down a mountain, they don’t make similar size turns in a predictable pattern. Instead they weave from side to side in long zig-zag turns that seem to have no rhyme or reason to them, infuriating the skiers who are trying to overtake them in a safe manner. You think you are giving plenty of room, and suddenly they veer wildly towards you out of nowhere.
Before you deem me to be harsh and judgmental, understand this — it wasn’t that long ago I was one of them. I remember my first days of skiing like it was yesterday. I too sported the black bib overalls that I had bought for cheap at the local chain sporting goods store. (If you’re wondering why no one else wears these, just try going to the bathroom in your bibs, and ending up with your said overalls in the toilet or all over the filthy bathroom floor). I also sported a pair of cheap gloves I bought for around $15 and quickly found out they were no match for the sub-freezing temperatures. There is a reason why good ski gloves cost $40 and more. As opposed to the pom-pom hat, I sported one of those pseudo-Norwegian hats with the little braid things dangling off the ear flaps. To make matters worse, neon colors were all the rage then, so my hat was neon pink and black. Can you think of anything uglier?
So despite my chuckle over their stumbling and fumbling, I can sympathize. And I do what I can to put a smile on my face, and agree with them that these ski boots are horribly uncomfortable, while pointing them in the direction of the nearest bunny slope.