It’s Never Too Late! My First-time Skiing as an Adult

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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:

Lunch Break:

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.

The Aftermath:

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.

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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!

Tips:
  • 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!

x♡,

Valerie

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Al Fresco Finds: Harrisburg, PA [Quick Weekend Guide and Recommendations]

When you get the opportunity to cross a state off of your “Visited States” Map, you take it. Bonus points if you cover the state’s capital city too.

For me it was Pennsylvania. Sure, I had crossed the state lines on a road trip before, but watching The Office was as close as I had ever gotten to a Pennsylvania experience, which hardly goes deeper than town name references. This time, over a long weekend trip to reunite with my girls and celebrate a delayed housewarming party, I was finally able to visit my friend in PA and do as the locals do when around Harrisburg.

People were definitely surprised by our choice destination, but we stand by it! When friends come together for great food, enjoy awesome beverages, and serene views, it is a splendid combination. And boy did we find all of that this side of Pennsylvania.

Here are our al fresco finds and recs for you!

1. Tröegs (Hershey, PA)

We happened upon Tröegs in a search for fresh air and a hydration station after one too many roller coaster rides. It wasn’t exactly part of the plan post-Hershey Park (we questioned ourselves too initially), but I’m glad we made this not-so-small pitstop. Tröegs Independent Brewing is quite the watering hole. Their outdoor seating area, with its pergola, greenery and serene view, is a sight at dusk, made 100 times better with a cold one in hand. Inside, long bar tables and stools place you right at the heart of the brewhouse within a massive tasting room. You can expect to spend a good chunk of the day there trying their selection of beers (try a tour!) and snacks. Their flatbread was amazing and perfect for sharing.

2. Millworks (Midtown Harrisonburg, PA)

Millworks brunch is just the bomb.com. Between the courtyard and their rooftop biergarten, you can really go from casual to romantic options while eating outside. The indoor dining space has industrial, rustic details and is enormous, with capacity for large groups or local special events. In fact, they host a variety of special events as well as artists and their work at their very own in-house studios. Your head is going to be in a swivel as soon as you step into those doors and you will be stuffed to your heart’s content when you leave.

3. Spring Gate Vineyard and Winery (Harrisburg, PA)

Spring Gate may just have it all. Wines, ciders, and beers within its expansive grounds. We were lucky to make it there early afternoon on a Friday and have the place almost all to ourselves, but that also meant that the party was far from getting started. At its peak, there’s live music, food trucks, plenty of outdoor seating and parking, but be sure to plan ahead to maximize your experience!

4. Ever Grain Brewing Company (Camp Hill, PA)

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Ever Grain is a casual warehouse-style spot with a good selection of beers, party games and food, care of their neighbor, Red Sky Cafe. We had their samples for a tasting of all their offerings and there was plenty to share among three people. Their staff was very accommodating too, even when we spilled some beer from the sheer weight of the tray – be very careful and save your drinks when carrying that thing!

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Like I said, I had no previous experience anywhere in PA before visiting this past year, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It felt a lot like being in Virginia when we drove around and explored with more of a Northeastern social culture.

Should you feel compelled to pay the Harrisburg area a visit, there are a few ways to do so and to make the most of your stay.

How to get there:

From Boston, I flew in from Boston Logan to BWI via Southwest and drove to Harrisburg with friends who were mostly coming in from the metro D.C. and VA area. I was fortunate to have that option. Our friends from New York City were conveniently able to take the train directly to Harrisburg PA. There is also a small airport in Harrisonburg itself that may be more convenient for a higher fares.

Where to stay:

Harrisburg seems to have a wide selection of hotels that range from affordable to commercial to boutique. Closer to the main downtown area is a Hilton Hotel, a Crowne Plaza, and City House Bed and Breakfast.  Since I was staying with a friend, I was based in Mechanicsburg for the weekend, a short 20 minute drive from downtown. It is a quaint area with more affordable lodging options if you’re trying to save on accommodations. If you’d prefer to check Harrisburg out on a day trip with family, it might make more sense to stay in the town of Hershey, where the park and a few family-centered destinations are located.

What to do:

If you’re like me and plan your adventures around food and drinks, Downtown Harrisburg has a growing and increasingly diverse scene. It is also fairly walkable, conducive to fun bar crawls with a crew. During the day, a stroll to Midtown Scholar Bookstore and Cafe, around Broad Street Market and along the river make for nice day time activities. For more of an adventure, the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat takes you on a scenic tour of Harrisburg aboard a historic vessel itself. City Island Harrisburg is exactly what the name implies and is home to various tourist destinations such as a baseball stadium and a soccer stadium and a few businesses. Children and children at heart can also make a day trip (or longer if you wish!) out of Hershey Park.

Other Places to Eat or Drink:

Some key and notable destinations during our weekend in Harrisburg include Cafe Fresco (where we ate practically everything on the menu and loved it), The Brick Haus (taking the lumberjack shot is a must, hint: it comes with bacon!), and Sawyer’s (simply for its central location and outdoor bar and games + dancing).

Let me know in the comments if you have any other thoughts or want to link up! I referred a lot to the Explore HBG website and my local friend’s recommendations.

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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Sail Boston Grand Parade of Sail 2017

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We woke up to a misty and foggy Boston the morning of the Grand Parade of Sail. For a while it didn’t seem like a sighting of even the tallest of tall ships could be possible. But after a one-hour delay to 10:00 am to commence the ceremony, we made our way to Lo Presti Park for arguably the best seats and views for Sail Boston 2017. What made it extra fun was that we were able to watch the Opening Ceremony and the first tall ships on TV with commentary from WCVB (highlights here), and STILL make it in time to see the ships cruise along the Boston Harbor and put on a show for the Eastie waterfront spectators.IMG_0297

Seeing “America’s Tall Ship,” the Eagle, leading vessels from all over the world was a sight to behold for children of all ages. The little nerd in me was awestruck at the history and legacy of the ship, and the cadets that make this kind of journey possible. What a time to be alive! To see remnants of history in real time, in a surreal mix of the old and the new.IMG_0326IMG_0312

Side note: anyone else ever feel slightly unsettled seeing checkpoints in your neighborhood for large-scale events or at major tourist sights? It definitely made me feel safer for sure, and fortunately the uneasiness didn’t last very long. I quickly grew fascinated by the people that flocked the park for Sail Boston, as well as the panoramic views of Eastie and the rest of Boston from where I stood – a quick snapshot of a neighborhood in transition. IMG_0318IMG_0298IMG_0354

Sail Boston from the peripheries was an experience in and of itself. Boston showed its finest to over a million visitors in the seaport and harbor areas, while Eastie also got treated to unbeatable views, food trucks, and some welcome foot-traffic. The Ecuaduran tall ship, Guayas, was a clear favorite and party-starter. I loved seeing the neighborhood come alive, cheering and dancing to the lively Latin music playing from the ship.  IMG_0392IMG_0380IMG_0372

As the weather continued to clear and become more pleasant, Alex and I decided to take advantage of the other perks to a weekend of festivities in the city: quiet pockets of Boston to enjoy all to ourselves. We briefly checked out all the buzz on the other side of the water, and then ventured over to Back Bay and the South End. At that point, we thought, the possibilities were endless.IMG_0386

What events/trips are you looking forward to this summer? I’d love to hear your ideas below! For questions or more information on Sail Boston 2017, check the Sail Boston official websiteBoston.com’s feature video, Boston Globe’s photos, or comment below. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links in the comments as well!

Thanks for reading!

 x,

Valerie

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