Learning to Ski #1 - Eldora
By Cynthia Reaves
TRUE CONFESSION – I CAN’T SKI.
I hate to admit it, but I just can’t ski. I’ve lived in this great centennial, snow-loving state for almost 15 years, and I still haven’t found my ski legs — even though I DO make my annual pilgrimage up the mountain. My flair for NOT skiing borders on the master’s level. You see, I have taken the intellectual pursuits of most creatives. I love writing; I love music. I’ve made a life of exercising my mind — and I’m a terrible klutz. I do daily yoga. I bike on the reg, but skiing and I have never jibed. Plain and simple.
But I’m 41, and if you can’t learn anything new at my age, such as doing as the natives of Colorado do, then it might be time to pack it on out of here and forgo a lifetime of adventure. This year, all of that changes. I am going to 22 ski resorts from Coloradoski.com to learn-how-to-ski, how to grow, how to learn something new, even when the odds are against me. I will be a (ski) beast.
The snow is falling, and 2019 brought a record year. Winter is officially here. Ski season is in full effect. The ski films, such as Warren Miller’s 70th “Timeless” (which highlighted how epic Eldora is), pumped everyone up.
Just like all the winters that have come and gone, the movie is the unofficial chime through which Colorado mountains call. I must not leave them waiting — but I do live in Fort Collins.
Fort Collins is one of the best bike cities in America. It’s a music city, a climber’s paradise, and it’s the home to many cross-country ski options. Fort Collins is an active city, but getting to ski resorts seems a big jaunt when the snow flies and the roads to the high country shut down. A two-hour drive turns into a six-hour trip or even overnight. To some, they prepare and enjoy the process; the suffering is worth the complete powgasm that happens when they get to slide into the fresh, fluffy free-fallen snow. To others, the inconvenience of sitting dead stop on the highway is a deterrent.
THE ANSWER TO THIS CONUNDRUM IS ELDORA.
Eldora is 69 miles from Fort Collins, 38 miles from Denver, and 21 miles west of Boulder. The beauty of heading up the Boulder Canyon, about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Fort Collins, is you never even get on Interstate 70, which leads to most resorts and becomes an icy parking lot most weekends. The weather still comes, but the route is different. Even on the busiest of days, Eldora is in reach. Eldora is the place I took my first lesson many years ago when I moved to Colorado. Eldora is the new beginning of my learning-to-ski journey.
My skilled leader was Lori A Beach Ed. D. Lori Beach taught me lessons on Eldora’s learning-based terrain.
Lori learned to ski for love. Thirty-six years ago, she married her husband, who immediately expressed his passion for skiing. Lori did not want to miss spending time with her (then) new husband, so she learned to ski (as he playfully said to her, “I love you so much. You will take lessons from somebody else”). Lori has worked beside her husband for almost the entirety of their relationship, 28 of those years teaching people to ski.
The couple, both middle school teachers, met at work. They taught skiing in Ohio at Snow Trails on nights and weekends. They vacationed in Colorado and planned to relocate eventually. When they retired from teaching in the classroom, they packed their bags for Colorado and transitioned into skilled leaders at Eldora, where they now both instruct. They teach people to use their bodies for fun. As a bonus, they share their love of the sport with new learners. They’ve both been there for six years.
Beach is a formally trained ballerina. She has years and years of experience as an athlete. I loved her approach to learning to ski as it related to dancing. Her stories were humorous yet held bold revelations to me as her student.
In between skills learning, and as early as we met, I could tell her questions were giving her insight into who I was as a learner. How did I learn? What things do I usually do with my body? How well did I know the terrain and the landscape of the sport? Lori gathered her intel. She listened to me. She used my love of yoga and dancing to teach me specific ways of handling my body. I fear going fast without control. I fear the mountain and its steepness. I fear getting twisted in a pretzel, as I often do when I fall. It is easier to quit and sit in the warm lodge. But it was time to get out of my comfort zone... In between skills learning.
In that one lesson, I corrected some bad habits, like always wedging when going downhill. I felt like I had a breakthrough in the sport. I had come the day before sans-lesson. I felt defeated. I fell a lot. I cried tears of frustration. I managed. But after the experience with Lori, I felt like I had some skills beyond French fries and pizza, methods of teaching to small kids and beginners that help you stop. Lori met me where I needed her and guided me with body movements I do regularly. My yoga suddenly translated into ski moves Lori demonstrated that the same movement I use in warrior 2, for example, is how I should flow into a turn. The idea of shifting my knees outward to create a turn, along with other body mechanics, allowed me to relate my skiing to a repetition in which I am familiar. It was a relatable lesson that built on my previous ski experience and the way I learn.
I went back for more. Lori was enthusiastic about meeting again. She made small talk about my life and hers. We got on the lift, ready to glide. Lori knew my abilities. This lesson, Lori asked me about skating. When she found out I was good at that, she taught me how to ski on skates. I had always thought that to ski, both of my feet and legs should act like one. When she told me it was like skating, it gave me the freedom to move my feet and legs perfectly. This was a mental game-changer, and suddenly I understood what I was trying to achieve physically. The feet and hips all are moving in support of one another, mirroring each other but are independent of one another. Let’s just say she changed my life. Something clicked, and I understood physically what I needed to do to improve and enjoy skiing.
Lori gave me confidence, and for the first time, I heard someone say, “You are a natural.”
Eldora has a new terrain customized by Eldora and Woodward for teaching and growing in the sport. The new park will enhance everything from lessons to personal training and is open to anyone riding the mountain.
The new addition of Eldora’s rad terrain is in full force.
Jeff Brier, JB, director of Ski & Ride School who guides his skilled leaders’ team with a new progressive teaching model, says, “What we’re doing with learning-based terrain is presenting this progression of ‘Inspire. Nurture. Teach’ to our instructors, combined with different human-made features, that enhance the guest experience. But it also allows for more fun, interaction, and developing awesome relationships with the guests.”
Eldora staff have envisioned these new man-made features for years, which are now a reality. The new terrain allows the teachers to immerse the students in the most common sensations found in skiing. The teachers get to break out of their ‘guide to skiing’ molds, and as JB says, “have a whole new language and a fun terrain, new analogies to come up with, and now they can be re-inspired and why they love to teach because they get to do something a little new every day instead of just parrot the same feedback.”
The instructors create a unique training plan dictated by the individual guest’s needs and wants. The new terrain allows lessons to be catered explicitly for the individual. Eldora is creating a progression that matches the terrain and providing lessons without the mental clog of naming everything and detailing it word for word. The method and terrain empower the student to feel the ride, catch the flow, and enjoy the experience.
The new terrain has Moguls, Half-pipes, quarter-pipes, super-pipes, and jibs but is designed specifically by the long-time experienced staff to enhance learning new skills no matter what level you are at. “We’re starting with big sensations right from the very beginning. And we’re allowing the terrain to manipulate their skills, so they don’t work as hard. But they become more automatic,” Lori says. “What we’re doing with beginners and Learning-Based-Teaching is we’re starting them able to glide, able to engage, able to release with the terrain from day one,” Lori says. “We’re starting people out in these start parks, in these small mini pipes. Parallel skis, both skis on, straight down in.”
This innovative teaching model allows the instructor to connect deeper with the student and really learn about how they perform. It also abandons teaching bad habits that need to be undone later. The teaching method is more fluid and easier to comprehend. The terrain is just a tool to get more people skiing, better and quicker.
Eldora women’s program is one of the longest-running women’s programs in the country (over 30 years) and has the unique opportunity to offer a Nordic program, alpine, telemark, and snowboarding.
Krista Crabtree, director of the Eldora Women’s Program for over a decade, says, “We provide an experience for women to learn and challenge themselves in a positive environment. The bonus is two delicious meals, fun perks like raffles and wine tasting, and camaraderie with other like-minded, active women.”
The event is a consecutively booked midweek escape that runs in January for 10 weeks, six weeks, or four weeks catered to your specific skill set. Each day includes a European Continental breakfast starting at 8:30 a.m., followed by a four-hour guided on-mountain experience, with an hour-long gourmet lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“My two favorite things about the program: When I see women ski or ride together after meeting each other during the program, and when women say, “my partner/husband/son/daughter says I’ve improved a ton!” Krista says.
For participants without season passes, the Women’s Program Pass is included in the program fee and provides day lift tickets for the specified program days. For questions, (303) 440-8700, ext. 2.
I know myself, and despite my past relationships with athletics, I can still master skiing. If not a master this year, I can learn enough to have fun. I admire the smiles people wear when they ski. I am envious of hut trips and backcountry freedoms. I want a lifelong sport that takes me across the globe. The skiing itself is only half the adventure. Eldora was one large step in the plan.
Getting to Eldora is easy. The staff is premiere. Sam Bass, in marketing, coordinated my whole experience. I am so impressed with his level of commitment to Eldora. His service was impeccable, and he was so accommodating. I am grateful to have met the crew at Eldora. Everyone treated me like a long-lost friend. I made so much progress with the new terrain. Eldora is so accessible. I did #optoutside. I skied on Thanksgiving. I skied the weekend after Christmas. I drove. I parked. I skied. I learned that I could be a good skier. I had the time of my life. I made it home by dinner.
Get BOGO tickets to Eldora and other Colorado Gems.
The only ski resort served by RTD, Colorado’s most extensive public transportation system. Depart from Boulder Transit Center and drops you in front of our Alpenglow high-speed chairlift the NB Route bus at the same spot. PARKING IS FREE on weekends at RTD’s Boulder Transit Center (1800 14th Street), the Boulder County Justice Center (6th & Canyon), Settler’s Park (Pearl & Canyon), and the Nederland Park-n-Ride.
RIDE FOR FREE
Eldora is giving away free round-trip tickets on RTD’s NB Route to any rider who needs one—every weekend and on select holidays this season on the 8:10 a.m. or 10:10 a.m. departures from Boulder Transit Center.