Now is the perfect time to learn to ski / ride at Lake Tahoe (video) |

Now is the perfect time to learn to ski / ride at Lake Tahoe (video)


Sierra-at-Tahoe on Friday, Jan. 25, is offering a Learn to Ski/Ride Day special for adults.

For $79, beginners will get a lesson, rentals and limited-access lift ticket.

Availability is limited, so guests need to book ahead online to secure their spot. Click here for more information.

There’s no way around it — the No. 1 question one receives when he or she moves to Tahoe: Do you ski or snowboard?

It’s a seemingly simple question with two possible answers.

But for those of us who respond with “neither” it can feel almost embarrassing. The inability or lack of desire to tear down a snow-covered mountain at ridiculous speeds inevitably sparks befuddled skepticism from the questioner — as if you’re a vegetarian who just moved to Kansas City or an atheist visiting the Vatican.

Why are you here again?

Fortunately, for us freaks who don’t ski or ride, it’s never too late to learn. In fact, now might be the best time to do so.


Before moving to Tahoe, I attempted to ski just one time. My two friends who dragged me to the mountain that day were less interested in teaching the finer points than getting in some turns on a powder day while I tumbled down the mountain.

In hindsight, who could blame them?

I relied on information gathered from an episode of “South Park” — pizza to slow down and French fry to go fast.

While there were definitely signs of improvement, such as getting off the chairlift without eating it (a major accomplishment), an epic yard sale on the final run was enough to turn me off. The takeaway: That was an awfully expensive way to beat the crap out of one’s self.

But after moving to Tahoe my intrigue started to increase.

“Let’s give this another shot.”

Fortunately, the fine folks at Sierra-at-Tahoe were more than willing to give this born-flatlander some help.

The basics

I headed up the mountain on a Monday just before a series of storms and a big holiday weekend. There were plenty of people, but it wasn’t too crowded — perfect for a gaper bombing down the bunny slope with little control.

After grabbing some gear, a process that involved subjecting the employees to multiple iterations of “I don’t know” and “what do you recommend,” I was paired with my instructor for the day, Nicola.

Some Lake Tahoe resorts offering deals for first-time skiers and riders

While walking to the practice hill she fielded the first question of the day: “How should I carry my skis?”

Rather than scoffing at the stupidity of the question, she replied in a friendly tone.

The way you’re carrying them is fine as long as you’re comfortable, she said.

At the base of the hill, we started with step one: putting on the skis. Following her instructions, I pushed my toe into the binding and snapped down the heel. Easy.

Then we progressed through the basics … and I mean basics: sliding across the snow on a flat surface, learning to use the edges, practicing proper posture.

Soon we made it to the top of the practice hill and she started telling me how to control my speed. No problem.

Then came turning. Big problem. I couldn’t get it. I’d gently slide to the bottom of the hill, only managing to start to turn at the bottom.

My poor instructor must have offered a dozen different tips and pointers to improve my turning. Gradually, it got better.

The great realization

Nicola suggested we try something a little bigger. Watching children half as tall as me effortlessly glide down the mountain next to the practice hill, I agreed. We headed up the carpet. At the top, a quick reminder on turning, an instruction to scan the area around you before pushing off, and down we went.

Shockingly I didn’t fall. We went again. And again. And once more.

Then it was to the dreaded chairlift. Despite my best efforts to seem confident, some slight post traumatic stress started to creep into my mind as we waited in a short line. The resort in Colorado where I first attempted to ski did not stop the lifts just because somebody couldn’t make it off the chair … a policy that led to me nearly being trampled by a parade of skiers and riders throughout the day.

However, with a few pointers from Nicola as we headed up the mountain, I made it off without much trouble.

“I’m shocked,” I told her.

She responded with more positivity and encouragement before we headed down Broadway.

Another shocker: I made it to the bottom without crashing or flailing around too much.

Something felt right: I was having fun and becoming more confident. And that’s when it truly sank in: lessons, even just one 2 ½ hour lesson, can be a game changer.

And when you’re having fun, it’s easy to get hooked.

So, if you’re not a skier or rider but you’ve been feeling a growing desire to give it a try, consider this your call to get out there and take a lesson.

I felt comfortable at Sierra, but every resort in the basin offers lessons, with various packages and experiences.

Stop making excuses and get out there. You might just fit in at Tahoe after all.

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