Leave it to a Winter Olympics year and New England’s ever-tumultuous relationship with the winter season to will a transplant to try things one has never tried before. As a not-so-athletically-inclined individual and a tropical country native, the snow sporting world seemed like an alternate universe. I thought an image of me in skis on any kind of slope would be a bad idea, and I never thought I’d actually enjoy it.
Learning to embrace winter in New England was a gradual yet inevitable process. I did not grow up with memories of nor’easters or snow storms or offering a snow dance for the winter gods as a child in the hopes of a snow day. Where I’ve been, a city shuts down from a couple of inches of anticipated snow or a country’s climate could essentially be described as only hot or hotter.
It took almost three years, but Alex and I have finally graduated from “surviving New England winters” to really making an effort to have fun with it. Nevermind that both of us were starting from square one. It actually turned into something new we could try and experience together, and turn into something special for ourselves!
We did a little bit of research online and turned to our own local sources to find a good fit based on our goals and schedule at the time. Since we decided semi-spontaneously (that is, we tossed the idea of skiing around all winter – again, thanks winter olympics! – but narrowed down a realistic day pretty spur of the moment), we had a fairly short but specific checklist:
- Close enough to Boston for a day trip. We made the plan to go on President’s Day which also happened to be the first day of February vacation for most schools in Massachusetts.
- A place that was beginner-friendly. We were looking for spots with just the trails we would need or want on our first time, and not much more. Just big enough for a couple that have never set foot on a ski mountain before and more likely to have and cater to others like us.
- Reasonably priced. Hopefully including all our rentals and lessons. We weren’t sure how much we’d end up liking skiing, so we weren’t looking to splurge on a big experience (… yet, maybe).
When we arrived:
Boy, was. it. BUSY. We were aiming to get there as soon as it opened knowing it was a holiday and school vacation week, but definitely underestimated our prep process in the morning. By the time we drove in, it was around 9 am, the parking lot adjacent to the lodge was full, and they were running shuttles from parking lot 3 which is really only about a half mile away.
Since we knew we wanted to get a One-Day Adult Beginner Package in advance, it made the process a lot simpler. We went to Customer Service and lined up at a ticket window, paid the $99 each for our lesson and rentals (boots, skis and poles), and got general directions from the associate. I paid an additional amount for a helmet because I like to play it safe, but Alex only kept his beanie on and was fine for the level of skiing we made time for.
We made our way to the main rental building and entered our information at a kiosk to be linked with our equipment. We took the receipt slips to the pick-up counters for our boots and found a bench to try them on. We must of looked so new and lost amongst the crowd because one of the few associates walking around kindly checked in on us, helped us to strap our boots properly, and offered to pick up my helmet. We then picked up our skis that were set aside and labeled on our way to the locker area, where we rented a large locker to store the rest of our things (e.g. shoes, spare dry clothes) besides our phones and wallets that we wanted to keep on.
Before exiting the building was the information desk for lessons and a variety of other packages. We checked in to confirm our lesson time before picking our poles right past the exit doors and lining up with other first-time skiing students as marked outside.
This video by Wachusett Mountain Ski Area on Youtube shows a step-by-step guide for first-timers. Personally, being able to visualize the location and the process this way helped make it more fun and much less intimidating! Their map can also help in understanding how things are set up around each other when settling in for your activity of choice.
The beginner lesson:
Not knowing much about what to expect, Alex and I wandered off a bit with the half hour we had before our lesson, but then ultimately decided to just line up in eager anticipation. The build up was quite fun leading up to it as the group grew bigger and bigger. The teaching team decided to split us all into 3 groups of about 6 adults each. Because of the number of simultaneous lessons then, our group needed to trek over to the bottom of the “Easy Rider” green slope for some learning space. It was quite the warm up for the body and a fast lesson on navigating your way around people and slight inclines, for sure. Once there, our instructor walked us through the basics of skiing: locking the skis on and pushing them off, walking and climbing with skis on, setting up for balance when on an incline, stopping, and turning to each side. We were able to practice one by one with direct coaching, with ample time for each of us to take turns for several opportunities. I definitely felt the session was well worth it, and covered the essentials for our one-day agenda.
Bear with the amateur footage, but here was my end-result:
Excited from our lesson success and “new tricks,” we practiced a few more of the turns and stops independently in the same spot until we felt satisfied. We hadn’t had anything beyond breakfast bars and clementines up until that point in the day, so we couldn’t avoid stopping for a bite much longer. We made our way toward the base lodge and parked our skis and poles on one of the racks right outside. There was a variety of options at the base lodge to accommodate a busy dining hall packed with guests. We shared some chicken fingers + fries and had a hotdog each for our lunch. We thought they were fairly good for foodcourt-style offerings. We did wish they had a few condiment stations besides just the one that was understandably super congested the entire time we were there.
After our meal, picked up our equipment and braved the “magic carpet” to take our skills to new heights! The line fluctuated in wait times, but the staff was extremely friendly and patient with the skiers of all ages and skill levels.
Once there, I preferred to pause to gain my footing, scan the hill for clearings to map out my desired route, and refresh my body on what I needed to do to get it done. I imagine the rest of skiing lies on muscle memory at this point, so more practice time, future lessons, and ski exposure to solidify that learning for our body and brain connection is key for maximum enjoyment.
I can truthfully say I skied down the hill with a semblance of control, as best as I could muster, and landed safely at the bottom without panicking (too much) or knocking anybody out! I call that a win.
We went on the magic carpet probably 2-3 times more before we called it a day, leaving the slopes quite optimistic about ski trips in the future.
On our way back to the rental building to return our equipment, I noticed the s’mores bar and waffle cabin – the perfect treats for a day of hard work. We most definitely stopped for Butter Beer (yes, you heard that right! and yes, it is nonalcoholic) from the s’mores bar for a mini après ski and people watching to cap off our trip.
If you’re planning to go skiing for the first-time as a newbie like me, here are my tips to prepare and some take-away points so that you can look forward to the having fun part!
- Take a lesson. I can say that my first experience was a positive and informative one because I was able to learn the basics properly and have a professional walk me through my learning process before having to go on my own. As an adult, I have to work that much more to teach my body new skills and ways to move. This way I was able to focus on practicing those skills and skip past the frustrations from failed attempts or unlearning poor ski habits.
- Find a buddy. Whether you’re going with one friend or a group, it might be worthwhile to find someone go on a lesson and stay on the bunny/green slopes with you (if needed). I was lucky Alex and I were starting at the same level and could truly go through the experience together. I can be very shy when trying new things, so this helped my confidence and risk-taking attitude.
- If you don’t care for “foodcourt food” plan your meals or pack your own. In our rush to get into the shuttle from the lot, we left our snacks and water in the car so we did rely quite heavily on the lodge’s food. Chicken fingers and fries, hotdogs, and drinks worked well for us that day, but honestly, we went in there not knowing what to expect. Lots of people had coolers/bags around the foodcourt area in cubbies, some seemed confident about the honor system in the lodge, but Alex and I would probably aim for a cooler/bag we could pack into a locker if we were to go on a future visit.
- Get there first thing in the morning for best parking odds. While all public parking is free, this could help with easy access to all your belongings. You might opt to leave items in your car versus a locker when your car is parked further away. If so, plan to pack lightly with bags/belongings that can easily fit in lockers. They offer standard or large sized. We had a backpack, both our boots and inner fleece coats – it actually got fairly hot for skiing that day! – and all of our stuff fit in one large locker all together.
- Plan for at least a half day. We were there for our skiing lesson that was about an hour long, had lunch, and then wanted to make our money’s worth with a few tries down the slope. Depending on the crowd on your visit, and your line tolerance even, you may be able to take the slopes a few times more than peak days. Ideally, Alex and I think a ski weekend would really seal foundational ski skills the best, for ample instruction time, practice and enjoyment. However, the day trip worked out just fine to give us just a sample without feeling obliged to ski more or do more while there.
- Stretch. Beware of the aches and pains from muscles you may have never moved or neglected for years and years. Although it wasn’t that bad for the amount of skiing or the effort we had to make as first-timers, stretching before and after is something Alex and I definitely wish we did more consciously for the sake of our bodies.
What’s your must-do/favorite part about skiing? Where’s your favorite place to go and do you have any other tips to share? I hope we get to go again before the season ends, but now I know we have something to look forward to next winter!
Leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, suggestions, questions! You can also check out Wachusett Mountain Ski Area’s website, other Boston-area recommendations by Boston.com for kids and newbies, or great places to learn to ski in New England featured by the Boston Globe. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links as well!
Thanks for reading!