Snow sports are not my forte. I don’t ice skate, and I went snowboarding a couple of times on some golf course hills, but that’s about it. I’d never been skiing. I prefer to stick to a flat surface on the ground in athletics.
For someone who grew up in New England, that’s not typical. My excuse is that my mom had a skiing accident when she was younger, so we never went as a family.
But I felt ready for the challenge. A couple of weeks ago, I went on a day trip to Ski Butternut in Great Barrington with four friends, two who ski and two who snowboard.
I rented skis, poles, boots, and helmet for $50 at Puritan Cape Cod in Hyannis. I borrowed an extra pair of goggles and was on my way.
When we arrived, the mountain was crowded with a mix of families and advanced riders. Once I had my gear strapped on, I headed for the bunny hill, accompanied by small children who clearly knew more about what they were doing than I did.
The hardest part, at first, was simply walking with skis. I tried sliding back and forth, sticking my poles in the ground to help power me forward, but I waddled like a penguin.
One of my friends did the bunny hill lift with me a few times to give tips on how to maneuver, slow down, and eventually stop. Stopping, I quickly realized, was key. The first two times didn’t go so well and involved some intentional falling down.
But after some practice, I learned a big lesson — it’s all in the hips. The next few times, I weaved down the hill side to side, keeping my body low to the ground and my head up, as if I were sitting in a rollercoaster seat. I turned my hips and moved my weight to my outside foot in order to skid and stop on the slopes. I got the hang of that fairly quickly.
After about 40 minutes of practice, my friends assured me I was ready for the real mountain. We took the 5- to 10-minute ride on the larger ski lift, and, as we approached the top, I saw there was a bit of a drop from the lift to the ground.
The ski lift doesn’t stop moving, so you have to make a quick launch. I sat up quickly, put my skis to the ground, and pushed forward — a perfect execution off the lift. On the second lift ride, I didn’t sit up in time, caught some air, and landed hard on my butt. A few snowboarders behind me did the same thing, so I didn’t look like a total rookie.
I followed my friends down the mountain slowly but surely on the first run, aware of others flying past me. There are levels to this game: green hills for beginners, blue for early intermediates, red for advanced intermediates, and black for experts. I stayed on green hills.
Learning the art of falling and getting back up was a challenge. When I knew I was going to go down, I skidded and forced myself to fall gracefully on my side. In order to get back up, I had to lie perpendicular to the mountain, propel my weight forward, and balance myself.
And no, I didn’t fall gracefully every time. Occasionally, I lost my skis after smacking the ground. That’s just part of the game.
The third run of the day was my best. I was cruising down the hill with friends and fell only once. I imagine that once a skier gets skilled, it really becomes a lot of fun.
During the last run, one of my friends persuaded me to go down a blue hill. I hesitated, but I managed it, catching some of my fastest speeds of the day.
What helped me most was my mindset — positive and focused. If you feel as if you’re going too fast, don’t panic. When you get nervous and feel as if you’ve lost control, that’s when things can go bad for beginners, continuing down the mountain until they wipe out.
Turns out that skiing is strenuous exercise. I felt as if I used every muscle I had. At the end of the day, my entire body was sore.
The ambulance pulling into the parking lot when we were heading out wasn’t a happy sight, but I felt good knowing it wasn’t for me. I think I’m ready to go again.
The Cape Cod Ski Club
The nonprofit Cape Cod Ski Club was formed in 1978 and organizes ski trips locally and far away. Al Kogos, who owns Seaside Liquors in Wellfleet, has been a member since 1988 and has served as president twice.
“I had moved down the Cape in 1986 when I bought the liquor store, and, of course, needed something to do,” Kogos said. He hadn’t skied in about 15 years when he joined the club, but it allowed him to pick the sport back up and make some real friends.
Before Covid, the club ran 35-plus trips per year — day excursions locally, overnight weekends in New England, and flights across the country. “It all depends on your time off and pocketbook,” Kogos said.
Since Covid hit, the club has canceled all day trips, but there have been some overnight stays, Kogos said. Normally, the club would rent a bus, but now everyone provides his or her own transportation.
Around 40 people have signed up for a trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, and two weeks after that, the club has scheduled another trip to Big Sky, Mont. Kogos is doing both. “We’ll have our own hotel rooms; we’ll have to get tested before and after,” he said.
For skiers who want to stay local this season, Kogos suggested Blue Hill in Canton and Wachusett in Princeton. Skiers willing to travel out of state should consider Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain, or Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, and Okemo, Killington, Pico, or Sugarbush in Vermont.
Check websites for availability and weather. Visit capecodskiclub.com to learn more and get involved.