Quandary the Answer Goat: The skinny on skinning, ski lessons
What does it mean to skin a mountain?
Terminology like this makes a goat a little nervous, but I’m glad to explain this relatively light-hearted version of the term. Skinning a mountain is far different from skinning a goat; just because you can do one does not mean you should do the other. In fact, never do the other — goats get cold, and goats get angry when they get cold.
Skinning is actually a ski term and one of many ways to describe heading the wrong way on a mountain with skis on. It refers to putting skins — strong fabric strips — on the bottom of your skis in order to travel uphill. The skins allow you to gain enough traction to move up the mountain without sliding backward. Uphill travel has been immensely popular in Europe, but is really just coming into its own in the states.
If you’re interested in uphill travel, be aware that there are rules as to when and where you’re allowed to go vertical. Depending on conditions and snowmaking operations, uphill travel may or may not be available at all resorts. Currently, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is allowing uphill travel after the lifts close, Breckenridge has limited uphill access on Peaks 7 and 8 and Keystone opened access on Schoolmarm as of Nov. 22. Other resorts in the area will begin to open terrain for uphill travel as the season continues, but it’s always best to check with the resort before heading to the mountain as weather conditions may cause temporary closures. Be attentive while skinning as snowmaking and grooming operations take priority over uphill travel at the resorts. You don’t want to get halfway up the mountain and find yourself staring down the barrel of a snow gun.
You can also trying heading up the mountains in the backcountry, though again keep a close eye on conditions, and check avalanche danger before heading out. Also, make sure you have the skills to match to your ambitions. The backcountry can be tricky to navigate at any time, and when you are just learning how to skin, you might not want to try such tricky terrain. If you’re interested in learning how to uphill ski, or want to find people to journey with, check out the newly formed Summit Ski Mountaineering Club.
Are there lessons for adults who can’t ski?
Ah, the fun of learning to ski. Let’s face it, it’s mostly fun for those who get to watch. Unfortunately, people tend to think you’re a jerk when you laugh at all the small children trying to learn; luckily there are classes for adults, so we can all share the joy! Look on the bright side, maybe everyone isn’t as mean as a crotchety old goat, and once you learn you can look back fondly on your ugly duckling self and appreciate the swan you’ve become.
This old goat has never strapped on the planks, but apparently there are plenty of places where newbies can learn to wrangle their skis. Copper Mountain Resort is again offering its Ski and Ride University for people who have no real experience.
Your skills will be evaluated at the beginning of your lessons to make sure you’re as green as you claim — so keep in mind, the more the instructor laughs the better your chances of staying in the lessons. If you are too good, you’ll get your money back and a swift kick out the door. The Copper deal gives you three lessons, a ski pass for the season upon completion, as well as a number of additional benefits; can you say free parking?
But, what’s the best part? These lessons are for people 16 and older, so there won’t be any little 5-year-old hot-dogging his way past you as you try to remember the difference between pizza and french fries.
Breckenridge Ski Resort also offers Adult First Time Ski Lessons. This package gives you three days’ worth of learning and includes rentals and lift tickets for those days. Both of the above options are group classes, but if you’re feeling a little timid there are other options. Breck offers both private and four-person courses so you can either wallow alone, or band with your best buddies to tackle the mountain together.
Keystone Resort offers group and individual lessons, too, and you have the option for either full- or half-day attempts. Arapahoe Basin has similar offerings and has classes just for the ladies. All of the resorts offer adult snowboarding lessons, and some do telemark lessons. If all that up and down business just isn’t your cup of tea, check with the Nordic centers in Breckenridge and Frisco for lessons in classic or skate-style cross-country skiing.
Now, of course, ice packs, bandages and booze are all extra costs you will have to build in as part of your post-lesson budget.
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