Late Autumn. Yep, it’s that time again, the first chill is in the air.
I dread this time of year. Everyone else around me appears to as well, but our reasons are completely opposite.
“I love the fall, the colours changing, but ugh, then I’m just gonna hibernate for the next 4 months until spring again” –winter hater.
“I can’t wait for the cold to go away so I can come back outside again. I just get so depressed in winter and there’s no way around it.” –winter excuse-maker.
Neither of these trains of thought apply to me and, in fact, the reason I dread this time of year is precisely because of these people.
I LOVE WINTER.
Winter is my favourite time of the year. I love the cold, I love the chill in the air, the low density and crispness of it all. I love the snow. Every time there’s a snowstorm, people are complaining about how it’s going to mess up their commute, and the shoveling they’ll have to do. And all I’m thinking about is skinning the mountain to get those fresh turns and the delightful fluff that is waiting for me.
This article is for everyone who hates the winter.
It’s not that I can’t stand people not liking the wintertime. Yes, it bums me out to hear that others don’t like it, but if you’re going to live in a place that has winter, either learn to enjoy it or change your situation. You can avoid the snowy winters by simply moving away from it if you hate it that much. Complaining about it just doesn’t seem productive and you’re seriously killing my winter vibe.
So to those who wish to do the latter, here are some places you should consider calling your home instead of the northeast United States:
- Florida: sunshine pretty much year-round
- Georgia: year-round warmth and less prone to that Florida-afternoon rain
- Texas: year-round heat, and on the off-chance you do get snow, you’ll be in good company with the rest of your kind worrying about the snow
- New Mexico: that dry-heat, enough said
- California: year-round sunshine and plenty of beaches, wine-orchards, and if you do want snow, you can go and see it a few hours away. Just for as long as you like
- Anywhere closer to the equator than here, preferably never referred to as “the North”
For those of you looking to take a more active approach, there are things you CAN do to enjoy the winter. Take up a winter sport like skiing or snowboarding. What I DON’T mean by this is to rent equipment and go to the top of your nearest mountain (Mountain Creek for those in NYC) and just “give it a go”. This is NOT the move to make.
What you should do, is take a realistic look at yourself and decide:
- How balanced you are
- Your coordination level
- How much time you have to dedicate
- How willing you are to fall
- If you have any prior experiences that may help
Follow the guide below to see which approach may be more suitable for you.
Skiing and snowboarding may look quite similar to the lay-person but there are actually a lot of differences in the movements, especially at the beginner level. As an instructor for both, I feel qualified in giving you a detailed analysis of what may make you a candidate for one over the other. This is where your choice may make quite a difference in your expectations of how to enjoy this next winter.
Before we even get to skis or boards, let’s be clear: don’t show up in jeans and a hoodie without gloves. This isn’t because I don’t want you to be called a Jerry.
Jerry: an individual who exhibits a true lack of understanding for their sport, or for life in general.
It’s because jeans are incredibly restricting in terms of moving freely, especially when they get cold. They also stay wet once they become wet, rather than wicking moisture away. Wet and cold means freezing. Your jeans will freeze. As will your sweatpants if you wear those or any other combination of regular/casual dress not designed for the winter. A hoodie alone will not protect you from the cold, and will get wet when in contact with snow. And please wear gloves. Your hands are the first to go, and no one likes learning while getting frostbite. Then there’s your head. It makes sense to wear a hat, but that alone won’t protect your noggin from your own falls, and more importantly, other things: people, trees, ice, your equipment, etc. Protect your head with a helmet, by either renting or buying one.
Get yourself a winter coat and snow pants or borrow some if you don’t want to dish out the cash just yet. Grab a pair of sunglasses for a sunny day, and wear some decent socks and gloves. Wearing appropriate base and mid-layers can be a game changer on those single-digit and subzero days too. For more on this, there’s a Liftopia Guide that can help you.
Okay, so that’s your clothing.
You may be wondering why this matters. It’s much easier to balance with your feet clipped into two separate planks of wood versus both being strapped into one. Your ability to adjust and stabilize yourself is much quicker to master on skis at a basic level than on a snowboard, where you are fixed to one board with little to use as a crutch.
NOTE: we do NOT use poles for stability in skiing, in spite of what you may have already seen on a bunny hill.
So, if you have pretty good balance, at this point both skiing and snowboarding are both viable options to you. However, balance is an issue for you, skiing may be a better friend to you for now.
Your coordination level is critical to evaluate. As mentioned above, skiing involves controlling two separate planks where snowboarding involves controlling only one. Plain and simple, if you’re not very coordinated, skiing may be a total flop for you. Who knows, it may be that skiing is what it takes for you to find your coordination, but in my experience, that’s highly unlikely. This is the point where I’d tell you that snowboarding may be better suited to you.
Why does time matter? Skiing and snowboarding are by no means easy to master, though there are some key differences in progression time. Skiing has a quick-start to long-intermediate progression. Snowboarding has a long-start to quick-intermediate progression.
What does this mean?
As a skier, you’ll be standing and skiing on green runs relatively quickly. It’ll take a while before you’re skiing blues and nicely groomed blacks properly and finishing parallel turns (note I said properly; this does not mean out of control or snowploughing blacks).
As a snowboarder, you’ll be on your butt for a few days at the start. You’re going to have a rough entry into the sport, but from there, it won’t be too long until you’re gliding nicely down well-groomed blues and maybe even blacks. Both are equally tough to master and gain expert status in, as we introduce carving and fully-shaped turns, edge control, appropriate upper/lower body separation. So time and practice matter, because you’re going to progress a little quicker in snowboarding than skiing after some tough days at the start. You’ll be enjoying some nice greens on skis quicker than your snowboarding buddy who’s at home crying about his bruised bottom though.
Which leads me into the next topic.
You should (I think) expect to fall regardless of which discipline you start out with. You’ve likely only experienced sliding on ice, or slipping on snow when you’ve stepped on it outside your house clearing snow out of your driveway or when walking down an uncleared street. So getting used to purposefully sliding on snow, and sometimes ice, is going to take some getting used to, and falling is all part of it. Heck, I fall all the time, and I teach, coach, and patrol on the stuff.
However, if you’re really not into falling, you’re less likely to fall on skis (see Balance). Snowboarders start out doing a good bit of falling, from catching toe edges and heel edges, to just sitting down at the end of the run. Bruised bottoms and sore wrists are the usual suspects here, so this may be the one that steers you toward skiing. If you’re more into the “cooler, antiestablishment” look of snowboarding though, please don’t let this rough start stop you. I was there once too. Don’t let a look sway you however, after all, it is just a look. You can look cool, or like an idiot, on a snowboard, or skis.
As a sidenote, my opinion on falling does not correlate with progression on either board or skis. If you are measuring your skill level by the amount you fall, it still gives me no indication of your ability. I fall a lot, and fall into the expert category. If you’re not falling, you’re not pushing yourself.
The experiences you’ve already had can make a huge difference here. One of the quickest lessons I taught was taking someone who’d been playing ice hockey for 15 years out for their first time on skis. By the end of a 2-hour lesson we were skiing blacks. I’ve taken skateboarders out on a board for the first time and it’s been like introducing a fish to water. Some experiences can give you a real head start. It’s not a guarantee, only a trend I’ve noticed from my years of teaching.
So which experiences may help?
Backgrounds that may help first-time skiers get started:
- Ice skating and ice hockey
- Horse-back riding
- In-line skating
- Any athletic ability from basketball and soccer to swimming and diving
Backgrounds that may help first-time snowboarders get started:
- Wakeboarding and any variants
- Any athletic ability from basketball and soccer to swimming and diving
What’s The Next Step?
At the end of the day, it’s your call on which one you ultimately want to take up, regardless of this fairly simple guide and any advice I may have for you. The only piece of advice I would urge you not to skip is this: take a lesson.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take a lesson. It’s not embarrassing to take a lesson, nor is it something you should feel “above”. I take lessons at the advanced level because it’s the only way to advance and learn how to improve. There is always learning to be done. Most mountains offer great starter packs to get you out on the snow with an instructor. For those in the tri-state area, Mountain Creek offers a beginner package where you can rent gear, and get a lesson for $149.
It’s so important to start learning the right way for a number of reasons:
- You’ll enjoy your time on the snow by learning how to ski or ride properly
- You’ll be less likely to injure yourself by learning how to ski or ride the right way (as a Patroller, I see a lot of beginners injure themselves because they didn’t take a lesson) , and for everyone else around you.
The package above is for 3 anytime lessons, and Mountain Creek isn’t the only mountain out there offering these kinds of deals. Most mountains have some kind of entry-level starter pack. It’s important to be safe on the mountain and the skier’s code is something you should at least look over before you take to the hill, though instructors will (should) go over this with you.
You take a big step into a whole world of opportunity and adventure when you begin skiing or snowboarding. There’s a massive community of people already doing it, and they’re a great group (for the most part) who love to share laughs, knowledge, and even some drinks! Ever heard of après ski?
So get out there, learn to love it, and enjoy this beautiful time of year called winter!