Skiing — It’s Like Downhill Ice Skating, Right?

4.16.2014

By Michelle Garcia

My first time on skis? On the French Alps.

I was once gifted a hideous, yellow ski suit when I was a teenager. Fortunately, I never had to ski in it. But here I was 15 years later, packing for a trip to the French Alps — my first official ski trip — and I found myself Googling "What to wear skiing for the first time." However, for the record, I still probably would not have worn that hideous outfit.

After I cobbled together a few running-related items, a Columbia jacket from my college days, and bought wind pants at my local Big 5, I eventually made it to Valmorel, an intimate ski town buzzing with little kids in adorable, puffy snowsuits, cold-weather dogs, and saggy-pantsed teenagers carting around snowboards.

(above: hello, ski boots.)

Of course, most of the people in my group of fellow journalists were real skiers — from Canada, no less, where most people are hatched from snow eggs. This New Yorker-turned Angeleno is one of a small handful of skiing n00bs.

The bunny slope instructor's name at Club Med Valmorel is Sebastien (pictured — yowza), and he is as attractive as his name alludes, so I'm already feeling like I’ve won something. When one of us asks him what to do with our poles, he tells us to just leave them sitting on the side, since we won't need them; he says skiing is all in the legs, anyway. I can tell, since my shins are already fatigued from wearing snowboots for 15 minutes.

We walk over to the "snow garden," which is not even an actual slope. It's a barely graded area made for people no more than 4 feet tall. Within moments I have a near-death experience simply putting on my skis. OK, not near-death, but I could have fallen in front of the big group of 5-year-olds with whom I share my skiing skill level.

After we wobbily clamp our skis on, and Sebastien demonstrates how to duck walk, then how to stop by inverting, it's time for the real thing. He points down to the bottom of the ski garden, and says, "Michelle! Go for it!"

Me?! The black girl from Queens who has worn skis now, for a lifetime total of 20 minutes? I guess Lindsey Vonn had to learn somewhere, right?

Down at the bottom stood one of my colleagues, glamorously waiting for the rest of us to make our way to what could be considered the bottom. After shakily winding down the path for a few feet, I actually ski. But when it comes time to stop, I suddenly become a Goofy cartoon, nearly avoiding some expert Kindergartener gliding by, and almost collide into my far more elegant colleague, who we later realized has actually skied before.

But after a few trips "down" the tiny garden, I felt like I got the hang of this. Skiing seemed to be a little like downhill ice skating. Hmm, where are the 2018 Olympics being held? South Korea? Maybe I should go for it. I'd have four years to get on the circuit, compete a little, become a 33-year-old late bloomer story, win a medal (gold would be a little crazy, but bronze could be doable), and get my face on a Wheaties box.

Tags: Ski, France
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