Beginner's Pluck

Given how easy skiing and snowboarding are now, your excuses for not getting out there are dwindling rapidly.

If you’re like me (lazy), your friends have constantly hounded you about getting “up on the mountain” and really “letting ’er rip.” Strapping myself to some wood and hurtling down the side of a mountain at the whim of gravity, with little more than some goggles and a funky hat to protect my precious face, you say? No thanks.

But friends can be annoyingly persistent, and usually come back from their “lodgeventures” with tales of derring-do, fresh powder, lots of — usually drunken — partying, and cozying up in front of the fireplace after a hard, frigid day on the slopes.

Luckily, says Spokane Alpine Haus Manager Brian Ellsworth, it’s easier than ever to start from scratch and get yourself out on there on a snowboard or a pair of skis.

“Natural talent will always make a difference, but now the skis and snowboards do a lot of the work for you,” he says. “With a little investment of time and money, you can get out there and learn to ski or snowboard in a season, no problem.”

Admittedly, it does sound like more fun — and a helluva lot less work — than I thought. But what’s the first thing an aspiring winter sports enthusiast should do?

“Rent,” says Alana Quist, who works over at Wintersport Ski, Bike and Board and has been on skis herself since she was 18 months old. “It takes about three times to figure out if it’s something you want to pursue, so definitely rent [your equipment].”

Whether you’re looking to ski or board, both Quist and Ellsworth advise getting lessons at the mountains. It’s in their best interest to get you up to speed and liking it quickly, so you’ll be sure to come back.

But Quist subscribes heavily to her “three times” rule. The first day, she says, is always going to suck. Though you may have dreams of being the next Lindsey Vonn, you’re going to be spending a majority of your first time on your butt. The second day will be spent re-learning what you forgot from the first day and getting a feel for balance. Only the third day, she says, will you start to really get the hang of things.

Before you can even think about getting lessons, though, you need to be properly outfitted. But you may not want to rent everything. Ellsworth thinks there’s one piece of equipment you should really purchase outright.

“I recommend looking at your boots first. Boots are going to be way more important than whatever skis or snowboard or you end up getting,” he says. “Having a boot that not only fits you and makes you comfortable, but also lets you have good control over your ski or snowboard is going to make learning that much easier.”

When it comes to the rest of your outfit, it matters what you’re putting your money toward. As Ellsworth puts it, “you’re never going to be in a good state of mind to learn something if you’re cold or wet.” It is, therefore, essential that your clothes are waterproof in addition to being thick and warm. And for the love of keeping your brain matter on the inside of your skull, make sure you get a helmet.

“Whether it’s your first day or your hundredth day of skiing, there’s going to be someone else out there who’s probably going to be out of control,” says Ellsworth. “If they run into you, you’re going to definitely wish you had a helmet on.”

If you’ve been wallowing away at home while your friends were whooping it up on the mountain, now’s your chance to get out there. You can even pick up a season-long rental, so you’re not stuck with the beginner’s gear you purchased before your first time up.

Head on down to a local ski shop and find someone knowledgeable to help you get outfitted, and I’ll see you on the slopes. Well, actually, I’ll see you in the lodge. Somebody’s got to save seats by the fireplace.

Wine Extravaganza @ Downtown Coeur d'Alene

Sat., May 15
  • or

About The Author

Dan Herman

Dan Herman is a copy editor for The Inlander. He is responsible for ascertaining that all the names of metal bands have the correct number of umlauts. He graduated from Washington State University in 2009.