First-timers discover the joy of skiing’s spills and thrills
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Alvin Lee hadn’t laid eyes on snow until the age of 33 while on a trip to Japan. He thought the strange looking white stuff was piles of plastic, he recalls, chuckling at the thought.
But there he was looking like a true Albertan in February, dressed for winter at Nakiska Ski Resort and on skis, cautiously navigating the bunny hill. He was taking his first-ever ski lesson, alongside his wife Priscilla Tan.
The staff at the Nakiska rental shop tune and fit Alvin and Priscilla for their skis.
After a quick kitting out in boots, poles and Head skis, the group met their instructors, Tim Maynard and Sofia Huss at the base of the bunny hill – nervous but pumped to tackle the new sport.
Alvin and Priscilla were ready to overcome a rough introduction to skiing they had in Japan a few years ago. “I think we are not going to ski again unless we get an instructor,” Lee had said after that trip. They were at Nakiska, along with five others including, Erika Tan, who moved from Indonesia in the mid-2000s and Alexandra Camelo, who moved from Colombia to Calgary six years ago. Both had a bit more experience snowboarding and skiing but had never taken lessons. (If you rally a group of six you can take a lesson together at Nakiska.)
Erika Tan and Alexandra Camelo take the magic carpet ride up for more pointers from their instructor.
Three of the more experienced skiers took off with Huss to the Bronze chairlift, while Maynard started the other four slow and easy on the bunny hill. He explained the parts of the ski and how to clip into the bindings, before catching the magic carpet to the top.
Instructor Tim Maynard demonstrates the pizza stance, which helps new skiers control their speed.
Every beginner learns the pizza stance first, which helps them control their speed. “Don’t worry, I’ll be their to catch you,” Maynard assures a clearly intimidated Priscilla. She and the three other beginners find their ski legs and make it to the bottom. As the morning progresses, the beginners learn how to link turns and master how to stop. Well, almost every time.
Yes, there were a number few spills, (but no one got hurt!) more speed than some wanted – but mostly, a lot of laughs. No question, these adults found it daunting to take up a new sport and having to overcome a fear of failing – and falling. But with Maynard’s encouragement and demonstrations, you could see everyone gaining confidence in their S turns.
“This is a very strong group,” declared Maynard. “As long as they continue on this same trajectory, they should be able to make it to the Bronze chair (lift) after lunch.”
But, to take the pressure off, he adds, “Don’t be too worried about being too fantastic straightaway.”
Over lunch, Alvin says: “This is a lot more fun than I expected.”
Priscilla’s thankful for a couple of things. “Well, I haven’t hurt myself yet; I feel a bit better now that I know how to stop.”
As the group heads back to the bunny hill, Alvin assures Priscilla, “You’re going to be alright . . . See you at the bottom.”
After a few more lessons, the group will enjoy some spectacular views from Nakiska’s Gold chair.
Maynard makes sure everyone can control their stops and turns before heading for the Bronze chair. The liftie slows down the chair so everyone can get on board easily.
The sun peeks out from behind the clouds as they get off the lift and head for a gentle green run. It’s higher than the bunny hill, but the slope is gradual. There are more falls, one yard-sale, but they’re back upright and feeling a big sense of accomplishment. And they make it to bottom, feeling pretty good about themselves.
“I’m having such a good time I don’t want to go home,” says Alexandra. “Everything was awesome.”
After a morning of lessons on the bunny hill, Alvin and Priscilla head up the Bronze chairlift to try out what they've learned.
Matt Mosteller, senior vice-president of RCR resorts, says Nakiska is a popular choice to take lessons for first-timers. "Thousands each year take up skiing and or riding for the first time at Nakiska. (It's) fitting that it has been recognized by various Calgary Herald readers' awards over the years as the best place to learn to ski and or ride."
The four agreed that taking a lesson was the right thing to do, making it even better because of the patience of their instructor. “It was scary, but I really enjoyed it and the accomplishment I made I can share with my family that I actually went down,” said Erika. She says she’ll be back out and will continue with a few more lessons before going it alone. Alvin and Priscilla also vow to get back out there.
Alexandra was already planning a ski day with her boyfriend.
The big takeaway of Alexandra’s day came from something she told her instructor: “I told him, I didn’t know if I was terrified or excited. He told me to embrace the feeling of excitement. He was so positive; I’m going to have his voice in my head the next time I’m skiing.”
When You Go
Did you know that Nakiska was built specifically to host the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and is only 45 mins from Calgary? #SkiClose Find rental information here.
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