Good instructor a big asset for skiers

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My re-introduction to gravity on a ski trail was a soaked britches experience.

It happened at Brodie Mountain in western Massachusetts, where Joe and Loretta, who I considered to be well-intentioned friends, were confident they could teach me how to ski.

Because it was my first time on skis, I wore everything wrong -- cotton long johns, cotton socks, cotton shirt, cotton sweater, cotton hat and a brand new pair of blue jeans.

Blue was to be the color of the day.

At least, I had a decent jacket and warm gloves.

It became immediately apparent to me and my friends that I was not a star pupil. After demonstrating the basic snowplow stance and emphasizing the importance of keeping my weight forward to "control" the skis, they stayed with me on a beginner's trail through numerous falls.

After showing me how to get back up by myself, they said they were going to ski to the bottom, take the chair lift back up -- I had fallen getting off that, too -- and catch up to me to see how I was doing.

How was I doing?

I was falling.

They stopped each time they took a run to check on my "progress."

My "progress" was glacial. It felt like it, too.

They soon were able to follow my route by the blue marks on the snow. My blue jeans were soaked from the frequent falls and added a blotch of blue every time I fell.

I made one run in the morning, warmed up in front of a fire in the lodge at lunchtime and made two more fall-down runs in the afternoon. To protect their car seat, I sat on newspapers for the hourslong ride back to their home. Fortunately, the car heater worked.

I thawed out successfully.

But I had learned my lesson.

I signed up for a group lesson my next time out. The instructor was a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). It made all the difference.

And that's the message for January which has been designated as Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month by the National Ski Areas Association, the PSIA, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, the National Ski Patrol, SnowSportsIndustries America and numerous snow sports publications.

To encourage adults and children to get out on the snow, resorts in more than 30 states are celebrating with special offers that include rental equipment, a lift ticket and a lesson from a professional instructor.

And that lesson will make all the difference.

Information: www.blueknob.com; www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/fees/ski.aspx; www.hiddenvalleyresort.com; www.skimountpleasant.com; www.nemacolin.com; www.oglebayresort.com; www.7springs.com; www.wispresort.com; www.canaanresort.com; www.timberlineresort.com; www.snowshoemtn.com; www.pknpk.com and www.holidayvalley.com.

Boyce Park

In addition to a bountiful amount of natural and machine-made snow, Boyce Park will play host this weekend to an ice maze, a snowsports safety program, free balloon art, face painting, caricatures, a magician and a raffle to win lift tickets, group ski/snowboard lessons and helmets.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the county-owned ski area will provide the free use of helmets today and Sunday with all ski/snowboard lessons and rental equipment. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC donated the helmets which will become available for rent beginning Monday.

Information: 724-733-4656; 724-733-4665.

No excuses. None

Unless they ran out of water for their extensive snowmaking systems, local and regional resorts have no excuse for failing to cover every slope and trail with plenty of machine-made snow.

The sustained single-digit temperatures, especially in the past few days, were ideal for making snow.

And more than a foot of natural snow has fallen on most resorts in the past week.

Larry Walsh writes about recreational snow sports for the Post-Gazette.


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