You have to be pretty nuts to leave the mild temperatures of sunny Florida and head to the blistering cold and snow of the northeast for a ski day trip adventure. Hello. It’s nice to meet you. I’m “Nuts”. A group of friends in an online adventure group for black women (Black Adventuristas) came together for a ski meet up, so I jumped at this opportunity. It was a deal from Sourced Adventures that included a charter bus pick up from Manhattan, New York where we would be transported up to the Catskill Mountains for a ski day trip at Hunter Mountain.
Skiing was on my 2015 adventure goals list so I thought this would be a perfect way to experience it without fully committing a lot of money and time. This would also give me an opportunity to visit with one of my sorority sisters who moved to Brooklyn. This sounded like a fantastic way to spend $80 and see the sights of NYC.
As time got closer for the trip, I started to get really intimidated by the cold temperatures and amount of snow I was seeing when I checked the weather. Obviously snow is necessary for skiing. However, the idea of that much snow and temperatures with wind chill factors below zero had me shaking in my hypothetical boots. I’m a southern girl. **queue Frankie Beverly song** I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. We got ice and sleet and the occasional snow, but it didn’t stick. Fast forward to my teenage years and beyond; all I have known is Florida weather. The only recollection I have of true cold is from visiting the annual Ice exhibition at the Gaylord resorts every year where it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on my impromptu trip to Indiana right after last year’s Polar Vortex, it wasn’t in the teens and there was no ridiculous wind chill factor.
There I said it. My name is Lauren and I’m afraid of the cold. So, this presented the next challenge. What in THE hell was I going to wear and where was I going to find what I needed, since I live in the Sunshine State, for a ski trip without spending an exorbitant amount of money? I don’t know anyone who actually skis who is my size and build so borrowing was out.
I read online that we could rent the main things we needed, like jacket and pants and goggles. However, I couldn’t find the information for how to go about renting the clothing so I decided I would have to buy what I needed. Days before my flight I went to my old faithful, Amazon.com. (Yes, I said days.) I’m a prime member which means free 2-day shipping which is clutch for chronic procrastinators like myself. I was able to find most of the things I needed and everything arrived by the day before my flight.
My stay warm essentials included: thermal base layer top and bottom with moisture control, Bolle ski goggles, balaclava mask, waterproof gloves, and Wigwam wool ski socks with moisture control.
Pants was a different story. I was afraid to order the pants online because I wasn’t sure of the fit. I’m 5′ 8″ and a size 14-16. I have long legs and the last thing I wanted was high water ski pants. I have to think about pictures of course! I went to Burlington Coat Factory to find a good jacket for the weekend that I could also wear while skiing. That was a piece of cake in BCF. Ski pants on the other hand was a bust. I didn’t see one pair of ski pants in the entire store; after all this is Florida. As I was checking out, I saw shiny black pants hanging on the go back rack behind the cashier. I asked her if she would show me the pants and as luck would have it they were ski pants — black men’s insulated Arctic ski pants for $29. What are the odds?! I ran to the dressing room to try them on and they were a perfect fit! They were long enough for me and loose enough in the waistline to wear layers comfortably underneath. I took this as a good omen for the trip. I already had a fleece pullover that I could wear as my mid layer so I was all set.
A few days before the trip we received an email with information for renting clothes and goggles. That would have been nice to receive a couple of weeks prior to the trip. I had already ordered my things by then, but the day before the trip I decided that I would go ahead and rent the jacket they offered. It was a Columbia jacket so I knew it would be the right weight and fit. If anything I would wear it on top of everything else if it was really really cold.
The bus ride up to Hunter Mountain was about 2 1/2 hours. We got our rented equipment and we were off. I slept most of the ride but I awoke just in time to catch some spectacular views of the snowy mountainous landscapes as we ventured up into the mountains.
Upon arrival at the ski lodge we were instructed to head over to the Learning Center building to be fitted for our equipment. It was much busier than what I expected. I guess this is a popular place to be on a Saturday. We got off to bumpy start because it was discovered that the sizes we requested from the equipment vendor weren’t available. The largest size they carried was a woman’s large. I ordered an XL. The large did fit over the pull over but just barely. Unfortunately my friend ordered the pants. They were 2 sizes smaller than what she ordered. The vendor wasn’t on site so there was nothing Sourced Adventures could do to help her. She ended up having to buy pants at the on site ski shop. That did not make for a pleasant start.
It was also very crowded and hectic inside the learning center. There weren’t employees stationed to direct newbies on where to go and what to do. We used computer workstations to print off papers that needed to be handed off as you move throughout the various stations. You also had to stand in different line to purchase a locker token for $1. Note to self, do not lock your locker until after you have everything you need inside the locker. If you open it you will have to buy another token in order to lock it again.
The next station is where you pick up your ski boots. No one warned me that the boots would weigh you down so much. They weigh like a gillion pounds. It’s also difficult to get them on by yourself when you’re dressed like a snowman. It was quite an ordeal, especially when I had to try on two more pairs before I got the right fit. This is fun….not. I started to work up a sweat just from putting on and taking off the boots.
Next stop is to get helmets and skis. Walking in ski boots is like the most unnatural thing I’ve ever done. Nothing about this felt normal. I tried to imitate the people who had clearly skied before by walking with my heels first and then bringing my toes down. I felt ridiculous but at least I was looking ridiculous with friends.
We got helmets and skis and then we posed for pics and were off to our lesson…the lesson we discovered would be ending in an hour so we had to hustle.
By this time we had been at the lodge for 2 hours or more and had yet to get outside. I looked out of the window and I see that the snow is now blowing sideways and the wind has picked up. It’s snowing in sheets. Great. My first time on the slopes and it’s a baby blizzard.
This is one of those moments that defines my two very distinct personalities. The Diva on my shoulder was saying, “You know what? Nevermind. This is a hot mess. Let’s just go redeem our free hot chocolate voucher and chill inside the lodge. You took pics in your ski clothes so who will know that you didn’t actually ski??” The Outdoorsy Chick was saying, “Well maybe it will slow down once you get out there. You wanted to try this. You may as well get the full white winter experience. Put the mask on and stop being a baby. Yolo! Let’s get out there and do this!”
You know which side won out. I couldn’t chicken out. I put on my mask and gloves and headed out into the most snow I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I got my ski poles and then I felt official. We trudged out into the blowing snow trying to figure out what to do next.
There was no Hunter Mountain staff there to direct you once you exit the facility. The signage was poorly visible and the blowing snow didn’t help. Finally, I found someone to ask where the Lesson 1 station was and they pointed us in the right direction. Of course it was in the complete opposite direction that we were headed in.
Good grief Charlie Brown. Finally we trudged over to the first station, carrying our skis because we didn’t know how to put them on. We are as green as green can be. Once he showed us how to put on the skis I felt pretty silly. That was a piece of cake although not necessarily intuitive if you have never seen it before. He showed us how to walk around in them. He also showed us how to get up if you fall because a couple of people in our group went down. Then we side stepped up a very small incline and practiced gliding down. Going down the incline was a neat feeling. By this time the wind and snow was blowing pretty hard. The group had also grown quite large. I was ready for the next station but some of the group was ready for a break from the elements.
I was finally feeling like I had my mojo. My adrenaline was going and I wasn’t ready to go inside. I made my way over to learning station 2. Here they had gates set up and the objective was to master the skill of turning and changing your direction. There were a lot fewer people due to the weather so I received quite a bit of one on one instruction. I was doing it! I was weaving in and out of the gates like a boss. I did this drill about five times before fatigue started to set in.
Photo Credit: Veronica Garnett
I was feeling whoozy and light-headed and hot! Can you believe that? We were in single digit temperatures and I was hot. It dawned on me, that I hadn’t eaten anything that morning because of the rush to not miss the bus. I put my skis on the outdoor racks and headed inside the lodge. Once I had some food in my system I felt much better.
Random Fun Fact: That’s not a snow globe effect I put on the picture below on the right. That’s the snow coming down! Not sure why the Christmas decor was still up in late February but it added to the winter ambience.
It was time to head back out and get our monies worth. By this time lessons were over. Our only option was to go up and down the bunny slope or hop on the ski lift and take our chances. Truth be told, I really just wanted to ride the ski lift up and back down but I was told this wasn’t allowed — bunny slope it is. We rode the people mover from the bottom of the hill up to the top of the bunny slope. I seriously almost fell flat on my face trying to get my skis lined up properly. It was only by some miracle that I didn’t fall flat on my face. Once I got to the top of the bunny slope it was time for a my obligatory shoe selfie!!
My friend and I got up our nerve and down we went. This bunny slope sent me going a lot faster than I expected! I was flying. Epiphany — I never learned how to stop during any of my learning sessions. I yelled out, “How do I stoooooooooop?” A woman yelled back, “Make a pizza!” Sounds legit; what do I have to lose? So, I made a pizza with my skis and I stopped as I came to the base of the hill! Praise God Almighty! I made it down the hill, I didn’t fall, and I didn’t run into anybody!
That was plenty of “real” skiing for me. It was starting to get close to the time for our bus to come. Ok, not really. We had plenty of time, but I didn’t want to risk my perfect record of not falling on my face so I was ready to quit while I was ahead.
What I liked about the Sourced Adventure Hunter Mountain ski day trip experience:
- The idea of an affordable ski day trip
- The opportunity to try out the sport without an expensive commitment
- The warm toasty fireplace and free hot cocoa voucher
- The wide variety of food choices
- The views from inside the lodge of the skiers and snow boarders
What I didn’t like so much:
- The lack of direction from the staff for beginners and newbies. We felt as if we were just stumbling along throughout the day
- Having to trudge around in my
20lb space bootsski boots inside the lodge
- The lack of size options for boots and helmets because it was so busy
- We weren’t informed before leaving the bus what time the ski lessons would end. That would have been important information to help us plan our day.
In all it was still a very fun day with great company! We all stepped out of our comfort zones and challenged ourselves. I think I would enjoy the full ski lodge experience if I were to try it again. I would have preferred our lesson to be just for our group. I feel like I missed some pretty important instruction — namely, how to stop. If I had been staying at a lodge, it would be nice to ski for a while, then go back inside and relax. It was also way too crowded, which I wouldn’t expect at an actual ski lodge — of course I could be wrong about that.
I felt like I got my $80 worth of fun. I can cross skiing off of my adventure list now! I think I will try it again but at a lodge the next time. If there’s a ski lodge wanting host a blogger with a pretty diverse audience of adventure seekers and a female minority niche next winter season, I’m your girl! (shameless plug)
Tips if you choose to embark on a ski day trip or for ski newbies in general:
- Bring a comfy change of shoes, like sneakers or athletic slip on sandals, to keep in a locker you can access when you want to spend time indoors.
- Verify with rental company beforehand what size they actually carry.
- Buy good socks and gloves. Don’t be cheap about those. Cold and wet hands and feet will make for a very miserable day.
- That bottom layer is everything! Get thermals with moisture control to keep you from feeling wet and gross because you will sweat, even in the cold temperatures.
- Moisturize your face the days you are in the cold weather and use lip balm, like Carmex or Burt’s Bees.
- Don’t ski on an empty stomach.
- Keep an eye on the weather and check the forecast the week before your trip. If the temperatures are seriously cold then get a balaclava (ski mask). It was a life saver with the blowing wind and swirling snow. It only cost me about $7 . Worse case scenario, the temperatures warm up and you don’t need it.
Skiing is more physically demanding than I expected and a bit uncomfortable. The boots are heavy and awkward. I wasn’t prepared for that part and I wish someone had told me that ahead of time. There’s nothing I could do to change it, but I would have had my mind prepped. My advice to you if you find it to be challenging is to push through the uncomfortable part and take in the beauty of the landscape around you. Once you get the hang of it, gliding across the snow is an exhilarating feeling like nothing else I’ve ever felt.
Have you been skiing before? What was your first experience like? If not, is skiing on your adventure list of things-to-do? I love to hear from my readers!
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“Adventure is a lifestyle.”