Story by Chris French / Photos courtesy of Ski Bums
Very few people seem to have horror stories about baseball -- or soccer, basketball or any of those other sports that are sweeping gay sports leagues from coast to coast. But simply bring up the topic of skiing and snowboarding, and someone's got a tale of abject fear.
"I was with a school group. I was fourteen. I thought I was going to fall down the entire mountain. My life was flashing before my eyes. I've never been so scared!" Sound familiar? Is this you?
It makes perfect sense. Why would anyone want to strap his or her feet to two long planks of slippery fiberglass, then think it's a fun idea to slide down a massive mountain of ice and snow? Simple answer: because it feels like flying.
Once you know what you're doing, it's exhilarating. If you can imagine what it would feel like to soar just above the ground through some of the world's most spectacular scenery, you can envision what it's really like to ski and snowboard. And with a little fortitude, sense of humor and preparation it can be easy. I've had the great opportunity to see grownups who had never even seen snow become avid skiers and snowboarders, and I know what it takes to transform yourself from total newbie into a shredding expert. If you want a gay-friendly sport that combines the fun of travel with the excitement of a new passion, check out the below:
Five Tips for Learning To Ski or Snowboard
1. Give yourself three days to learn -- There's a widely-accepted maxim in alpine culture: it takes three days to cover the basics. No matter how athletic or coordinated you may be, the very first day is humbling. On day two, things will start making a bit more sense, and on day three, the magic happens.
2. Begin by taking lessons with licensed instructors -- This is a must. Nearly every ski resort has them on staff, and often you can book a group lesson for as little as $30. Humble yourself and spend the day with someone who's got a trained eye to correct your mistakes. Throwing all in with friends might be fun, but why risk your safety?
3. Stop worrying and learn to love the bunny hill -- Nearly every ski resort features wide open, gently sloped areas that are specifically designated for beginner skiers and boarders. While you're learning, it's important to stay in these areas until you lock-in the basics of good form. Tackle the intermediate runs too soon and you could develop bad habits that limit your progress.
4. Wear proper clothing for snow sports -- Alpine sports are athletic activities, and you will get a workout. You wouldn't hit the gym in jeans, would you? Glamtastic puffy down coats, cotton sweaters and sweatpants are bad ideas; they'll just soak up your sweat and make you cold. Active snow sports clothing is designed specifically to allow sweat to evaporate and keep you warm and dry. Sure, it can be expensive, but you can find great deals online. Members of Ski Bums get a fantastic discount from Backcountry.com, a huge (and gay-friendly) ski and snowboard online retailer.
5. Know when to stop for the day -- When you're learning to ski or ride, you're working out specific muscles you might not know you have, so it's important to err on the side of caution so fatigue doesn't lead to injury. This is the perfect time to learn about our favorite ski culture tradition: après-ski! Reconnect with your friends and put up your feet by a roaring fireplace, toasting your friends on a great day.
That's it. With a bit of time -- and ongoing lessons -- you can develop a new passion that'll excite you when the winter arrives. You'll discover mountaintop vistas that are truly breathtaking. You can escape to charming snowy mountain resort towns with friends and loved ones, forgetting your frenetic, crazy life for a while. There's nothing to fear. This winter, it's time to learn to fly.
Chris French is the president of Ski Bums, the world’s largest club for LGBT skiers and snowboarders. He lives in New York City. Visit Ski-Bums.org to learn more.