Beginner to Black Diamond

Last year was my first winter in the mountains. I live 20 minutes away from Grand Targhee, so I had to learn to ski. I started off with a group beginner lesson. I remember falling down and one of my skis getting so deeply stuck into a snow bank that another woman from my lesson kindly helped me dig it out. I was a mess, but I had fun.

Here is a really flattering moment from my second time on skis – I’ve got the wedge AND the upper body swing going on at once. I’m also wearing a horrific pair of hand-me-down 90’s ski pants that made me look like a dump truck. I had to pull them up to my armpits under my jacket to mitigate the sag. I’m skiing the flattest green run at Grand Targhee, The North Pole, in the photo below.

 Beginner skiing form on a green trail at Grand Targhee

Here I am six weeks and three more group lessons later on a blue run that was much steeper, and with more than twice as much vertical feet to the bottom of the trail. I’m stiff and my thighs are clenched in fear as I ride my skinny 142cm skis down the mountain. This photo makes me laugh now.

 beginner skiing a blue run at Grand Targhee

This is me on March 30th, 2014 (oh how I miss having that much snow at this time of year!) plowing through about 8 or so inches of powder, still on my skinny 142cm skis. I realize now why those skis were not helping me out much in these conditions. I had fun, though! And I bought a new pair of ski pants on the mountain that day, after all that falling snow soaked through my old pants so badly that I’d had enough. Good riddance to them!

 Powder day at Grand Targhee

This was me in April 2014, and where I left off technique-wise last season. I was getting better, learning to get on my edges, but I still hadn’t figured out what to do with my arms or upper body yet.

 Learning to ski at Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming

This was me near the beginning of this ski season, in December 2014.  I have a fatter set of skis in 159 length this season, and I’m starting to lose my fear of steepness and speed. This was the first time I went down Wild Turkey at Grand Targhee without being terrified. 

 Skiing Wild Turkey at Grand Targhee

I started to think I was getting pretty good this year, but I still hadn’t put all of the pieces together yet. But when I would ask my husband Max (who served as my ski instructor after the initial beginner lessons) if I was getting better, he would always respond with, “NO. Still looks the same.” I had him take all of these photos of me along my journey, as well as many videos, so that I could try to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. I was so determined not to get another “NO” answer to my “Am I doing better this week?” question!

Finally, in early February of this year, I had a breakthrough moment. As I rode the lift up the mountain, I was watching the racing school skiers go down, and I realized that I needed to set my arms free. Until that time, I had been concentrating so hard on keeping my hands in front of me that I didn’t realize that it was okay to unclench my arms from my sides in order to make room for my body to move through my turns. And then the next run down the mountain, I got it. Even Max agreed!

After another few weeks of working on my technique, I started skiing black diamond trails. And skiing them really fast, feeling completely in control!  This is me now. A year ago, it was hard to imagine getting to this place.

 Photo by Powder Day Photography.
Photo by Powder Day Photography.

2 thoughts on “Beginner to Black Diamond”

  1. That’s awesome. It seems like your husband is a pretty good photographer too! :)Coming from a clumsy, unbalanced, can’t-ski-for-her-life person, I think you look great. But that’s unhelpful and I’m glad you’re doing so well now! Congratulations!


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