“Pizza” with Pride: Being a Beginner Skier at CC

Written by Melanie Mandell

“If you’re going to school in Colorado, you must ski, right?” This is a question I’ve been asked by virtually everyone that has ever skied or knows that Colorado is a great place to ski. While this past winter was my first ski season, I definitely think that learning to ski in the Colorado College environment is quite different from the typical beginner skier experience.

(From left to right) First-years Madison Wilkinson, Jordan Averill, Alexa Hoffman, Melanie Mandell, Teddy Crimmins, and Inna Oh pose for a photo at the top of the mountain. Photo Courtesy of Melanie Mandell

To start, almost all of the people I’ve met at CC have been skiing since they could stand, have graduated from ski school, and have spent a majority of their winter and spring breaks skiing. I’ve also met a few ski racers and even a certified ski instructor. One could see how knowing absolutely nothing about skiing while being surrounded by so many experienced people would create a lot of pressure to learn well and to learn fast, whether or not this pressure actually exists.

Before I found other beginner skiers to “shred the greens” with, I was trying to keep up with my more experienced friends as best as I could. Failing in this endeavor, I felt like a burden, and these attempts to play catch-up led to some unfortunate falls and even a rather embarrassing run-in with the ski patrol after I took a wrong turn and accidentally ended up on a black diamond. It was then that I realized that learning to ski isn’t something I can rush just to be able to hang out with my friends.

As soon as I decided to take skiing at my own pace, my experience became much more relaxed and enjoyable. I made new friends who also had no idea what they were doing, and we were able to navigate the green runs together and make learning to ski fun instead of absolutely terrifying.

Though I am incredibly grateful for all of my friends who spent time trying to teach me how to ski, it was difficult to learn in front of them without feeling like an idiot or feeling that I was wasting their time that could have been spent on harder runs, rather than watching me struggle down easy hills.

Jordan Averill, a beginner skier, heads down the main run at Crested Butte Ski Area. Photo Courtesy of Melanie Mandell

Although I would say that I am absolutely still a beginner, I do have some words of wisdom for those trying to get into skiing at CC, despite the intimidating culture: Learn from my mistakes and don’t push yourself too fast to keep up with your friends; make new friends so you have people to bond with over your endless wipeouts and  “pizza”-ing down any hill that has a slight downslope. At the same time, don’t be afraid to get out there and bomb it down a few hills, just to get a feel for it. Additionally, if you have the funds for it, invest in a ski lesson. Even just one group lesson with an experienced professional will give you so much more confidence. Lastly, buying season rental skis is also a great way to save money and motivate yourself to actually get out there and ski.

I will never forget the first time I went to Breckenridge Ski Resort and saw all of the people speeding down the main run; I thought I was never going to be able to ski and would undoubtedly break my leg or somehow hurt myself. After one season of skiing, however, I’ve discovered the best places for beginners and made so much progress. I can’t wait to continue improving next season; maybe I’ll even do a few blue runs.

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