Forget hibernating, and head to the slopes to ski or snowboard

Start out by taking a lesson
There are a lot of local options for getting out on the slopes and learning how to ski and/or snowboard.
There are a lot of local options for getting out on the slopes and learning how to ski and/or snowboard.

Categories: Sports

January is “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.” Its slogan is “Humans were never meant to Hibernate,” and last week was sure a test of that. But that was then, and now, with more normal seasonal temperatures back, those who have never given skiing or boarding a try, should take a day and check out the fun.

The easiest way to learn is to get an early start. Kids have a wonderful time on snow. Feed them, dress them warmly, and off  they go.  

But what about us adults who have never skied? Is it too late for us? 

No way! 

I don’t like the cold!

Come on: dressing for winter is something we all do in this area and good cold weather clothing these days is fashionable and affordable.  

I’m afraid of falling!

The idea, of course, is not to. But you will. Start out by taking a lesson and finding out how easy sliding on snow can be. And when you do fall, you’ll learn how easy it is to get up and get going again. 

Recently, at Jiminy Peak, just over the New York border in  Hancock, Mass., I spoke with three adult couples who were there for their first day on snow.

The first couple, from Indiana, had come east to see relatives over the holidays and decided to spend several days in the Berkshires. They had a daughter in her mid-20s who had done some skiing and was encouraging her parents to try.

The second was a young couple in their mid-20s and from Brooklyn.  They  already had a bucket list.  Last year they tried sky diving.  After their first lesson on snow, they were already making plans to come back. 

The third couple was with their  two pre-school children who were also taking lessons. They were from the metro New York area and had heard friends talk about skiing. They wanted to try a new family activity.

Now there are many ways to learn how to ski or snowboard.  I confess I learned the old-fashioned way — chasing others who already knew how. 

I didn’t ski as a youngster. I started after I moved to Schenectady in my 20s. Then, like today, our area had several ski clubs. Being new to the area, I joined one. I went on weekend bus trips. Soon, I had a girlfriend. She skied. I chased.  We married. I’ve been a ski regular ever since. 

While the outcome may be the same, the process to become a skier is much simpler these days.

I especially like the Terrain Based Learning program offered at Jiminy Peak and other places in our area such as Windham, Bromley, Butternut, Greek Peak and Killington. It is a great way to get started. 

This approach, developed by Snow Operating, a New Jersey group, uses a five step method to teach first timers. The lesson takes two hours with two objectives in mind for newbies: Be Safe and Have Fun. 

The first step in the Terrain Based Learning  program is getting gear. The skis designed for adults in the program are short, 120-125 CM. The snowboards are 90 to 160 CM based on the student’s weight.

Outside, the first stop is on a flat, snow-covered area. There you just get comfortable standing on skis, or the board. You stretch and move your body, sometimes sliding back and forth to get the feel of what is on your feet.

The first station that involves movement is a gentle “mini pipe,” Students slide down a slight drop and across a short flat with an easy elevation on the other side, plenty to stop forward motion.  It is all glide, no speed or turning involved. 

The second stage is a series of horizontal rollers. You slide down a mild incline and up the other side. At the top you slide to the next then the next. There are no turns involved and the rollers control speed.

The third station involves a series of banked turns. The gentle downhill is shaped to move the participant from one turn to the other with the terrain contour directing the turn. 

The final stage is an open area where the person takes the experience from the mini pipe, the rollers and the banked turns and goes down the gentle open slope. There is no track to follow, just the feeling of movement. 

Marc Angelini has been both a ski and a snowboard instructor at Jiminy Peak for the past 19 years. He likes the Terrain Based Learning method. 

“The newcomer right away gets the feeling of movement on snow. It is not me giving non-stop directions. It isn’t technical. Instead, students going through the elements discover for themselves what it is like to slide.” 

“The student owns the balancing movement right from the start.” 

His oldest first timer? “Seventy-five,”  Angelini said.

Making skiing and boarding  safe and fun for newcomers is very important for areas. Taking a lesson when starting out is clearly the best way to start. But historically, only 20 percent of those who take a lesson come back for a second time. Boosting the retention rate of first timers is the goal of all lesson programs. The deal at Jiminy is if you take that second lesson, a third lesson is only $1. The idea is that after three lessons, hibernation is not an appealing alternative.   


The best aerial skiers in the world will be in Lake Placid next Friday and Saturday for two World Cup competitions being held at the Intervale Olympic Jumping Complex. These two evening events will help determine who will compete in the Olympics next month in South Korea. 


A new eight-person gondola made its debut last week at Belleaye Mountain, the Olympic Regional Development Authority run ski area in the Catskills. The Catskill Thunder gondola that can accommodate 2,000 passengers per hour joins gondolas already in place at ORDA’s Whiteface and Gore Mountains.


Next Thursday is Discover NY Ski Day, sponsored by I Ski NY,  There are  bargains at areas all across the state. with day lift tickets for as little as $12 and full package equipment, lift, and lesson specials for $25. To check what is being offered where, click on

Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

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