Learning to Ski in Taos

You don't have to be an expert to ski Taos

I grew up in Texas.  My family visited the mountains in summer, but never in winter.  The most snow I ever saw was about a quarter inch accumulation until I was living in Santa Fe in my early 20’s.  I tried to learn to ski around that time, but I had bad experiences.  I never had a proper lesson and most of my instruction consisted of learning to do the pizza wedge.  I fell down a lot, I became terrified of any sort of steep slope and I swore off skiing shortly after.  Through those early experiences I learned that my two biggest fears in life are 1. Slipping, and 2. Falling off a mountain. 

I moved away from New Mexico and lived my life, but now in my mid-30’s I found myself living in Taos and working in Taos Ski Valley.  After spending one winter watching people have fun carving down the slopes, but being too scared to do it myself, I decided to give it another shot.  I signed up for the local’s clinic, offered through the Ernie Blake Snowsports School, one of many affordable class packages available, some even come with gear rental and lift tickets included.  It consists of a two and a half hour lesson every week for four weeks.  The first week I never even progressed past the Pioneer slope, the easiest on the mountain.  Even though to the eyes of most skiers I didn’t accomplish much, after the first lesson I was beaming with pride at my improvement from just that little bit of experience. 

The next week I made it off of Pioneer and up the mountain and though I was nervous with so far to have to ski to get back to the safety of the base area, I felt confident in my teacher.  He has been a ski instructor in Taos for over 20 years.  He talked to me about the continuing education all the ski instructors at the Ernie Blake Snowsports School go through and explained the accreditation with the Professional Ski Instructors of America.  All of this made me feel safe and secure.  I knew as long as I followed my instructor I wasn’t going to get into something over my skill level. 

By the third week my instructor encouraged me to try a short section of a blue run and even though it wasn’t much steeper or more difficult that what I had done so far, the color on the sign made me panic.  As I worked my way very slowly down the slope my legs started shaking, I could feel the tears starting to well up inside of me, I was in full on panic mode and remembering the bad ski experiences from my 20’s.  I made it down the slope though, without falling and with control - when I could get myself to move that is.  I had been instructed well and I had the skills to tackle the steeper slopes, but not the confidence yet. 

Each time I went out to ski I could see the improvement I was making.  I would go a little faster and a little farther before stopping, little by little I was learning to ski.  After the four weeks were done I was taking on slopes with ease that on the first week had terrified me.  Each time I made it down something that had seemed so daunting just a month ago my confidence grew.  I went out skiing with friends last week – something I never thought I would be able to do – and I had a blast, being outside, playing, choosing my own path to meander down the slopes and joining with friends at the bottom of each hill.  I even did an entire blue run without panic; I felt confident in my abilities and most of all I had fun!

This year has been light on the snow, but for a beginning skier I couldn’t ask for anything better.  The even, groomed snow on the green and blue runs have been perfect to learn on and to build confidence.  Now, I’m looking forward to next winter when I can ski on more powder and have the skills to make what once seemed impossible, seem like playtime.